Harold J. Slavik, Jr (1946-2011) ─ A Lifetime of Locating Graves of Civil War Soldiers (both GAR and CSA)
A lifelong friend and volunteer for the EPCA, Harold Slavik had a singular interest: finding unmarked graves of Civil War Veterans.
Over the decades, Slavik single-handedly played a huge role in identifying the final resting spot of more than 5,000 Union and Confederate soldiers in the Northwest.
Those who knew Harold say Slavik was not exactly a warm, personable individual. In fact, he might have better fit into the life and timesof the early Oregon Pioneers a century earlier. As fate would have it, he was born in the mid-20thcentury in Minneapolis to Harold and Josephine Tersko-Slavik. However, his passion for identifying veteran graves forms a bridge to the past. Initially, Slavik thought he was descendant of a Confederate veteran. Later he learned that he was actually a descendant of a Union veteran.
In his old truck, he accomplished much by driving the back roads of Oregon and Idaho. He used USGS Quadrangle Maps to locate all the old cemeteries in each county. Harold then carefully walked each cemetery to find individuals in family plots who had had fought in the Civil War.
It was not uncommon for the normally “prickly” Slavik to strike up conversations with visitors, families and anyone he could talk to in his quest to locate and identify the graves of Civil War veterans. Slavik himself served in the Air National Guard in Minnesota for six years and was a descendant of Union soldiers.
Throughout his life, Harold never had much cash money but managed to purchase some five acres of timberland in rural Idaho.His intent was to be buried there. Unfortunately Slavik became ill and the land was logged to pay for medical expenses. Harold passed away just one more penniless old man.
In a cruel twist of fate, the Veteran’s Administration deemed that “Harold Slavik only served in the Reserves”and hence did not qualify for burial in veteran cemeteries or for a military grave marker.
Mr. Perry Gill of American Legion’s Masonic Lodgewas Slavik’s legal guardian during his end times. To correct this, Gill obtained a grave plot in Eugene Pioneer Cemetery that had been purchased by the G.A.R. back in the early 1900’s.
For his resting place, local stone carver Lisa Ponder repurposed a used military marker that had been stored in the cemetery’s maintenance building.
Harold Slavik contributed vital knowledge about the lives of veterans on both Union and Confederate sides of the Civil War. A very brilliant man, Slavik volunteered immeasurable time so the public might better appreciate the sacrifices these veterans had made and treasure the value of historic cemeteries.
Slavik held a B.S. degree in Recreation and Park Management from the University of Minnesota, and a B.S. and Master’s degree in Geology from the University of Idaho. Slavik took on tough jobs as a geological consultant for construction site assessment, but only long enough to support his grave finding.