By Milana (Mim) Karlo Bizic October 9, 2016
Pomoži Bog! I can’t begin to tell you what a GREAT honor it is for me to be with you on this 102nd anniversary of St. Sava, Merrillville, from the ashes of old “Srbska Geri,” to this huge 140 acre, white-gleaming Flagship that serves as a beacon in the Midwest for our Serbian Orthodox people everywhere!
I am so grateful to V. Rev. Fr. Marko Matich, of whom I’ve heard only the most saintly things!, and to FB friend, Danica Pejnovich, your President and Chairperson for this event, and to her husband, Dusko, for being my chauffeur from the airport, to my hostess with the most-est, always, our Roz Opacich, for inviting me to share this historical day with you, amongst so many of my old friends, then—with new friends, including those on FB I’m meeting for the first time in person like your website and Wikipedia genius, Christopher Kosovich, your film expert Simo Glumac, and the hard working ladies of the KSS.
And best of all, I thank you for this opportunity for such a wonderful flood of memories of those hard-working, most pošteni pioneers I studied, who have gone before us, onto their Heavenly rewards! Their great deeds make them live on forever! Vjecnaja Pamjat!
Only last week you had a memorable visit from Prince Alexander and Princess Katherine of Serbia. Hearing that phrase of “Vjecnaja Pamjat” makes me want to pause here to remember that on this particular day, October 9, but in 1934, 82 years ago, one of the most deserving Serbs of mention because of HIS great deeds both on the battlefield and as a peacemaker, was King Alexander I of Yugoslavia. He was so mercilessly gunned down in Marseilles, France while on a Peace Mission with France’s Prime Minister, Louis Barthou, to help stem what they saw then as the beginnings of WWII. “Vjecnja pamjat” to both of them.
Interestingly enough, my Aunt Rose Mamula of Pittsburgh and your Gary’s Ned Marich, son of Jovo Marich, were two of the scholarship winners in Belgrade, representing the Serb National Federation at King Alexander’s funeral in Belgrade. The ten SNF Stipendists in total, from all over the USA, presented a huge floral display conveying America’s sorrow in a country shrouded in black and in deep mourning.
Perhaps some of you have forgotten that around that time, there were TWO churches in Gary in the 1930’s, which had been making efforts to unite into one. King Alexander’s death and the interventions of the dobrovolci volunteers who fought in the wars for the liberation of Serbia, helped bring them together. My father always said that anytime something catastrophically happened to them, the Serbs would always come together, and he was right, like in this last war. We were ONE. “Daj Bože da se Srbi Slože!”
A wonderful example is the work the 4 Kolos played/plays in helping the orphans of Serbia and Serbian Relief efforts for more than 20 years now.
I was here in Merrillville, only one time before, when our beloved +Milan Opacich took me on a tour here before the huge birthday party for Čiča Adam Popovich’s 90th birthday celebration in Lansing, IL 17 years ago. Your priest at the time was V. Rev.Fr. Jovan Todorovich who greeted me warmly and I met a few of your church leaders, hard-working, but very much in-a-hurry, busy men donating all their time to fix yet another problem or cause.
Your Founding Fathers would be so proud of you all! You have worked together throughout the years to apply yourselves to so many causes, to achieve such great things knowing Fault Finding and FINGER POINTING doesn’t work, but finding solutions does. “Tri prsta nas vode, do časnog Krsta!”
Here’s a great “Tri Prsta” first example!
I loved perusing the 50th anniversary booklet of St. Sava-Gary, finding out how your first St. Sava Church was established and got its name through the recollections of Jovan H.T. Popovich.
Popovich mentioned that at first, not ALL people were in favor of a church to begin with, because many of them wanted to return to Europe. Their needs weren’t the same as those who had relocated their families and wisely understood the vital need for a place of worship.
Let me pause for a moment here to ask you— “How many of you have St. George as your Slava? Sveti Nikola? Sveti Jovan? I could go on and on, …but let me continue Mr. Popovich’s story”:
“The meeting was held at Ribljan Hall on 21st and Washington Street. Jovo Kladarin gave Mr. Popovich the records and asked him to take the minutes for the meeting at which Stevo Orlich presided. “Picture, if you will, all the men suggesting the names of their personal saints of their krsna slavas. (Only another Serb could possibly understand with what fervor and devotion these names must have been submitted.) A stalemate ensued.
“Mr. Popovich then delivered a bombshell by quietly announcing that though all these saints were recognized and beloved by the church, they were NOT, of all things, Serbs. The only LOGICAL choice should be that of St. Sava, not only because of his great contribution in education and religion, but the fact that he alone, of all the Saints, was a Serb. Pandemonium erupted and Mr. Popovich, with the help of his good friend Djukan Rapajich to escort him out, wisely left the hall.
“Several days later, Vaso Dubraj and Vajo Bozanich met with Mr. Popovich and berated him for his TRAITOROUS remarks against their saints. Mr. Popovich calmly explained that they were all Christians, but not Serbian. Well, they reluctantly accepted these truths, but EARNESTLY asked that Mr. Popovich please not mention this to anyone else. (Shh….mum’s the word!) “
At the next meeting, the church was officially named for its greatest saint and educator, St. Sava! That was on 20th and Connecticut Streets in Gary 1914. (The first meeting was held in 1910.)
What else was going on at the time? WWI in Europe! Just think of all your Dobrovolci-Volunteers who wanted to go back to help the Old Country! (Some even went back for the Balkan Wars (1912-1913). Because the U.S. was not yet involved in the war officially, your Gary priest had petitioned American President, Woodrow Wilson, to approve the signing up of volunteers in your community. Two of your earliest WWI volunteer soldiers were Marko Kerkez and Steve Raschevich.
By the time the official Serbian Military Mission left Gary, Dec. 22, 1917, 450 young men, among them the Vajagich Brothers, went from Gary with the greatest hero-to-be among them, Risto Vajagich, who then went on to earn the highest Serbian medal, the Karadjordje Star with Swords.
Now these next few sentences are of utmost importance as there are MANY who are seeking to rewrite our history! Pay attention!
(1) Since it was so close to American Christmas (Dec. 22), the Gary Evening Post Tribune was writing about subscribers sending Christmas Gifts for the Serbian orphans on the front page! (We know they are sending gifts to the ALLIES!)
(2) The local paper talked about how your Gary Serbian volunteers were crowned with the highest honors, leaving under the direction of veteran Serbian officer, Col. Milan Pribicevich; how they left Gary for Chicago where they were joined with 600 more Serbs.
The paper reported that the Mayor and Chief of Police led the parade, the entire Police Department followed, and they marched down to the Depot with Serbian Patriotic Music being played by Perry’s Municipal Band!!!! I know “Marshilala, Marshilala!” had to be one of those selections! Even Governor Lowden of Illinois, made a special trip to Springfield to pay honor and respect to the Serbian Volunteers, making an enthusiastic and patriotic speech bidding the men goodbye. In Chicago, they say 25,000 people witnessed the procession. ***
***This is important history for ALL of us to remember, as there are so many out there in the world today who are trying to rewrite history, and it is history NOT FAVORABLE to the Serbian people.***
While still on the subject of WWI, let me share two little vignettes about Serbian bravery:
(1) Radaje Radovanovic, in a poem about the love of truth and freedom bred into every Serbian, wrote: “We are the sons of a country where the smallest child, as soon as he learns to walk, already knows how to die.”
(2) This is a “Did You Know?” question….The German Emperor Wilhelm requested from his General August Mackensen, the winner of the Eastern Front, to bring him at least one Serbian regimental flag from WWI.
So how many were surrendered? The answer is NONE. Not one! From 56 regimental flags the Serbian army possessed, NOT ONE fell into the hands of the enemy which a precedent in the history of modern warfare. That’s who we are!
I have on my babamim.com website, a story about “THE MAGIC SWORD”, written up in the 1951 issue of the National Geographic magazine by George Long. He said, “I watched a new film “THE MAGIC SWORD” being made from a 7th Century Serbian fairy tale. I watched enthralled while a lowly shepherd won the hand of a princess by defeating all of his rivals answering a riddle:
What is the SHARPEST thing in the world?
