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Joseph P. Olexa WWII memoir and correspondence

Identifier: RHC-93

Content Description

Collection contains the unpublished memoir "As I Remember…," written by Joseph P. Olexa, relating his experiences during World War II. Typescript chapters of the memoir include pasted-in maps of the regions in which Olexa fought. Also included in the collection are letters from Joseph Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, dating from 1941 to 1946. While the letters do not contain details relating to Olexa's military activities, due to heavy censorship of soldiers' correspondence by the U.S. Army, the letters do depict the daily activities of an infantry soldier and illustrate the blossoming romance between the two. The collection includes a few letters from Agnes Van Der Weide to Joseph Olexa, as well as a smaller selection of greeting cards and letters to Agnes from others, including Ollie Olexa, brother of Joseph.


  • 1941-1946, 2012


Access to Materials

Collection is open for research use. Materials may be accessed by request at Special Collections and University Archives in Seidman House. Materials do not circulate.

Publication Rights

For information on copyright or permissions for this collection, contact Grand Valley State University Special Collections.

Biographical Note

Joseph P. Olexa, born March 6, 1918, was the son of Charles and Aniela "Nellie" (Gaj) Olexa. The Olexas lived in Millvale, Pennsylvania until the mid-1920s, then moved to Ohio, and finally to Detroit, Michigan around 1940. Joseph had five full and three half siblings (the children of Charles' first wife): Anna (b. 1904), Amen (b. 1907), Charles Jr. (1908-1984), Nellie (b. 1915), John (b. 1917), Ollie J. (1920-1981), Helen (Olexa) Ennis (1922-2008), and Frances Stella (Olexa) Kardasz (1923-1983).

Olexa enlisted in the U.S. Army on December 9, 1940 in Binghamton, New York. He spent several months training at various bases around the U.S. before deploying to North Africa. Olexa fought in the U.S. Army 26th Infantry Division, Company "L", and eventually attained the rank of Staff Sergeant. Over the course of World War II, Olexa was engaged in North Africa, Sicily, France, Belgium, and Germany. He fought in the Invasion of Normandy, the liberation of Belgium, the Battle of Hürtgen Forest, and the Battle of the Bulge.

While deployed abroad, Olexa maintained regular correspondence with Agnes Van Der Weide, a young woman he met through mutual friends. Agnes was the daughter of Benjamin and Minnie (Ter Meer) Van Der Weide. The Van Der Weide family lived in Jamestown, Michigan and Ashburnham, Massachusetts until moving to Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1943. Joseph and Agnes were married July 23, 1945, and lived in West Michigan until Agnes's death in 1993. Joseph Olexa died December 3, 2000. They were survived by their son, Karl Olexa.


2 Linear feet (5 boxes)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Karl Olexa, 2015.

Joseph P. Olexa WWII memoir and correspondence, RHC-93
Special Collections & University Archives
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Grand Valley State University Special Collections and University Archives Repository

Seidman House
1 Campus Drive
Allendale MI 49401 United States