William Harley “Bill” Sheka

William Harley “Bill” Sheka

William Harley “Bill” Sheka

Cedar Rapids

William Harley “Bill” Sheka, 93, died peacefully Sunday, May 21, 2023, after a brief illness.

Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 27, 2023, at All Saints Catholic Church by Father John Flaherty. Burial will follow at Saint John’s Cemetery. Visitation will be from 8:30 to 10 a.m. Saturday at the church. Papich-Kuba Funeral Service is serving the family.

Bill was born on July 24, 1929, in Mason City, Iowa, the only child of Inez and Harley Sheka, and grew up on the Century family farm near Grafton, Iowa (now in the family for five generations and nearly 150 years). He attended Union No. 5 school (a one-room schoolhouse) for grades 1-8, and graduated from Plymouth High School in 1947 (proudly crowned class Carnival King). Growing up on the farm provided little “Billy” plenty of opportunities for shenanigans on his own, and with friends and cousins, starting with an ill-fated attempt to run away on his tricycle, only to be “caught” by the mail carrier a mile from home on the gravel road. (Too many stories to tell.)

Bill attended Iowa State University to study agronomy and received his Farm Operations degree, and often hitchhiked back and forth the two hours between Ames and home. During and after his time at Iowa State, he returned to farming with his dad, including traveling the Midwest to do custom combining. (More stories to tell.)

From 1950-52, Bill was stationed “overseas” in the territory of Hawaii, where he was a Navy radioman during the Korean War. (Ask us about his eel story, among others.). In 2016, Bill proudly took part in an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.

His love of radios was a hobby and a career. As a hobby, Bill was an amateur radio operator (call sign WØZAM), for 75 years, and was also certified in Morse code. His first antenna was a configuration using the farm’s windmill. Sunday mornings in the Sheka house meant hearing the familiar sounds of his radio dials whirring to life and hearing Bill talk to people all over the world, as well as to his good friends.

As a career with radios, Bill worked at Collins Radio for 31 years; his goal was to be retired longer than he worked, and he met it, being retired for 35 years. At Collins, he was the supervisor of test equipment (maintenance, repair, and calibration) with the most notable work done related to the communications equipment for the Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury space missions.

After a blind date and a remarkable tobogganing incident at Jones Park involving a tree and an engagement ring, Bill married Catherine Drahozal (Draz) on May 10, 1958, at St. Ludmila’s Catholic Church in Cedar Rapids; they just celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary.

Bill’s interests were numerous and varied, but most notably included reading, reading, and reading. Weekly trips (sometimes twice weekly) with his six kids to the public library were highly anticipated by all (mostly by Catherine, as she finally got a couple hours of quiet). He also enjoyed camping, with epic summer family trips in the green Ford van pulling the camper, traversing the country and Canada, hitting 46 states and most of the national parks, long before it was cool to do such a thing. “Head ‘em up!” (Endless stories.)

Bill was a founding member of the Round Knights of the Square Table breakfast club at Mount Vernon Road Hy-Vee, never passed up a garage sale or a chance to eat ice cream, took up earring-making in his later years, and was never – ever – without a joke (sometimes they were even appropriate). He despised the Chipmunks’ “Christmas Song,” but could never get enough of a John Philip Sousa march. He was a longtime member of All Saints Parish, a Boy Scout leader, a “collector” (accumulator) of everything you never knew you needed (and sometimes two or more of each of those things), and had an incredible sense of humor – and an even more incredible sense of selective hearing. And, he never missed a chance to nap. Anywhere.

Proving you really can’t take the farm out of the boy, once Bill retired, outside of church, the only thing he wore were blue and white striped bib overalls.

He will be greatly missed by all who knew him or met him. (Oh, the stories!)

Bill is survived by his wife, Catherine; six children, Ann (Bob) Petrzelka, John, Tom (Jenny), Mary (Don Piper), Theresa (Haim Sabo), and Liz; 12 grandchildren, Emily (Murphy), Joe (Lissa), Jake (Haley); Lynn (Brendan), Adam (Adam), Kate (Kyle), and their mom, Cheryl Conard; Emma, Ben, Lydia; Autumn (Adam), Lindsey (Kait); and Kayla (Daniel); and six great-grandchildren, Raegan, Ava, Callum, Zoe, Deegan, and Reed.

He is also survived by his cousins, Harley (Rosalee) Hagen, Dale (Barb) Bull, and Mike Bull; brothers-in law, Bernie Drahozal, Denny Drahozal, and Mike (Jan) Drahozal; one sister-in-law, Theresa (Leroy) Wieser; numerous nieces and nephews, including many godchildren; and many extended family members and friends.

The family would like to thank so many family and friends for their love and support. Additional thanks to St. Croix Hospice and Keystone Cedars for their exceptional care and compassion.

If you wish to honor Bill, memorials can be directed to All Saints Catholic Church, Green Square Meals, Eastern Iowa Honor Flight, or Cedar Rapids Friends of the Library.

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