What is the STRONGEST?
What is the MOST BEAUTIFUL?”
Take a moment to think… what would you have said? ========
The young lad thought for a moment and spoken like a true Serb, he said:
The SHARPEST thing is the world is the TRUTH.
The STRONGEST thing in the world is LOVE.
The MOST BEAUTIFUL thing in the world is LIBERTY!
Brave. Defiant! Those men who refused to let a WWI regimental flag fall into the enemy’s hands were following in the footsteps of Bosko Jugovic from 1389!
We Serbs never give up, no matter what the odds! And you, Gary – Merrillville’s brave, defiant and RESILIENT Serbs, never quit either, no matter what happened or happens!
They say the four pillars of Resilience are Purpose, Confidence, Community and Adaptability. You have stayed on course, even when things got tough. You all believed in yourselves and your dreams and you’ve built a great support system here of friends and mentors, who mirror(ed) your hopes and dreams of a community with a church at it’s center.
We all know that life doesn’t go exactly as planned, but you found solutions, you didn’t give up on your dreams, you stayed the course.
Take the disastrous church fire of 1978, for example… you didn’t give up on your goals because of that horrible set back. No, indeed, you rolled up your sleeves and made things happen!
Again, let me mention Fr. Todorovich here. He reminded me that he was blessing a home, saying “Spasi Bože,” and sprinkling water in the rooms when the Domačica received a telephone call telling her to tell him that the church was on fire. He said he almost dropped his Basil….and when he arrived at the scene, it was like one big flame. However, he also told me of the miracles… the 3 altar boys finding the Holy Corperal—and a week later how Radmila Milovojevich, the KSS President, found the aluminum-like box with the wax with the relics from the Holy Table!
And I know I’d probably hear about it if I didn’t mention Fr. John’s happiest times here was when the saintly +Patriarch Pavle of blessed memory, led the Reconciliation of the church split here. Dear Merrillville, leaders, YOU are the ones who made the jump from where you were to where you needed to be, taking great leaps of FAITH. Think of Stevan and Zagorka Micic who personally guaranteed the collateral of the loan for purchasing this property for $833,712, or $6,000 per acre.
No, not one of you here at St. Sava’s climbed this beautiful ladder of success with both hands in your pockets. You worked. You donated time, talents and treasures. You never threw in the proverbial towel! Instead, you used it over and over to wipe off the sweat and kept on going!
You’ve always had great leaders. Just one small example I’ll mention here is how Nicky Joe Sever, Greg Traicoff and their crew made Milan Opacich’s dream of relocating the WWII monument from the old church location back here, come true, a stupendous task! The Severs and their friends didn’t only work physically, but gave monetarily in honor of Jovo Sever, WWII, who captured a whole Bulgarian battalion by himself, receiving five golden medals for bravery, including the Karageorge Star.
I’ve heard how Fr. Matich led you in prayers this past Memorial Day, at the memorial, rededicating yourselves to work for peace, goodwill and love among all people. And again, how we all made the trip to the monument this morning, not only to pay homage to those to WWII volunteers, but to remember all those wonderful Serbian Orthodox pioneers who sacrificed over the years for Gary/Merrillville, who are no longer with us. + Memory Eternal!
You are here today—our Inspirational People…. Starting with Fr. Matich! We thank God for such Catalyst Leaders, those Energetic, Supportive and Forward Thinking ones, who manage to spark action in others, building trust, respect, empathy and shared values, bringing people together with their strengths.
The list goes back to your earliest pioneers. Being positive, persistent, patient, resilient and adaptable, THEY and now YOU were/are able to achieve the goals of building a church, then another, a hall, a new church, and now a cemetery! Please just take a moment to think of all those you know, including yourselves, from St. Sava’s past to the present, who said “YES” when asked.
At this time, I’d like to mention the names of Mile Kosanovich and Nick Chabrija who made so many wonderful things happen.
I would like to say that many people I know from my past, helped you preserve some of your history.
Of course there is my father, Milan Karlo, who as owner of the American SERB LIFE magazine photographed your St. Sava Church and the Memorial in 1948. He was there, present at that dedication of that monument! As the Sports Editor of the American SRBOBRAN and the Yugoslav Reflector, dad Milan Karlo covered all those early Basketball games in Gary. And as the editor of the Diocesan Observer, he told of all the great events happening in Merrillville.
Going back to the Yugoslav Reflector, you had as a fine leader, Lou Christopher, a great friend of my father’s and a real leader of the Serb National Federation during its most important times. I still have letters from Lou to my father worrying about how the Communists were taking over Yugoslavia, spreading lies about General Draza Mihailovich.
Let me pause for a moment to share a story with you. My father had a job working at the San Francisco CHRONICLE during the war years, thanks to his friend, Mila Logan, from California, who married well and was in the position to offer him the job. For two years, everything was fine, as America was backing General Draza Mihailovich. But things were changing and my father saw how the news was being manipulated, just like it is today. They were supposed to write about Tito, downplaying Draza, turning him into someone he wasn’t. My father was always a good judge of character. He couldn’t do it. He knew that the things being said about Mihailovich just weren’t true. Mila told him to “go with the flow, “ to bend. He could not. He quit.
My father did not leave us anything monetarily, but we said that that was the greatest gift he could have ever given us: To stand up for what you know is the truth and justice. We were always so grateful for that wonderful gift!
From my hometown parish of St. Elijah, you had a great friend in Steve Gaćeša, who did all of the stonework here (with the guidance of Mike Djordjevich-“Visko”) on this magnificent edifice. Steve also did the brickwork for the church at Shadeland and New Gracanica Monastery, under the leadership of Father/Bishop/ Metropolitan Irinej, who we all dearly loved.
Mike said yesterday that he doesn’t think this magnificent edifice would have ever been finished if it weren’t for Steve Gacesa.
I understand from my friend Alex Malich that his “Tata,” V. Rev. Fr. Dragoljub Malich who has served his St. Nicholas Church in Monroeville, PA for 47 years, was ordained a priest here in Gary!
I could never leave out movie star, Karl Malden, who everybody knows and has always respected. You honored him with the street sign, so you never forget. Nor let us forget to mention his incredibly talented father, Petar Sekulovich.
Nor could I forget our beloved “REAL KUMA,” Sonja Kalember, who baptized my youngest sister, Alexandra, and was so active in the SNF and your Karadjordje Choir. Congratulations, Karageorge Choir of Merrillville, with your 50 years of SOCA this past June! What a treat it was yesterday to meet Kuma Sonja’s niece, Mary Kmiec at Roz’s welcoming party, who treated us all to the 8 x10” black and white photos of Kuma Sonya in South Side, Pittsburgh, at the baptism of our little St. Sava Church on South 21st and Sidney Streets. I was able to share with all present that that Christening gown at the time cost $100, an incredible sum even today, yet alone in 1953! I’ve never seen one better since!
And Glisho Rapaich! He was in EVERYTHING…. The choir, the plays, the SNF Conventions, representing Lodge #31, year after year. I truly thought he and Kuma Sonja and your Eli Roknick who is here today with his family, would live forever! When they attended the conventions, their chests were full of medals showing their service years, from top to bottom! We’re lucky we still have Eli with us! I know Eli would join me in saying, “Join the SNF!” It keeps us as one!
And with Glisho, Eili and Kuma Sonja, I remember David Bundalo from the SNF Conventions. From your 50th anniversary booklet, I read that when the Displaced Persons Law was enacted, when many of your parishioners-newcomers—refused to return to Yugoslavia from the European camps. If you remember, those that the Allies sent back were murdered. It was David Bundalo who personally and in the name of your congregation, signed 350 affidavits to bring them into this country. A church fund was established for this purpose.
Gary, Merrillville, you have ALWAYS answered the cause.
And Steve Orlich. You heard me mention his name several times. My grandmother, Andja Mamula was always writing in her diaries about her Orlich relatives from “Geri,” including the time that SIX of the “Geri” people piled into a “machine” to come to my Aunt Marty’s (Belosh) wedding in Pittsburgh on June 13, 1938 and how the house was so full with their singing.
