His Life

Obituaries for Both Joseph and Sylvia


Joseph John Pavek
1927 - 2020
Dr. Joseph John Pavek (92) died from age related causes and a broken heart on May 24, 2020. He lost the love of his life, Sylvia, just 50 days earlier and after 62 years of marriage. Joe (Jr) was born into the farming family of Emma and Joseph Pavek on Oct. 3, 1927 near Waubun, Minnesota. Joe and his five brothers, Stanley (d), Adelbert (d), Robert (d), Edmund and Ronald (d), were the third generation raised on the farm. Growing up in the Depression and living on a farm meant that Joe and his brothers fixed anything mechanical that broke. Joe took apart and rebuilt the engine of the family’s first car, a Ford Model A, with his brother Addy. Joe, Addy and Ed left the farm for the US Navy and served during the Korean War. Joe specialized in radar on submarines and aircraft carriers for 3.5 years (1946-49) and was in the Pacific and Mediterranean theaters. Joe obtained BS (Ag Ed) and MS (Plant Genetics) degrees from the U of Minnesota in 1954 and 1963. Joe taught high school Vocational Agriculture for three years following his BS. He graduated with a PhD in Plant Genetics from U of Wisconsin in 1965.

Joe married Sylvia Schramske on June 15, 1957. In 1965 they moved west to potato country when Joe accepted a job with the USDA-ARS as a Research Geneticist. They resided in American Falls, ID until moving to Boise in 2018. Sylvia worked as a Registered Nurse until 1995; Joe retired in 1999. In addition to working and raising a family, Joe served on the American Falls School board and St Mary’s Parish counsel. Joe is survived by his seven children: Mary Pavek, Diane Pavek, Kathleen Hoffman, Susan Pavek (Shayne Aytes), Julie Hill (Darrel), Mark Pavek (Pamela), and Jane Pavek-Link (Robert), and 7 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren.

Joe was a longtime friend of potato farmers and industry serving as a potato breeder for the USDA at the University of Idaho Research & Extension Center in Aberdeen, ID, working for 34 years (1965-1999). Joe developed new potato varieties with colleagues. Five of the top ten US potato varieties were created by Joe (Ranger Russet, Umatilla Russet, Alturas, Bannock Russet and Clearwater Russet) and were grown on more than 300,000 acres in 2019. His varieties are used throughout the world. Approximately half the french fries consumed in the US come from varieties Joe created.

Joe was a dedicated member of the Potato Association of American (PAA) and served in many roles, including President in 1987-88. He published scientific papers in many journals, including the American Journal of Potato Research. Joe received many industry awards: Researcher of the Year by the National Potato Council (1989); Honorary Life Member of PAA (1991); several USDA awards, and many more. He was inducted into the Idaho Potato Hall of Fame in 2000. 

To brighten the world, Joe bred and created new iris varieties as a hobby. He loved the challenge of creating and enhancing traits, whether potatoes or flowers. His irises are popular with many and are grown across the US. Joe was a jack of all trades and could fix anything. In anticipation of watching Bugs Bunny in color, his naïve children were excited when the old black and white tv broke down. Their excitement ended abruptly when Joe said, “I can fix this.” Joe often pushed the mechanical boundaries of their station wagon by navigating the family through the Rocky Mountains in pursuit of the great outdoors. He taught the kids to pitch a tent (family size requiring synchronous raising of poles), build a fire, and fish. Joe made sure they knew how to thread worms and grasshoppers on sharp hooks and to properly land and clean their catch.

Joe tirelessly pursued cutthroat and rainbow trout, searching out where fish would lie in the cold Idaho streams and craftily casting a fly he had tied. Joe, Sylvia, and the kids walked many a mile in the aspen stands looking for morels, shaggy manes, and puffball mushrooms to fry up. With colleagues, he searched high and low for undocumented wild potato species in the US. Joe and Sylvia were world travelers visiting potato fields in places like the Czech Republic, Sweden, Peru, and Ireland.

Upon cleaning out Joe’s bookcases, his family was reminded of the breadth and depth of his curious mind. His interests were far ranging beyond science into the realms of literature, history, religion, and philosophy. Joe was well known for his story telling about times growing up in northern Minnesota when they plowed with horses and milked cows in subzero weather during the wee hours of the morning. He also shared adventures as he traveled the world with the Navy. Joe enjoyed reading sonorous poems like The Cremation of Sam McGee at the dinner table. If a word came up that the kids didn’t know, someone was sent for Webster’s dictionary. Joe spoke fluent Czech, enabling him to communicate with his grandmother.

