Bill Straka, beloved husband, father and grandfather passed away at the age of 94 on Tuesday, November 24, 2020. Rounding all bases with a very full life, he happily slid into third base and watched the Dodgers finally win the World Series. He is now safe at home.
Bill was born on a farm outside Oklahoma City, OK, September 20, 1926 to Joseph and Emily Straka. Brother to Glen and Gladys, Bill spent his early years delivering milk for his dad’s dairy. During WWII, his brother and dad found jobs in the shipyards north of San Francisco. There, Bill attended Poly High for two years before returning to Oklahoma to play baseball for Central High while living with his Grandmother, who only spoke Czech. In his senior year he played on the State All-Stars baseball team. While in high school, Bill was drafted into the Army. Fortunately, the war ended as he finished his training. As a Sergeant in the 4th Armored Division he served in Germany from 1945-1947 patrolling the border.
Bill returned to Oklahoma where he attended Oklahoma City University and continued to play baseball. He was the leadoff batter in 1953 and was also the first in his family to go to college. Following school, he kept busy managing a Western Auto store and played for the Ardmore Cardinals minor league baseball team, part of the Sooner State League, in 1954.
He would return to school at Oklahoma University to get his teaching credential and upon graduation taught school at Hawthorn Elementary for 3 years. At the request of his good friend Tom Hord, he would visit Santa Barbara and eventually move here to work at Garfield School (now the Schott Center) where he would meet his future wife, Toni Saadi, who was also a teacher there. Toni was active with the Alhecama Theater at the time with a production of ‘Oklahoma’ where he would pick her up after practices and would attend every performance. They were married at All Saints by the Sea church in 1964 followed by a trip to Yukon, Oklahoma with a celebration in true Bohemia style.
In 1967, Bill and Toni would welcome their first son Todd, and two years later welcomed their second, Matt. Bill moved on to Harding School and later to Washington School where he would continue teaching until his retirement. He taught over 30 years in the school district and was active in Science Labs, winning the Teacher of the Year award in 1991.
Upon retirement, he kept busy with his love of baseball by playing Senior Softball, hitting a homerun on his first step up to the plate and playing well into his ‘80’s. He has been on many work teams for the First United Methodist Church to rebuild churches in the South that were burned by arson. He has also traveled around the world with different work teams that included Kenya, South Africa, St. Thomas, Slovakia and twice to Guatemala. (where he brought back way too many souvenirs to share)
Bill began to take Adult Education classes to make wood toys for Unity Shoppe and also took the brave step of learning a new instrument, the trumpet, for the Prime-Time Band.
After suffering a stroke in 2010, Bill slowed down but his spirit and sense of humor did not. He and Toni would soon move to Vista del Monte to enjoy the friendships and relaxed life of a second retirement. His happy smile, infectious laugh, and appreciative attitude will always be remembered.
Bill is survived by his wife Toni of Santa Barbara, son Todd (Joy) of Boulder Colorado, son Matt of Santa Barbara and his beloved grandchildren Olivia and Julian Straka of Boulder, Colorado.
In memory of Bill, donations can be made to First United Methodist Church (305 E. Anapamu Street, SB, 93101) for work teams, Prime Time Band (P.O. Box 92055, SB, 93190-2055) or FACT Foundation, Vista del Monte (3775 Modoc Road, SB, 93105). Most importantly, remember to reach out with a smile, a joke or a helping hand.