Laddie Mencl RIP

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It is my sad duty to report that Laddie Mencl has passed away. Laddie was one of the true “characters” of the sport, jumping at Elsinore and Perris during the ‘70s. Anyone who ever had the pleasure to meet a very crusty, but always-smiling, wiry little guy with a strong Czech accent will never forget Laddie Mencl.

I just learned that Laddie passed away from natural causes back on May 6th at age 79. A nephew knew Laddie had old friends in the So Cal skydiving community and he wanted to get the word out.

Laddie’s ashes are interred at Riverside National Cemetery. (He was a US Army veteran during the Korean conflict; who knew?) If you would like to pay him a visit, you can look up the location: Columbarium Section 59A, Site 109.

Also, if you would like, you can send condolences to the family; the mailing address is 100 Atlantic Avenue #616, Long Beach, CA 90802.

This is just the basic info; I’m working on a more detailed obit/eulogy, which I will post soon.

I know that I speak for many of us when I say, farewell Laddie Mencl; we’ll miss you, but you have a very well-earned rest in peace.

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Ladislav, that’s what they named the little guy when he was born, June 20, 1934, Ladislav Mencl. His parents must have liked that name, but I never heard it; I never heard him called anything other than just “Laddie.”

Laddie was born in Czechoslovakia, in the glorious era Czechs called The First Republic, “The only Parliamentary Democracy in central Europe!” The good times ended in 1938 when the Nazi army took half their country; Hitler gave it his own little nickname, the “Sudetenland,” and then Hungary and Poland took most of the rest.

After the Nazis got kicked out of Czechoslovakia, of course, the Communists took over and they ruled with an iron fist for 45 years (1948-1993).

The reason for this background is that I really do not know much about Laddie before he came to the states. However, one clue is hidden in a book with a title as long as some entire books, “GAUNTLET! 5 Friends, 20,000 Enemy Troops, and the Secret That Could Have Changed the Cold War!” This is supposedly a true story about a 1953 escape from behind the Iron Curtain, of 5 guys who had the audacity to simply walk out; they walked from Czechoslovakia through East Germany and eventually into the West, to freedom. Laddie Mencl is listed as “technical expert and background consultant.” Hmmm…what to make of that?

One thing I was surprised to learn is that Laddie was an Army Veteran and it was OUR ARMY! Yep, after Laddie fled to America to escape the Communists in Europe, he served a term in the US Army, just to make a contribution to the fight against the Communists in Korea.

I first met Laddie in the early 1970s at Skylark Field, the fabled Elsinore Paracenter. Back then we were both jumping gutter gear and Army-surplus mains and spending 45+ minutes in a roaring, unheated Howard just to get to 7,500 to try to do grab-ass RW for maybe 25 seconds. We loved every minute of it!

Laddie and I shared rides to & from the DZ many times; I appreciated his always-upbeat attitude and his zest for life. Despite our many differences (we had totally different backgrounds, I was a starving college student, he was 18 years my senior, etc.), none of that mattered. We were jump buddies, and good friends, and either one would have given the other the very shirt off his back.

Another item that surprised me was Laddie’s SCS award. I knew he had one, of course, because he proudly wore the distinctive patch, his Star Crest SOLOIST patch. However, I was surprised to learn where Laddie earned his SCS (#581, a very low number). It was on Sept. 23, 1972 in a place called Yverdon-les-Bains, in Switzerland! Think about how rare it was at that place and time to have enough aircraft and enough skilled jumpers to be able to build a 7-Man Star, just so Laddie could have a chance to dock 8th or later! Wow!

I have some of my own “Laddie Jump Stories” to share, but that will be for another time, another missive.

In closing, I know that Laddie was a happy man in his later years; the Soviet Union imploded and his beloved Czechoslovakia threw off the chains of Communist domination in 1993 (Laddie outlasted the Commies by 20 years!). Today the Czech Republic is known as “the most peaceful, the most democratic, and the healthiest” nation in all of Europe.

I wish I could have seen Laddie just one more time, before he passed away on May 6th, but that was not meant to be. I still hope to see him again someday, at “the big DZ in the sky.”

Farewell and rest in peace, Ladislav Mencl, you were a good friend and, much more importantly, you were a good man.

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