The Sealy community lost a hardworking volunteer in the passing of Paul Dronka last Monday, May 25, and the outpouring of support has come from nearly every corner of the town that Dronka dedicated the latter part of his life to serving.
The Detroit, Mich. native settled in Sealy in 1995 when he was assigned as Commander at DCMC Stewart & Stevenson – then BAE systems. Dronka continued to work at the BAE facility in Tactical Vehicle Systems Contracts Management after his retirement from the army from 2002 to 2013.
In his post-military career, Dronka was an active member of many community groups including the Sealy Knights of Columbus Council 3313 where he served as Grand Knight, Sealy’s American Legion Post 442 where he was named Commander and the Rotary Club of Sealy where he was most recently the treasurer. He also served as a liaison to the Sealy High School Interact Club.
It seemed like Dronka could be found volunteering at any community event said Robert Kent, current Grand Knight of the Sealy Knights of Columbus.
“Whatever was going on, you could always count on Paul to be there,” Kent said in a phone interview Monday afternoon. “What was great about that is that Paul was a very unassuming person; he didn't care if he was out there in front where everybody could see him. He would quietly work behind the scenes to do things anonymously, never looking for any kind of glory or adulation or anything like that.”
Kent said he felt Dronka had the heart that led him to serve the public.
“We talk about having a servant's heart like Jesus and he really did,” Kent said. “There are just certain people that are like that. I always think about that passage from Paul (in Acts 20:35) where he says, 'Our Lord said it is better to give than to receive.' There are people that truly understand that and Paul's one of those.”
Kent also said he thought it was appropriate that Dronka passed on Memorial Day this year, a day reserved to remember those lost in battle and beyond.
“I told someone, ‘If Paul could have picked the day that he passed, I think it would have been Memorial Day or Veterans Day,’” Kent recounted. “It happened on Memorial Day and what a tribute that was, what a fitting thing that was because he probably lost a lot of his friends in battle when he was over in Vietnam.”
However, with the new coronavirus pandemic still hovering over the country, Dronka’s wife Lenore announced a full funeral service will be pushed to next year’s Memorial Day on what will be the first anniversary of his death.
“I just know this is such a difficult time for them because he was such a well-loved guy,” Kent said. “If we would have had a funeral for him, it would have been overflowing anywhere we had it. That's why (Lenore) made the decision, there's going to be so many people that want to come (she couldn’t have said) ‘Let's have a little thing and just these people come.’”
Many community members offered their condolences by resharing or commenting on the Rotary Club of Sealy’s Facebook post announcing Dronka’s death on May 26.
“We are devastated to announce the passing of our close friend and longtime Rotarian Colonel Paul Dronka,” the Rotary Club’s post said. “Anyone in Rotary knows what an amazing man Paul was. He was always one of the first to step up and volunteer or lend a helping hand.”
“We will always remember Col. Dronka as a man who consistently demonstrated what it means to put ‘Service Above Self,’” said director Melissa Simms on behalf of the Sealy High Interact Club. “So many seeds planted in the lives of young people because of his commitment to serve. His legacy of service continues in all who knew him. He will be deeply missed.”
“Like the great Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘There are no goodbyes for us. Wherever you are, you will always be in my heart,’” said Rotarian Kimberly Avilez. “Paul was a great man who touched so many lives. My prayers are with his family during this difficult time.”
“Paul was an amazing man, he always had a smile on his face and was always willing to help in any way,” said Debbie Hamner. “We would always pick on each other but that’s how Paul was. Going to miss him. Lenore and Katherine, you were very blessed to have him in your lives, my prayers are with you.”
“Oh, how I loved his sweet, kind, generous, hilarious spirit! Lenore and Paul are one of the most generous couples who ever lived,” said Stacie Welch. “My heart is broken because he was a close friend, but I know he is in the arms of his maker and savior. I will miss him dearly and will pray comfort and God’s amazing love over Lenore.”
“Always so good, helpful, kind and generous to my family,” Marilyn Peterson Hamilton said. “He showed up at my daughter’s or husband’s performances and graduation parties, being supportive and encouraging. We sure will miss Paul. Lenore and Katherine, your family are in our prayers. A very brave man and hero. Great sense of humor too.”