And we from Pennsylvania also gave you Bogdan and Helen Ciganovich Mamula! Bogdan was my grandfather Nikola Mamula’s nephew, my mother Laura’s first cousin. On FB, I met a new friend who belonged to St. Sava’s in Gary, Rade Obradovich, who is here in the audience today with his family. He says that Bogdan Mamula was very active in the church, and Helen even started the catering business at St. Sava’s where he grew up. He remembers how each year, Bogdan would bring him a lamb-shaped cake to their home for Easter.
And of course, how could I not mention your wonderful Dorothy Paunovich, who I met at the joint SSF-SOCA festival in Lansing! I’m such a devout follower of her and her son’s St. Sava’s work on FB and YouTube, especially that of your wonderful MUSEUM, with the Ercegs (Ted and Donna) and more!
And someday, when we have more time, I’d love to tell you the story of Roz and Milan “Opacichi” celebrating their 47th anniversary as a surprise party at my home, with Nick Lalich , WWII hero, opening the closet door and jumping out into our hallway, shouting, “Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!” just like Gomer Pyle!
Mentioning Nick Lalich made me remember the many sacrifices St. Sava Gary made in WWII, of course in human lives as evidenced on your WWII Memorial.
But in the 2001’s 100th anniversary book of the Serb National Federation, I wrote on page 106 about Gary’s Serbs. “The Gary Post-Tribune wrote on June 29, 1946 that in Gary, Indiana, Nick Lalich (OSS Halyard Mission) and Mike Divyak (radioman for the OSS Ranger Mission) were speaking at St. Sava’s Church at 1300 Connecticut Avenue, ‘marking Vidovdan, (did you hear what I said? Marking VIDOVDAN! Never forget!) at the time, the sorrowful 557th anniversary of the day Turks enslaved Serbians for 500 years. George Rapaich, head of the local chapter of the Serbian National Defense Council and chairman of the rally, said the slides shown were absolute proof that the communist dominated Marshal Tito, rather than Mihailovich betrayed the allied cause by starting a civil war in Yugoslavia.’ That night, the newspaper printed that local residents gave “$525 more last night to a ‘Save Mihailovich’ fund, pushing the total collected here to over $5,000. You were always there for the cause!
On September 3, 1964, your beloved St. Varnava, Gary’s own, remarked for the 50th anniversary, about you being the sword-bearers of Christ. “Your swords are not forged from steel or iron, but from Truth and Justice. “ As Serbian Knights, AS SERBIAN KNIGHTS!, you have always fought for the Holy Cross and Golden Freedom, “Za Krst Časni, I Slobodu Zlatna.” For ideals.
President Woodrow Wilson, once addressing Professor Michael Pupin said, “You are a good American because you are primarily a good Serb.” Gary, you are such good Serbs, GREAT Serbs!
St. Bishop Nikolai said: “NO ONE can be a good Serbian unless he is a good man to start with.” For your 40th Anniversary of Serbian Orthodoxy in Gary, St. Bishop Nikolai wrote how the Serbian people in America (just like today!) “very often turn their eyes to Serbian Gary; to see her achievements, to learn of her endeavors, to hear her sighs, to rejoice in her song and to feel her patriotic pulse.”
For such a reason, he said, all American Serbs, from near and far, send sincere greetings to the organizers and to the fortunate participants in this celebration.
Such is the magnetism and electricity of our shared Serbian ancestry!
So in closing, let me offer these few words on this blessed day, your 102nd Anniversary Slava:
Neka Vam od ovaga dana, sve krene na bolje
Da Vam sreća, zdravlje, I ljuba, budi kao najlepši san i
Sve Najbolje neka vam donese ovaj Bogati dan!
A VERY happy Mim Bizic
I was so honored to be asked to be Guest Speaker, but never expected the wonderful things that followed! It was a most memorable experience!
Fr. Marko Matich, Mim Bizc, St. Sava President Danica Pjeynovich, His Grace, Bishop Longin of the Midwestern Diocese, Banquet.10.9.16
Milly Reisbasan and Roz Opacich stop for a moment for a photo of the “SHLIVO WELCOME!”
Divine Hierarchial Liturgy was officiated October 9, 2016 with His Grace Bishop Longin, Rev. Fr. Marko Matic (host priest), V. Rev. Luka Novakovic, guest from Belgrade, Serbia who was visiting his relative, Fr. Aleksandar Novakovic from St. Elijah’s in Merrillville, and Protodeacon Milovan Gogic.
St. Sava Past Presidents:
Bozo Trbovich, Georege Rapaich, Stevo Orlich, Petar Pritza, Jovo Marich, Luka Grkovich, Marko Lukach, Stevo Orescanin, Djuro Milijanovich, Krsto Bratich, Mihailo Ducich, M.B. Mihailovich, B.T. Martinovich, Jefto Wuletich, David Bundalo, Rudy Tatalovich, Nick Chabraja, Nick Sever, Zivojin Cokic, Jovo Sever, Gordon Gerbick, Theordore Erceg, Mike Galich, Dennis Svilar, Yvonne Orlich, Mike Ajder.
SATURDAY, Oct. 8, 2016
All photos can be enlarged by clicking on the lower right hand corner of the photo.
The wonderful welcoming committee of St. Sava Merrillville, at Hostess Roz Opacich’s home. I loved the huge sign in the back that says “St. Sava Welcomes Mim Bizic!” How couldn’t I? xoxox
Our Kuma Sonja Kalember’s niece, Mary Kmiec, surprised me by showing me 8×10″ black and white photos that my father, Milan Karlo, had taken at my sister Alexandra Karlo Nolan’s Christening in 1953.
Look at the fantastic stonework that was done by New Brighton, PA-St. Elijah native son, Steve Gacesa! It was Steve who also did the brickwork on the Shadeland church and New Gracanica Monatery.
A personal tour to the St. Sava History Museum, by some of the dynamic curators pictured here. Dorothy Paunovich took this photo and all photos that I am in! Thanks, dear friend!
The hallway leading to the St. Sava Serb History Museum dedicated to the memory of +Milan Opacich who conceived the idea and worked hard to make it happen.
Xenia Jancarich shows a photo of Mrs. Felman, the widow of Richard Felman, sharing the Major’s Gramata. Mrs. Felman gave the entire collection of OPERATION HALYARD information collected by Maj. Felman, to the Milan Opacich Museum of Serbina History at St. Sava’s!
Just one part of Major Richard Felman’s total collection that was donated to the St. Sava Merrillville History Museum!
General Draza Mihailovich’s dagger was given to U.S. Airman, Richard Felman, who donated it to the St. Sava Museum!
His Grace, Bishop Longin
The church services were beautiful with the Bishop and two other clergy joining Fr. Marko Matic: V. Rev. Luka Novakovich, a guest from Belgrade, Serbia, who was visiting a relative and Fr. Aleksandar from Sveti Elijah in Merrillville, and Proto deacon, Milovan Gogic, Diocean Deacon with a most magnificent voice!
How thrilled I was able to capture this photo of Simeon (Simo) Glumac because he’s always busy capturing the scenes for others to document the history of his beloved St. Sava Church in Merrillville, Indiana.
The Slava walk to the monument with flags, banners, wreaths.
Memorial wreaths: American and Serbian carried by Dusko and Pres. Danica Peynovich.
Memorial Services at the WWII Monument to pay tribute to all who served, but also, all pioneers of St. Sava’s Churches in Gary/Merrillville.
Behind us is the WWII monument that was removed from the old church site.
The WWII Monument relocation/Re-Dedication too place on Sunday, June 7, 2009. Special thanks were given to Nicky Joe Sever and Greg Traicoff for their hard work and dedication on the moving of the monument. And to Nick and Melanie Sever and Frank and Barbara Skala for their monetary donation for the restoraiton of the monument. It was so historic for me to be able to pray in front of it on this day. It was save since February, 1978, when fire engulfed St. Sava’s church, destroying the whole sturcture. But the monument was spared. 38 years later, it was brought “home.” It commemorates the 278 young Serbian men and women from Gary whose lives were interrupted by the events of WWII, with 16 of them making the supreme sacrifice: Milan Babich, Emil Bain, Mirko Batinich, Dusan Chulibrk, Tomislav Elich, Milan Kalember, Branko Kootur, Nenad Kovachevich, Petar Radeka, Nikola Relich, Nedeljko Sibich, Maksim Stoyanovich, Milan Vukovich, George Wajagich, Milan Zecevich and Sava Kokotorovich whose remains were found in Belgium almost 60 years later.
