At 3:42am EST on January 2nd we witnessed the full amazing life of my grandfather Vincent Skupeika. A man who was born in Lithuania and fled due to Russian socialism/communism during that time. At a young age he had to leave behind his farm and families livelihood just to stay alive from the dangers the country was going thru during that cycle. It’s possible at that time, the choices were to flee or be captured and sent to Siberian prisoner (as Russia was usurping the peoples farms, much like what is happening in South Africa today).
Sometime during this transition he was married to my grandmother Onnita Skupeika. While leaving the Lithuania, they had my father.
It was quite a journey as I remember tidbits from my grandmothers stories she shared.
What was truly interesting is my grandfather Vincent during his earlier years was in the Lithuanian army. He was captured and a prisoner of war. During that time, a man called Albert Shimkus was on the other side of the war and a guard in the prison where Vincent was held. Albert would become a friend of Vincent Skupeika, passing cigarettes and chatting with Vincent. While both were on opposite sides of the war they appeared to both know that they were both human beings and discarded any propaganda the countries had against each other.
This man Albert, would actually become my other grandfather (yes, my mom’s dad)! The friendship would last till both passed away. Since both Albert and Vincent were Lithuanian and had children, they would introduce my mother and father, thus my brother and I came to be.
As Vincent came to America thru the port of New York (like many others during that time). He stayed with family there. Finally he moved south to Florida.
Having a farm in Lithuania and a degree in agriculture. He wanted to work as a landscaper. So he went to a local Hollywood hardware store and talked to the owner. Vincent setup a deal with a handshake. While having no money to afford the lawn mower which was 20$ back then. He asked the owner if he could use the lawnmower, make some money from customers and pay the man back. Based on a simple handshake the deal was done and the loan of $20 was back.
Vincent Skupeika built a huge landscaping business. In fact he started with that lawnmower and a bike, pulling the lawnmower to his bike and cutting customers lawns.
Within a few years, he had an office with over 8 vans and dozens of workers. He landed some of the largest contracts in Hollywood Florida, in fact the schools I went to Chaminade high school and Nativity grade school his company would be in charge of their entire landscaping projects until he retired the business.
As he began earning more and enjoying the bountiful time being in business during the 80’s. He also frequently visited back to Lithuania and help those who were struggling due to the poor economic recession Lithuania had. Many times we would have these amazing Christmas dinners which we met new people from Lithuania.
I first witnessed as a young child how fortunate I was when one of the Lithuanian friends Vincent brought to visit us in America had the opportunity to join us for Christmas.
During Christmas, Lithuanian tradition is to have a 12 course meal. As the main course was lobster, the friend from Lithuania had never seen or eaten lobster. So was not sure how to eat it. At that moment the Lithuanian friend tried to bite thru the shell and Grandpa Vincent looked over smiled and showed her how to use the silverware to crack the Lobster tail open.
At this moment, I realized how grateful we were to have enjoy Grandpa’s Vincents and his wife’s hard work. It has still pushed me in business till today.
There are many great stories of my grandparents… they lived amazing lives and their choices had gave me such a grand understanding of the world.
I do feel as America moves into 2032/2042 we may witness something my grandparents have witnessed. The lessons and stories he shared with us will be valuable as history always seems to repeat itself. It it like watching the same movie, but only the actors change.
Grandpa Vincent was 94 years young. He and grandma Skupeika as well as the Grandpa Shimkus and Grandma Shimkus will ALWAYS be remembered.
Here is to my grandparents, I sveikata! (ee svey kah tah) — which means ‘to health’ and something we always would do during our celebratory dinners and get-togethers.
Here is Vincent Skupeika’s Obituary