Joseph "Joe"'s Story
Joseph "Joe" Edward Ivansco died Friday, March 31, 2017 at Fellowship Home at Brookside in Valdosta, Georgia.
He was born April 9, 1934 in Danbury, Connecticut to Joseph Louis Ivancso and Elizabeth (Betty) Helen Ivancso (Lidak), both of Hungarian descent. The spelling of the family name was changed inadvertently when Joe served in the U.S. Air Force.
As a child, Joe was an altar boy and attended Catholic school. He graduated from Bullard-Havens Technical High School in Bridgeport, Connecticut with a degree in commercial art. He worked briefly at Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation (maker of the Black Hawk and Presidential helicopters) before joining the Air Force in 1955.
Joe was stationed in many parts of the world including Thailand, Ethiopia, and South Korea. As a crew chief, most of his career was devoted to air rescue. In 1965, he was awarded The Air Medal for meritorious achievement for the rescue of a bailed-out aircrew under extremely hazardous weather and emergency conditions near Takhli AFB, Thailand.
From Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, he was sent to Danang Air Force Base in Vietnam where he was assigned to the 20th Helicopter Squadron, also known as the Pony Express. The Pony Express was an extraordinary combat unit that flew helicopters across the Laotian and North Vietnamese borders for counterinsurgency missions during the war.
After returning to his family in Valdosta, Joe continued air rescue operations at Moody, then transferred to flight operations until retiring in 1977. After retirement, he went to Valdosta Technical School (now Wiregrass Georgia Technical School) where he earned a degree in commercial heating and air conditioning repair — not to actually work in this field but to quench his thirst for tinkering.
A mechanically minded perfectionist, Joe was never afraid to disassemble or fix anything, including cars. He often roamed through junkyards seeking replacement parts, but if he couldn't find a match, he fabricated one himself. His son, Joey, who happily fetched tools while his dad was contorted under a hood or chassis, fondly remembers a 1954 Oldsmobile whose engine was stamped "Rocket" on the cylinder head cover. His younger son, Johnny, especially remembers the unique bicycles his dad built for him. As he got older, Johnny bought old clunkers his dad turned into masterpieces. Both sons agree there was nothing he couldn't do.
Joe's hobbies included building HO-scale model trains and radio-controlled airplanes. He and his friends regularly met to fly the planes at sod farms around Valdosta.
He also worked at a local camera store, Camera America, where he ran the black-and-white photo lab. While working there, he taught himself to repair film cameras, including antique models. People all over the country sent him cameras to repair and restore.
Ironically, Joe "died" once before, when he was still in the Air Force. While fetching a toolbox, he missed boarding the first helicopter taking off for a mission and instead boarded the second. The first helicopter crashed, killing all on board. Because his name was on the flight manifest, initially he was reported as deceased and later had to be declared "not dead."
Joe is survived by his wife of 58 years, Barbara Ann Ivansco (Kutis), and his two sons: Joseph (Joey) Ivansco Jr., married to Lillian Kim Ivansco, and their children William and Daniel, of Denver, Colorado; and John (Johnny) Ivansco, married to Julie Lorenzen Ivansco, and their son, Sawyer, of Carbondale, Colorado. His sister Elizabeth (Betty) Ivancso Berlin, married to William (Bill) Berlin Jr., of Camden, Delaware, also survives him.
The family wishes to thank the kind caregivers at Fellowship Home and Hospice of South Georgia, and in lieu of flowers suggests a donation to New Harvest Methodist Church, 2548 East Park Avenue, Valdosta, GA 31605. A memorial service will be held at a later date. Condolences to the family may be offered at www.musicfuneralservices.com. The Ivansco family is being cared for by the professional and caring staff of Music Funeral Services, Valdosta.
Published on April 3, 2017