How my heart fluttered when I saw how the Serbian pioneers in Gary/Merrillville saved these dates for history, including 1389 for the Battle of Kosovo!
What joy when the banners and flags come out in celebration!
Dorothy Paunovich and Melanie Gruyich Sever! They were like caring daughters, great friends to me! How I admire these two remarkable ladies! They do so much for their church, for all of us.
Eli Roknick, long-time SNF Lodge Leader was so proud to have his whole family present with him!
A wonderful spiritual connection to St. Elijah parish occurred when as a young bride twenty-one years old, Mim (nee Karlo) walked with her wonderful husband, +Gus Bizic, son of Peter and Dragica (Dorothy) Kljaich Bizic, around the new Little Altar table three times, in the St. Elijah Church, following in the footsteps of Christ, led then, by V. Rev. Proto Vlastimir Tomich. The first steps the couple took together as husband and wife were symbolic in many ways, as the small altar table was made as a gift by brothers Pete and Joe Bizic, to honor (now Saint) Bishop Nicholai and Proto Tomich’s son who died in WWII. Inside the door where the crowns are kept was written in pencil, the date of 6/9/63. The altar table was not brought into the church until 30 minutes before the wedding to insure that Gus and Mim would be the first to walk around it! Dad Milan Karlo, ever the Serb documentarian and photographer, was so proud of the fact, that the first formal photo he took after the ceremony afterwards was of the table with the happy couple and Proto Tomich for history!
Ever since then, countless other memories were made in St. Elijah’s, as Mim and Gus served as Baptismal Kumovi for Melissa and Milan Markovich, then witnessed the Baptism of their own dear son, Nicholas Gustav Bizic, in August of 1970, at St. Elijah’s, by V. Rev. Fr. Srboljub Bulich.
Fortunately, after many other happy occasions, St. Elijah and V. Rev. Fr. Stevan Stepanov served as an anchor and Rock of Hope when one by one, Bizic and Klaich relatives were sent to their Heavenly rewards, including husband Gus, who was a wonderful son, husband, father, brother, uncle, cousin, nephew, Kum and friend to all.
We know for certain three generations of Bizics (Pete and Dorothy Klaich Bizic-May, 1930, Gus and Milana Karlo Bizic June 9, 1963, Nick and Dana Hickey Bizic-Oct. 5, 2002) have been married in St. Elijah’s, but perhaps there were four, when Kojo (Gustav) Bizic and Anna Manojlovich Bizic were married earlier at the turn of the 20th Century.
Milana Mamula Karlo was lucky to have been born to very bright and talented parents, Milan and Latinka (Laura) Mamula Karlo from the South Side of Pittsburgh, PA on July 30, 1941. Milana was the third grandchild of both Nikola and Andja Mamula of Vrelo, Jasenak, Ogulin near Gormije Monastery in Lika, and Samojilo (“Mojsija”) and Stana Batalo Karajlovich of kbr#243 Gornji (Upper) and kbr.#28 Donji (Lower) Primishlje, in Slunj, Kordun, of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now simply called “CROATIA.” But both sets of grandparents cherished and preserved their Serbian Orthodox Christian religious heritage and customs with the Mamulas celebrating Sveti Jovan as their Patron Saint, and the Karajlovich-Karlos with Sveti Nikola. While the Klaich Slava is also St. Nicholas, the Bizic Slava is St. George, and the customs continue to this day, a century later. Although far away, Nick, Dana and Jocelyn Bizic celebrated their St. George Slava taking their Kolach to Sts. Constantine and Helen Serbian Orthodox Church in Galveston, TX, while Mom Mim celebrated here in St. Elijah’s.
Mim remembers growing up on the South Side, where everyone was Serbian or else wanted to be. Her many friends of Lithuanian, German, and Irish backgrounds would learn her Declamaticas for St. Sava’s day as they walked to school at South High, on 10th and Carson Streets, reciting, “Otacbino milo moje, mesto moje draga…..” or “Davno je to bilo, kad ……..” and most of them learned to kolo dance at the American Serbian Club which was only around the corner from her home. Serbs are inclusionists, everyone is welcomed.
Mim’s family had the Karlo Confectionery store first on So. 27th Street, and a few years later after a brief stint to California, at 2508 E. Carson Street, where they sold books, magazines and comic books, cigarettes, and dairy products from their soda fountain. There was also a cleaning establishment in the back, and beyond that, Dad Milan Karlo’s photography studio. How exciting it was to have VINKA, the famous Svedalinka, come and pose in the studio! Many a night the whole family helped develop and dry the sharp black and white photographs Milan took documenting the history of the American Serbs all around the USA! (Even though totally deaf from the age of 17, Milan graduated from the prestigious Rochester Institute of Photography in New York!) Mim is also proud of the fact that he was chosen to be the YOUTH DELEGATE SPEAKER at the First Youth Convention in Pittsburgh for the SNF’s 40th Anniversary in 1940.
Most people today don’t realize how hard-working their parents were. Milan also worked as the English Section Editor of the American SRBOBRAN and besides running the store, Laura would work the 4-12 shift at the nearby Stylette Plastics Company, then come home and mop the floor, having the store ready to open spotlessly clean the next day! Throw in a few years of also owning a farm where they raised corn and chickens near present-day Monroeville, and you can better understand why they say the Serbs have a tremendous work-ethic.
Milan and Laura learned from their parents! Nikola Mamula was a Foreman at J&L Steel Mill, and Samojilo –Mosije-Karajlovich (“Carillo” on some pay checks!) was also a Union organizer, and although the bosses frowned on such union activities, readily hired sons as they knew what kind of hard workers they would be.
Mim’s parents and grandparents worked hard to help insure Shadeland Camp came to be, and Mim loved being one of the original seven campers to Shadeland, along with her sister, Rose and George Trbobvich from Pittsburgh and four campers from Youngstown, OH, with Father Pete as Administrator, two of the four his own sons. After many enjoyable years as a camper, Mim later served as a counselor at Shadeland, and was proud to see son Nick participate and then be a counselor himself. Of course she’s counting the days before young Jocelyn can experience the joys of being part of the Serbian community wherein friends made at Shadeland from all over the USA and Canada become life-long friends.
Mim also enjoys “Paying it Forward,” helping out the St. Elijah Sunday School Camp, which just celebrated its 35th Anniversary under the very capable direction of V.Rev. Fr. Stepanov and Georgette Osman, Susan & Brian Hayden, and so many wonderful parishioners throughout the decades of service to the parish.
Mim Bizic holds both a B.S. and M.Ed. plus 60 credits beyond from the University of Pittsburgh, where she graduated as a Teacher, with additional Library and Gifted certifications, but she considers herself a Lifelong Learner and is constantly studying more about those things of value to her, including learning more about the Serbian people, Computers, Innovation, and traveling to distant countries to immerse herself in those cultures, with her lifelong companions, her sisters, Dr. Rose Karlo Gantner and Alexandra Karlo Nolan.
Kuma Mim worked as a teacher in Pittsburgh, Hopewell-Independence-Raccoon (thanks be to Dr. John Milanovich when she married Gus!), Ambridge and finally, Quaker Valley where she taught for 40+ years, earning many national awards and recognitions. She also taught on Saturdays at Penn State’s Beaver Campus for nine years, teaching graduate level courses to teachers on integrating computers into the curriculum.
Mim has served as an Educational Consultant to the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Commerce, Apple Computer Co, Scholastic Magazine, and the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum. A national presenter for the U.S. Patent Office, Mim has shared her creative and inventive thinking skills expertise with teachers from Portland, OR to Toldeo, OH. She did similar work with the INVENT AMERICA! Foundation, reaching out to teachers in Chicago and Washington.