Joe passed away in May when his irises were blooming and potatoes emerging. Each time you see the beauty of an iris or eat potatoes, please think of Joe and appreciate how he contributed to a brighter and tastier world. A celebration of Joe’s and Sylvia’s lives is planned for August 15 in Eastern Idaho. Celebration of life updates and an online memorial can be found at: Funeral visitation will be Thurs June 11 between 2-3 pm at St Mark’s Catholic Church, 7960 W Northview St, Boise, followed by a funeral Mass for both Joseph and Sylvia at 3-4 pm. For updates or questions, please email Mark Pavek at Cards may be sent to Jane Pavek-Link at 2045 E Lamar Ct, Boise, ID 83712. Joe would ask that you do an unexpected and unsolicited act of kindness for someone in need.You may also donate to the Alzheimer’s Association (, St Mary’s Catholic Church and/or Power County Senior Center, American Falls, ID, or a charity of your choice in his name. 

Sylvia Stephane (née Schramske) Pavek
1932 to 2020
Yooo-hooo! All neighbors within earshot of Sylvia’s pleasant voice knew it was time for her little ones to come back to mama. On April 4, 2020 Sylvia Stephane Pavek (87) called her family together for one final gathering. Born August 19, 1932 to Eva and Stephen Schramske in St Paul, Minnesota, she was the youngest of 3 daughters; predeceased by sisters Elaine Eva (Mrs. William Blakeway) and Loraine Augusta (Mrs. James Reis). Sylvia graduated from Harding High School in 1950 and The College of St Catherine’s Department of Nursing in 1954 in St. Paul, Minn. Sylvia met her future husband, Joseph John Pavek, when she and her friend, Janet Kiefner, went on blind dates; Janet was mis-paired with Joe and Sylvia with another. Sylvia and Joe had a follow-up date and initiated a 63-year love affair, marrying on June 15, 1957. They initially lived in Minnesota and Wisconsin where she worked as a Registered Nurse and full-time mom; Joe taught and went to graduate school.

In 1965, they moved to Aberdeen, ID when Joe accepted the position of USDA potato research geneticist. They resided in American Falls, ID between 1971 and 2018 and moved to Boise, ID in 2018. After beginning as Coordinator of Hospital Volunteers and Activities, Sylvia cared for the elderly as a Registered Nurse, Charge Nurse and an administrator for 22 years in the Geriatrics ward of the Harms Memorial Hospital, Power County. She served on the Idaho Board of Guardians, watching over incapacitated citizens without family/friends able and willing to help. She retired her professional positions in 1995.

Sylvia and Joe raised, nurtured and educated 7 children, 7 grandchildren, and 4 great grandchildren. She is survived by her husband Joe and their children: Mary Pavek (Boise, Idaho), Diane Pavek (Washington, DC), Kathleen Hoffman (Pocatello, Idaho), Susan Pavek (Shayne Aytes, Pocatello, Idaho), Julie Hill (Darrel Hill, Boise, Idaho), Mark Pavek (Pamela Pavek, Moscow, Idaho), and Jane Pavek-Link (Robert Link, Boise, Idaho); and all grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Sylvia was an exceptional pianist, classical guitarist, and church organist. Sylvia and Joe were members of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in American Falls, where she headed up the Music Ministry and Funeral Committee for a number of years. She was a talented watercolor and sketch artist. Her love of music and playing the piano extended her life, gave her balance, and provided peace. Her motherly duties included chef, debate moderator, circus ringmaster, chauffeur, long-haul trucker, practitioner of the cereal bowl haircut, dietician, therapist, editor, typist, maid, seamstress, professional motivator, sounding board and banker. Sylvia was also an international traveler, outdoorswoman, 4H and cub scout leader, catechism instructor, confidant, saint, and beauty queen. She loved her grandchildren and occasionally spoiled them with ice cream for breakfast.

Sylvia was a cheerful weed puller and right-hand helper in vegetable and flower gardens that Joe designed. She enjoyed fishing with Joe and the kids along tangled stream banks and camping in the sagebrush or pine forest. Sylvia and Joe went to annual potato meetings in places like the Czech Republic, Sweden, Peru, and Ireland.

In her later years, Sylvia experienced memory loss; diagnosed as Alzheimer’s. There were days when she could be entertained with just one news article. It became new each time she read or heard it. With advanced memory loss, she never ran out of new faces or people to meet and greet, even when surrounded by her own family. Advanced memory loss finally gave her the full wait-staff she always desired as a mother and wife: cooks, maids, spa workers, an entertainment director, and the like.

Words and phrases that describe Sylvia: selfless, generous, kind, loving, softly-driven, happy spirit, happy-go-lucky, smart, courageous, patient, fun, a saint, concerned about others first, motherly, tireless. Sylvia’s laugh was infectious. She often laughed until tears would roll. She wasn’t afraid to “wash out your mouth with soap” if you cursed. To wake her kids, she often shook a foot and loudly said “what are you going to do for your country!”.

A celebration of life will likely be held August 15, in eastern Idaho. An announcement will be provided to friends and family when details are confirmed. Those wishing to be included on the mailing list can email Mark Pavek at Sylvia would ask that you do an unexpected and unsolicited act of kindness for someone in need. You may also donate to the Alzheimer's Association (, Power County Senior Center, 180 Idaho Street, American Falls, ID 83211, 208-226-2794; or a charity of your choice in her name.