Theophil Czekajski was born May 4, 1922, the youngest of six children of Martin Czekajski and Sophia Popek Czekajski. The parents were Polish immigrants.
The parents divorced and the mother remarried in early 1929. The 1930 Census showed the family living in Detroit, where the second husband and the eldest Czekajski sibling — a daughter — worked at an auto factory.
By 1940 the mother was listed as the head of the household. She had nine children by then, ages 28 to 7, and they lived with her. The five oldest worked at an auto factory, though their work wasn’t steady. Theophil, known as Phil, also worked. He earned $36 in 1939 chopping trees on a reforestation project. Based on his low pay, he most likely was employed by one of the Depression-era federal jobs programs.
Phil Czekajski enlisted in the Navy on Oct. 5, 1940. He was a signalman and petty officer third class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
At least one brother, Stanley, served in the Army during World War II.
Sources: the Detroit Free Press; Census; Pennsylvania death certificate; Michigan divorce record; immigration record; WWII draft card and Army enlistment card. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.