Apple Computer Company asked Mim to use her creativity and computer technological know-how to write lesson plans in workshops held in Cape Cod, Massachusetts; St. Petersburg, Florida; and Maui, Hawaii. She also helped write the educational resource handbook for the permanent Smithsonian exhibit, “Beyond the Limits, Flight Enters the Computer Age.” She wrote lesson plans on Clean Coal Technology for the Pittsburgh Energy Technology Center. She was a member of the National Advisory Board of Scholastic Inc.’s TEACHING AND COMPUTERS magazine wherein she also had a computer board game published.
Mim was named “Woman of the Year” in 1987 by the Sewickley community for all the awards and recognition she brought to the area from Apple Computers. She also received “Citizen of the Year” in Award (1997) together with Dr. Bob Fusco and Dr. Joe Marrone for bringing SewickleyNET to the Valley, the 2nd community after Blacksburg, VA to have the whole village connected on-line to the World Wide Web. Mim credits Serb Dr. Bogdan Kosanovich, a Nuclear Medical Engineer studying at Pitt, for making the WWW possible to her, and hence, others.
The Smithsonian recognized Mim as their National Honoree for National Technology Week in 1989. She was named First Place Honoree for the first “Thanks to Teachers” contest sponsored by KDKA, Westinghouse, Pitt, and others in 1990.
Mim has spoken to various groups and clubs across the nation on MOLAS (folk art of the Kuna Indians of the San Blas Islands of Panama), Love Tokens from the Victorian Era, and Hobo Nickels from the Depression Era. Many newspapers and magazines carry her stories on the same. Many here today still remember when Mim was named an Educational Cultural Ambassador to Japan in 1993, and the visits between Mim and her Nagatsahara family hosts from Omiya, Japan were covered in the Beaver County Times over the years.
In 1995, Mim was presented an award from the Serbian Unity Congress, “for her deep-seated and boundless love for Serbia and America.” She was named Serb National Federation Person of the Year in 2008 for her long and distinguished service to the SNF.
Her most recent honors were being formally recognized by the Moon Township Commissioners for her work on preserving Serbian history, and marking 130 years of Diplomatic Relations between the Serbian people and the USA. She was part of a Documentary made by the U.S. State Department with host Jugoslav Cosic, host.
The late +Larry Maravich who M.C.’d many a St. Elijah Slava, wrote a letter to Mim in 2006, calling her …”the irrepressible, unflinching and dedicated High Priestess of Serbian Orthodoxy; Matriarch of Serbian Ethnicity and Duchess of Serbian Culture in all its dimensions.”
Mim has also been called a “Serbian warrior,” fighting for truth and justice for the Serbian people. She was very grateful to U.S. Congressman Jason Altmire for entering her name and American Serb History into the 110 Congress’ Congressional Record with the advent of her now world-famous website: www.babamim.com, which has hosted visitors from Australia, all over Europe, Asia, Africa and South America besides the USA, Mexico and Canada.
“I don’t feel these are just my awards or honors,” Mim was quoted as saying in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It’s a reflection of all the people who came before me, and of all of those who are coming after me.”
Stay tuned. Besides working feverishly on Facebook and Linked-In to promote the Serbian causes and St. Elijah’s church in Aliquippa, Mim is the author of a new Apple iPad app story called “THE POWER OF THREE,” which is soon to be released for sale. The iPad app teaches fluency and flexibility skills, along with divergent thinking. Although aimed at elementary school students, its message contains important skills for learners of all ages, especially our own INNOVATORS of tomorrow.
One of Mim’s FAVORITE activities is singing in the Tenor section of St. Elijah Serbian Orthodox Church Choir every Sunday, and traveling with the choir to other areas of the USA and Canada where friendships are renewed and cemented again and again in church choir lofts, concert halls, and especially late at night around the orchestra singing old-time Serbian favorite songs with the “best of the best!” Mim says, “This is when the goose bumps come, realizing that here you are together, living/sharing the slogan ‘Samo Sloga Srbina Spasova!’ —ONLY UNITY SAVES THE SERBS, and how wonderful it is to be a part of that culture! Remember the t-shirt slogan: “Ja Sam Ko Sam, I Volim Sto Sam!” I am who I am, and I LOVE who I am!” I’m also grateful to our choir directors for sharing their wonderful talents with us each Sunday….so we can best present our answered angelic responses to our wonderful priest, Fr. Stepanov. Every Sunday is like attending the Lord’s Concert! You can’t help but feel uplifted when you exit. I love it!”
Teacher, Librarian, Consultant, Warrior, High Priestess, Matriarch, Duchess, Webmaster, Tenor, Author. Mim says: “The BEST name is still ‘Baba,’ my favorite title, thanks to my dear Nick, Dana and Jocey! But ‘KUMA’ for St. Elijah’s 98th Slava is something I never even thought would EVER be possible. I am so grateful to all of you for this wonderful, incredible honor you have bestowed upon me. A most SINCERE, ‘Thank you!’ Mnogo, mnogo hvala od srca! And from the teacher in me:
August 5, 2012
“Spasi Boze ljudi tvoje. O-oh Lord, save thy people, and bless Thine inheritance! In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
Will all the children, our young people here, stand up for a moment? You are our future! Will you help us all say that in Serbian? Here we go, trojcas made: “Vo ime Oca, Sina, I Svetoga Duha, AMIN!”) Thank you, wonderful ones!
How overjoyed I am standing here and looking out over our St. Elijah hall and seeing this most wonderful array of gathered PRECIOUS family members, Kumovi and dear friends, many who traveled so far to be with us today! Jocelyn, where do you live? Amelia, where do you live? Young Kum Milan, where do you live? Ako Bog da, Milan’s work will allow him to be transferred back to Pittsburgh, and he’s immediately going to join our CHOIR! His Kuma has it all planned out already, even though his bosses haven’t said a word yet!They say if you can envision it, you can make it happen. “I see it, I see it!”
When thinking about this morning’s services with all of us following our priest, Fr. Stepanov, together with our candles and church flags and banners all paying tribute to our St. Elijah for whom our beloved church was named, and even though it was raining, I can’t help but sing with SO MUCH JOY in my heart, “Oh what a beautiful morning!” or better yet, “Joi, kakva naj lepsa jutro, Joi, ka-ko naj divno dan!”
Together, all of you and I honored the SAINT who from the very first day in his cradle was blessed according to St. Bishop +Nikolai Velimirovich and the Bible; the SAINT who performed many miracles; the SAINT who was present as a witness at Christ’s Transfiguration along with Moses, and the Saint who was carried off into Heaven ALIVE in a fiery chariot of fiery horses!
This is our St. Elijah, who, according to the Bible, is scheduled to come again, to break the power of the Evil One, the Anti-Christ. And the way things are going, it might be any day now! ☺
All kidding aside, let’s pause for a moment to remember our ancestors, poor immigrants for the most part, but who loved the Lord so much with all their hearts and souls, and who built the St. Elijah Church for all of us. What do we have because of their many individual sacrifices? One of the MOST BEAUTIFULLY SERVED LITURGIES in the world every Sunday, with an incredibly dedicated choir answering Fr. Stepanov’s invocations and prayers, that’s what! And I’m willing to bet there aren’t many churches who start not only on time, but maybe even a few minutes before our scheduled 10:00 service, all dressed in their best clothes, because we know we’re meeting with the Lord, our God. You don’t see that everywhere!
And just imagine what God must think when he sees our self-disciplined altar boys….. They make those moves and formations in sync better than any football team! Stand up boys…. So we can give you a well-deserved round of applause. We’re all so proud of all of them!
AND, our Tutors, our Mother’s Club, Men’s Club, our KSS Kolo Ladies, our Sunday School teachers, Kathy Loverich and her Saturday Vespers Dinner Committee, and Dan Baron and his Sunday Banquet Committee. And thank you also to Bisa, and daughters Stephanie and Nada Kovachevich for making the Kolach and Koljivo for us for the past 40 years!
Our far-sighted pioneers gave us a magnificent house of worship, filled with many precious altar items, icons and embroideries. And although some churches may have more ornate, more finely carved pieces of furniture than we do, none could have been more lovingly given than what my father-in-law, Pete and Uncle Joe Bizic, donated. Not rich by any means, but talented enough for the times they lived it, they created the Main Altar Table and Hristos’ Grob (Christ’s Tomb) in honor of their parents, and also, the small altar table where we kiss the St. Elijah icon donated in memory of our dear Gus Bizic, each Sunday after nafora.
