Gardena resident and community leader Frank Onderka has been a member of the Gardena Valley Lions club since 1989, making him a Lion with 32 years of experience. And although he is not of the four-legged variety of lion, Onderka does share some of the most enduring traits of lions: bravery, a willingness to fight, working within a group and being a loner (in a good way). Onderka, 82, demonstrated bravery early in life when he was drafted into the Czech Army in 1958 at the age of 19 and served honorably for 27 months. But his bravery didn’t end there. In December 1970, Onderka made the trek across the ocean to make a new life for himself in Los Angeles despite knowing less than a handful of English words. However, he got himself up to speed thanks to his job as a shipping clerk at Key Instruments Company in Gardena and a year later, was able to bring his 7-yearold son, Frank Jr., to live him in the United States. And a year after that, bought his first home in Gardena on Compton Boulevard (now Marine Avenue) where he lived for 13 years. Onderka continued making a name for himself by first working at interior landscape company, Van Herrick’s, for 13 years starting in 1972. He then obtained his real estate license and opened his own firm, Chateau Properties, in Gardena and operating it for the next 30 years. He retired in March 2020, at the outbreak of COVID-19. Onderka also served a year as the president of the Gardena Valley Chamber of Commerce. In addition to all of his accomplishments in business, Onderka also had several accomplishments as a member of the Gardena Lions, including serving four terms as president and another 12 years as the club’s secretary. His willingness to fight came not only from his sponsorship of more than 20 new members, but also when it came to his friend Milos Rezanina. Seeing that Rezanina was having some trouble with INS approving his citizenship paperwork, Onderka took it upon himself to write a personal letter to then California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Onderka, like the lions his club is named for, works well in a group but also has been a loner in a good way by distinguishing himself individually such as his eight years of service as the president of the Czech Roman Catholic Mission for Greater Los Angeles or as the Vice Chair of the Economic Development Committee of Gardena. He was also nominated three times for inclusion on the Gardena Wall of Fame. Currently the Gardena Valley Lions Club is almost 100 years old as as Onderka prepares to celebrate the centennial anniversary, he emphasized how important it is to continue the work that the club does in its efforts to prevent avoidable blindness and how the club would greatly benefit from new members. “We are looking for anybody to join us. Police department, fire department, anybody who would like to join us is welcome,” Onderka said. In recent years, service organizations like the Lions Club has had difficulty recruiting new members. Onderka says that many potential members who are younger than 40 often find themselves too busy to join and participate regularly. “If the person has a wife and children, then that person is more concerned about raising a family [then they are in joining the Lions],” Onderka said. “The ideal age of members is 40s, 50s, and on up because at that stage, when people decide to do something, they commit to it.” Onderka has been married to his wife Lidia for 42 years and the couple has six children. In his spare time, Onderka says he likes to watch ice hockey with his son Frank, Jr. Onderka also collects stamps and plates while Lidia is a collector of Czech crystal.
Gardenan Frank Onderka continues long history of accomplishments
GV Lion member works to reinforce club with new members