May I see the hands of the people who were married in St. Elijah’s Church?Great! Now keep them up if you got married in 1963 or after….. that’s 49 years and up…..
Well, then, you too, took your first footsteps together as husband and wife, King and Queen of your own households, following in the footsteps of Christ, led by our devoted parish priests, around the small altar table my father-in-law and Uncle Joe made in memory of St. Bishop Nikolai and of Proto Tomich’s second son, Milosh who had been killed in WWII. Inside, where the crowns are kept, is the date 6/9/63, the day Gus and I became man and wife here at 3:30 PM. Pete and Joe didn’t deliver it to the church until 3:00, to make sure we were the first to use it. It has ALWAYS had such SPECIAL meaning to me.
I want to take the time to point out that on October 5, Nick and Dana Bizic will be celebrating their 10th anniversary! Time sure does fly! They mark the 3rd and possibly the 4th generation of Bizics to get married in St. Elijah’s, as we know Pete and Dorothy Bizic were married in St. Elijah’s on May 18, 1930, but aren’t sure whether the earlier relatives were married here, at home by a visiting priest, or in the old country. But while on the subject of Bizics and anniversaries, I know you’ll join me in wishing “Congratulations!” to Pete and Danica Bizic who recently celebrated their 50th anniversary a few weeks ago down in Washington, DC at Peter and Colleen’s lovely home. Unfortunately, due to some health setbacks since, are unable to be here today.
And since we’re celebrating grand moments, I have to tell you how proud I am to be here with both high school graduates, Jessica and Nemanja Tomic. Nemanja is named in honor of St. Stevan Nemanja and graduated with honors from Montour High School. Honored Graduate Jessica Osman needs no introduction. I’m sure to all of you who belong to St. Elijah. She’s a tireless worker, like her brother Alex, Mom Georgette, and Djedo Tundy and her late grandmother, Billie Brnilovich! We’re so lucky to have her in our parish! Jessica made a cookbook for her H.S. Senior Project, and I told her I wanted 10 copies! Here you go, Jessica, my side of the bargain! I remember Jessica standing in front of the small altar table as she and her brother Alex shared KUMOVI honors for St. Elijah’s St. Sava’s Day.
And as I look around, I see some more young couples who will ALSO be walking around the small altar table someday….. Just think of how it will be when you have the royal crowns on your heads, with your hands tied together, and your St. Elijah choir sings for you and God, “Slava tebe Hriste Boze!” Oh my gosh, we’re all looking forward to it! Who’s going to be next?
I was reading the Commemorative booklet dedicated to Fr. Stepanov for his 25 years at St. Elijah, and 35 years of his Ordination to the priesthood. From 1973 until 1998, Father had 292 weddings, 534 Baptisms, and 179 conversions. I hesitate to mention the 775 funerals. Those numbers would soar in all areas if we added in the last 14 years…..During that time period, over the course of those 25 years, with God’s grace, Proto Stevan hadn’t missed ONE liturgical Sunday because of ill health. May he always enjoy the best of health and continue to bring the MAGIC to our church EACH and EVERY SUNDAY! I’m not being irreverent when I say that, because I’m sure so many of us feel that SOARING uplift when we leave each Sunday, filled with the Holy Spirit!
I’ll end with this little secret…. It was St. Sava’s Day and I was panicking, trying to make sure the audio-visual equipment worked so we could show a few slides of our church for St. Sava’s Day that I had concocted. Right before the program started, Father said he wanted to talk to me about something… “Joi,” I thought, “what did I do now?”
“Well, is it good or bad news?” I asked sheepishly. “Oh, it’s hard to say. It’s something we have to talk about when we have more time.” “Tell me now,” I pleaded like a little kid even though the program was about to start with that slideshow. I wanted to hear my “punishment” and get it over with…. “I’m coming to bless your house in three weeks. We can talk then.” JOI, JOI, JOI! For three weeks I held my breath. “What on earth did I do so wrong?” I kept asking myself. I knew it could have been 100 things….
Finally after Fr. Stevan blessed our house… and I say “ours,” because I still believe Gus and my Mom who lived in it are still there in spirit, and it IS the Pittsburgh home of my Nick, Dana and Jocey, Father sat me down in the dining room and asked me to be KUMA! What a great and TOTALLY unexpected honor. I immediately began telling him I knew so many people so much more deserving….and I started to name them… all of you out there who do so much work for the church! He assured me, “All in due time. This is YOUR time, that is, if I have the blessings of the Board.”
So, thank you Board, thank you wonderful Parishioners for this humbling, very surprising honor. Never, EVER in a million years would I have expected to be here before you. I hope I can continue to do whatever I can for our church in as many ways as possible. Thank you for the sacred trust you have placed in me. My entire extended family of Bizics, Klaichs, Mamulas, Karlos, and beloved Markovich, Stipanovich, Ignatovic, Bruich, and Sparcie Kumovi gathered here today, and I, especially, appreciate it sincerely. “Ziveli and “Mnogaja Ljeta!” Many more successful and beautiful years, St. Elijah!
Puna Sreca, Ljubavi, Mira I Sloga za Svi, od sve srca Vam zelim!
Andja Mamula with her grandchildren at the St. Sava Cemetery in Castle Shannon, PA (Pittsburgh suburb), including Jules Bobik, 3rd from left, standing
L-R (Back) Marty An, Rose, Jules, Ronny, Joe, Peter, Mim
Sitting: Nick, Lorraine, grandmother Baba Andja Mamula, Paul, George. Missing: Sandy
Jules always helped clean and decorate the graves at the Cemetery. A hard worker until the end, he’s earned his rest. “Vjecnaja Pamjat” to a great guy! This crew realizes that the ones who came before us taught us well. Honor and love your family.
L-R: Mim, Rose, Cheri, Jules, Carli, Matt, Halle, Joe, Jordan, Darlene, Kathy, Paul, Blaise
Kneeling, Michelle with Alayna and Alyssa.
JULIUS “JULES” BOBIK Jr. Of West Mifflin, passed away on January 5, 2011, at the age of 65. Husband of Cheryl Bobik; father of Jennifer (Sasa) Trklja and Michelle (Blaise) Grese; grandfather of Michael, Nicholas, and Marissa Trklja and Alayna and Alexis Grese; brother of Joseph (Darlene) Bobik, and Lorraine (Jerry) Moon; brother-in-law of Joanne (John) Wuchenich; son of the late Julius and Millicent Bobik, Sr.; also survived by friends, family, and kumovi. Jules was a Vietnam veteran with the U.S. Army and a retired supervisor at U.S. Steel. He belonged to the Holy Trinity Choir and Men’s Club and the American Serbian Club. He was a member of the T.R.A.A., East McKeesport Masonic Lodge # 765, and the ASerbs. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Cathedral, 450 Maxwell Rd., Pittsburgh PA 15236.
How many of you remember the little Autograph books that were so popular during the 1950’s-‘60’s? Probably one of the most used verses was the one that went like this:
“When your life on Earth is ended, And its paths you no longer trod, May your name in Gold be written, in the Autograph of God.”
EVERYBODY, EVERYBODY loved Jules Bobik, Jr.!
Eulogies were given by his priest, Fr. Rajko Kosic, his Cousin George Topich, Mayor Kelly (his next door neighbor and friend who together with his wife accompanied Jules & Cheri to Harvard Medical School in Boston at their own expense, to help seek alternative cures for Jules’ unusual cancer); his lifelong friend, Tommy Barrett, from Florida who mentioned how Jules would wear his Uncle Chappy (George) Mamula’s Master/ Sergeant jacket from his days at being stationed in Alaska in the ‘50’s and Jules would drill the neighborhood kids in marching all over Homestead; his tearful, loyal Kum, Chad Wuchenich, and his grateful Sister-in-law Joanne Wuchenich. It was a beautiful tribute to a fine man. You can read my tribute here on this website.
He loved taking care of his FIVE grandchildren!
Doreen Leech, Editor of THE TRINITARIAN for Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in Pittsburgh, PA wrote:
“A Tribute to a Very Special Man”
There aren’t many people that can be recognized by just one name…. like Cher, Madonna…. but then there was JULES.
Most people who met him, whether he was bartending at the Club or helping out at the picnics of selling 50/50s at the Carnival, probably didn’t even know his last name. But they didn’t need to— he was always just Jules, our main man, our clown prince, our mayor of all things Serbian. I defy anyone to name another person who so loved life, loved laughter, loved his church, loved his friends and adored his family.
Actually anyone who ever met Jules felt like family. He had such an amazing gusto for life, a true “joie de vivre,” and although we knew he was very ill, we just truly believed that he would be here forever. Unfortunately for us, that wasn’t the case. He was called to the Lord on January 5th, leaving behind a darker, sadder world. It’s hard to believe that we will never see him again, at least in this life.
To know Jules was to love him—he definitely made all of our lives richer and happier. Who can think of him without a smile on their face, waiting for him to come in for the big smooch! And how may of us can acknowledge that we have lived our lives as fully as Jules did.
Thanks, Cherry, Michelle, and Jennifer, and families, for sharing him so lovingly with all of us. There will NEVER be another like our Jules—no one could come close. May his beautiful memory be eternal and after time, may we all find solace in the memories we have of being with Jules. What a guy, what a life, what a legacy!
Thank you, Doreen, for such a beautiful tribute!
Thanks to Paul, Kathy, Halle, Matt, Jordan, Carli, Rose, Sandy (Alex), Marti G., Nick and Mim for the bench memorial.
In my era, while in college, President John Kennedy really moved me with his famous quote: “My fellow Americans ask not what you country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” After being a teacher for a short time, I decided it was my duty and honor to give back more and knew in my heart and soul it was going to be Vietnam or the Peace Corps.
A special influence in my life was my wonderful and brave maternal uncle, M/Sgt. George Mamula, who served in WWII and the Korean war. He had distinguished himself quite early as a soldier, and was assigned to Merrill’s Marauders in WWII. During WWII, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, second only to the Congressional Medal of Honor, for his bravery and outstanding leadership in Kumhwa, Korea, on September 9, 1951. He was committed to his country, his Army and all his troops. I and others in my family, especially express much gratitude to him and others who gave so much to protect our freedom and liberty. I will forever cherish the marvelous stories he told me as he made history come alive.
When and where were you stationed in Vietnam? Did you go by a nickname?
I believe I was one of only four American women to serve in the SRAO twice. During my first tour of duty from June 1966 – June 1967, I was first assigned to Nha Trang before being promoted by my wonderful supervisor, Liz Miller Magnum and transferred as a unit director to Pleiku. Along with others, we mainly served the U.S. Army troops, but also had an Australian troop in the HIghlands where we gave support and morale. My second tour, in January 1969 – January 1970, I was asked by the headquarters of the American Red Cross, SRAO program and Quinn Smith, who was like our executive president, to return to Vietnam as the Senior Program Director to the 100 or so women who were stationed throughout Vietnam at the time. I was stationed in Saigon, but only lived in the area one day a week as I traveled constantly to our 13 units deployed throughout Vietnam to offer leadership, guidance, support, and work with military leaders regarding logistics and safety concerns. I was known as Rose during my time in Vietnam.
What was a routine day like in Vietnam?
Typically two young ladies (usually one from the North and another from the South or different regions) would travel as a team to the forward fire bases via helicopters, jeeps, and tanks. Throughout the day their goal was to offer “a one hour break and morale builder” to our troops through recreational games and activities. No day was ever routine, as we learned resiliency very early on. We were affectionately called the “Donut Dollies.” Refreshments were served during these times to allow the troops to relax and think about their loved ones.
We were blessed that some of the ARC girls (American Red Cross) had other training and experiences in Korea prior to Vietnam. My supervisor did, and this sure helped to facilitate daily matters and to make good decisions.
If something happened in the forward firebase that was either unfortunate such as a recent attack, or sad days due to loss of so many brave men, we could modify our programs and try along with others, to offer comfort, hope and gratitude. One great experience was jumping in the dirty pool of water with troops and having tons of laughter and feisty play. I even got to learn how to shave a young soldier’s face!
After being in the field for 10 hours daily, after getting back to our base camp, we went to visit the wounded in the hospitals and to aid the nurses and doctors. I loved the medical team who so bravely served our troops and tried to repair their wounds and injuries, while we tried to repair their hearts and spirit.
I was one of the very few girls who requested to see the troops who had depression and other mental health problems as these men were “forgotten” or perceived as not brave at the time. Now, we know they suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. This experience, especially helped me to learn my passion and purpose in life.
Another great experience was going out in the field and visiting the Montagnard villages and helping with hygiene. We were led by Colonel Martha Raye, who also stayed with us for several days while touring Vietnam.
While I was supervising others during my second tour, along with about three other senior leaders, we had the “big picture” and had to decide what young leaders should be placed in what units and why, who should be promoted (now called talent management), and tried to match their skill sets (writing, history, drama, teaching etc) with their personalities. When you have many young leaders sharing the same mission and passion, but small physical space with some rough conditions, it behooves one to think carefully of the personnel and placement (HR functions). It was a joy to have the opportunity to work with high level military personnel as well regarding program selections, logistics and more.
Did you ever have any “close calls” either on base or in any vehicles?
Yes, as I traveled during my second tour throughout South Vietnam, I flew in many helicopters to get to many places in one day or more. Occasionally, the close calls were more for an equipment or maintenance failure. I knew if something terrible happened, I was going to be with the very best in God’s hands. I trusted the soldiers completely, as they were so professional and genuinely cared about our safety too.
Were you ever injured while in Vietnam?
What was it like to visit the soldiers in the hospitals?
Initially I was scared to death, probably threw up when I first experienced some horrific scenes of soldier’s injuries and battle wounds, but got over it quickly, and then, responded, “What can I do to help?” “What can I do to make it better?” Many times it was just holding someone’s hand and letting them know you cared. Living with nurses during my second tour really helped a lot and I am forever grateful for what they taught me.
How was the transition returning home to the United States?
Difficult initially as everyone had such mixed feelings about the war and at what cost to lives, besides financial and geopolitical matters. I remember playing a lot of music to heal my soul and adjust to normal life again. I jumped right back to full employment, which certainly helped and started to focus more on the positives than to think about the negatives.
What would you like people to remember and understand most about the women who served?
We were idealistic young, college graduate leaders who wanted to change the world and do a social good. Because of the SRAO, we were given this privilege and honor to serve our country with pride. Many young women came from military families or had someone in their family who influenced them to take this step forward.
This experience forever changed me and made me a more tolerant, kind, and compassionate person who always wants to continue to make a difference. I know my “sisters” from the ARC all feel this similar or same desire with passion and purpose. This is why I later became a counseling psychologist and consultant nationwide, and personally provided pro bono treatment to soldiers and their families with PTSD for over ten years while having my Center for Life Coping Skills, in Columbus, Georgia.
Mim Bizic, cousin Paul Belosh, Rose Ann K. Gantner, +Gus Bizic, Alexandra K. Nolan, Aunt Marty Belosh, Mom Laurie Karlo welcome Rose home!
How do you feel Veterans think of your time having served with them? Have any Veterans expressed their feelings to you directly?
Very positive responses from vets who after I thank them for their service, once they learned what my role was, turn around, and thank me too. Not too long ago I attended a special meeting for vets in Pittsburgh, PA at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial, and had several vets hug me warmly and asked me to join their group on the Southside of Pittsburgh, where I was born and raised. There’s something very special about vets and always will be! It’s nice to be included and feel part of a “bigger family.”
I only wish that when the good Lord takes me to his heavenly home, I along with all other women who served in Vietnam (even though we were civilians and have no benefits), we could be honored with the American flag on our coffins too. Perhaps this is something that should be suggested to our political leaders today?
What are your fondest or most interesting memories of your time serving in Vietnam?
Having the opportunity to serve and help shape other young talented ladies who shown a lot of humility and purpose, and who always would go the extra mile to accomplish our mission. Making long term friendships with ARC girls and some vets that was built on integrity, trust, and solid character.
Having Colonel Farmer, from the Army in Pleiku, track down my first cousin, Jules Bobik, a brave enlisted soldier serving in the southern portion, for me, and coordinating with others to have us visit together for a few days in Vietnam. Awesome! Tears and joy forever! He is now in Heaven, but I know Jules is looking down and smiling from above.
Meeting my former husband, Charles J. Gantner, Jr, who was an Army Captain and aide during my second tour. After 12 years of marriage, we divorced, but have fond memories of our experiences together. I am delighted he has since remarried.
Having the opportunity to do the SRAO service twice and to continue to learn, grow from mistakes, and become the person I am today who is very contented, healthy, and enjoys a great quality of life. I’m always ready and willing to continue serving in other new capacities as a recent retired person.
Donut Dollies website:
“In our thirty-fourth edition of the Donut Dollie Detail, Rose tells how both President Kennedy and her maternal uncle influenced her decision to go to Vietnam, how she was one of just a few women who served in the Vietnam SRAO program twice, and how the experience was life changing.”
“Please share the Donut Dollie Detail with family, friends and veterans you may know, and make sure to like/follow us on Facebook to learn when the next edition is posted”.
Please meet Red Cross Donut Dollie Dr. Rose Karlo Gantner…
Rose’s friend, Liz Miller Magnum, also served in Vietnam AND Korea, and was Rose’s Supervisor when Rose first arrived in the country, is shown here with her granddaughter, in Georgia. Rose and Liz met after many decades in 2018 again, in happier circumstances.
Rose’s friend, Liz Miller Magnum, also served in Vietnam AND Korea, and was Rose’s Supervisor when Rose first arrived in the country, is shown here with her granddaughter, in Georgia. Rose and Liz met after many decades in 2018 again, in happier circumstances.
Liz’s friend, Dr.Lee Marsh, from Young Harris College in Georgia, asked Rose to do an interview for him for his upcoming new book on Vietnam.
Mim, Dr. Lee Marsh and Rose 2018, Young-Harris College, Georgia
Rose being interviewed by Dr. Lee Marsh in the Library where his wife, Debra Marsh, is Dean of Library Services.
Dr. Rose Karlo Gantner
Rose was also featured in this book by Dusan Babac
Serbs-American War Heroes
Rose’s own book:
Performance With a Purpose
“Ko pjeva, zlo ne misli!”
(He who sings, thinks no evil!”)
From a shirt made by Chee-Chee Czubek of Johnstown, PA! It looks like our girl wants to direct the songs shown below!
Olga Markovich (Toronto, Canada) wrote a review about Alexander Petrov’s book KAO ZLATO U VATRI (LIKE GOLD IN FIRE, published in 1998) in the Glas Kanadskik Srba newspaper, about the South Side Serbs of Pittsburgh.
“Petrov describes authentically American-Serb life in America. A long section is devoted to the history of the Serb National Federation, but he also describes Pittsburgh Serbs of today—third and fourth generation American Serbs–with great affection and feeling, and there are many passages which brought sentimental tears to the eyes of this reader. In the words of Aleksandar Petrov, ‘Nowhere is the Serbian kolo danced as in America. Young American kids-‘srpcici and srpkinje’ in their churches first learn to pray to God and then to dance the kolo. I listen to them and remember Hajduk Veljko’s words, “Glavu dajem, Krainu ne dajem’ (I give my head, but not the Krajina)! They left their Krajina or better stated, they carried it across the sea as a wound in their souls. They have forgotten the Serbian language, except when they sing and pray. But each one of them could say, ‘glavu dajem, a crkvu ne dajem’ (my head I give, but my church, never’). Also, ‘glavu dajem, a srpstvo ne dajem’ (my head I give, but Serbdom never’). Serbdom to them is part of their church–and the Serbian kolo and Serbian song are a part of Serbdom.”
This is a true picture of life for the American Serbs in Pittsburgh. I can attest to all of it. Our grandparents made us remember….. No, not remember, but to LOVE it and embrace it with all of our hearts and souls. He’s right. We speak Serbian very poorly, but the church, customs, songs and dancing are all there, burning as strongly within us now as our grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ fire, zeal and love for their Serbian Orthodox heritage.
Petrov learned that while the Serbs in Serbia sometimes took things for granted, or “pooh-poohed” beliefs and long-held customs as being “peasant-village” stuff, the Serbs from the Krajina areas were always on guard, defending their Orthodox religion and Serbian heritage. These Serbs came from a land surrounded on all sides by “neprijatelji” — those who always wanted to take it away from them. They held on tight. This accounts for all the reasons why we hold so many things very dear and near to our hearts.
Some posters from Holy Trinity S.O.Cathedral Serbs celebrating their 100th Anniversary in Pittsburgh:
No One Has What the Serb Has!
Note the Banner at the bottom- “Happy Birthday Uncle Simo,” (UNCLE SAM!) from the Serbs of America! from 1976.
“Come to your Census, Serbs!“
So many Serbian Americans weren’t counted in the older census counts as they were listed as being “Hungarians, Austrians, or Croatians” because they came from the Srpska Krajina part of the Serbian Militaire Kordun or Serbian Miliary Frontier in what was the former Austro-Hungarian Empire or afterwards, the “Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.” Because they were always being squeezed to religiously convert to Catholicism, the Serbs held fast to their Serbian Orthodox heritage, jealously guarding it down through the ages.
Many of the Pittsburgh area Serbian pioneer families came from the Lika and Kordun areas in what is now called Croatia.
The CHURCH, the Serb National Federation and the Serbian Singing Federation played a very important role in keeping the Serbs together through the various Church holidays and fraternal activities. There are many other worthy organizations also, like the Serb National Defense, the Serbian Unity Congress, the International Organization of Christian Charities, etc.
Andja is seen far right, back row in this 1930 photo. These ladies loved America, but they also loved and PROTECTED their Serbian heritage, as witnessed by the name of their lodge: “Majka Jugovica,” the Mothers of the Jugovichs, (Jug Bogdan and his 9 sons who fought with Czar Lazar on the Battlefield in 1389!)
This is the middle of a scene from the 1st National Youth Conference sponsored by the Serb National Federation. Recognize any people you know?
Most of them are long gone, but oh, the memories we have of them!
All of the people above used to sing this song
Thanks to Steve Kozabarich of Cleveland for sharing! Steve has a wonderful blog on old records.
A tribute to King Alexander and all those who have gone before. Famous print on display at SNF headquarters in Pittsburgh.
The old-timers love to sing this one………
Vinka (Cleveland) and Popovich Brothers (Chicago) on Stage at an outdoor picnic. They were always a hit when they visited Pittsburgh
(Don’t forget to come back!)
Talk about ROMANTIC! Wow! The cold dawn is blowing through the fields while night is falling on the land…. and a tear is coming from my eye, because you have to leave me. Don’t go… don’t go, stay here with me…the one blessing of my heart….
These songs were frequently played on the Serbian Radio Hours in Pittsburgh. One of the most famous hosts was George (Bozic) Bowes. Here’s a story about his family in the SRBOBRAN.
What a family! Always working for the Serbs!
Some Pittsburgh “3-Day” highlights from 1995. we always have a good time of fellowship young & old!
Songs tell the stories of people. There are no songs you can see, but every one you can feel. Music is a universal language, crossing all boundaries and building bridges. Our goal is to really share our Serbian art and culture with the world community at large, not just our Serbian community. We KNOW what we have! When our tamburitza orchestras play for your listening and dancing pleasure, it’s time for you to get in and do those “Kolo” circle dances with folks from all around the USA and Canada, thus receiving an international cultural uplift to all!
Our Serbian get-togethers are alive with music and song,
uplifted joy and happiness.
“Sedi Mara” was another popular favorite. Danny Kukich worked tirelessly to include these songs in the SRBOBRAN every week for the “Song of the Week” column, as attested to by the photo below!
SRBOBRAN readers faithfully cut the songs out of the paper each week in the 1970’s. Thank you, Danny, this way we ALL learned the words!