August 6, 1930 - January 8, 2021
Life's Journey... 1930 - 2021 Zvonimir Stipicevich was born on August 6th, 1930 to his parents Marija and Kazimir. He was born in the family home in the former Yugoslavia, now Croatia, on the beautiful island of Olib, off the coast. The home that Zvonimir was born in was built by his grandfather with money he earned working in a coffee factory in San Francisco. He regularly sent money home from the United States to build that home. Zvonimir's younger sister, Milica, was born a few years later in 1934. It was a full house where two paternal uncles, Celestin and Marijan, also lived with the family. His paternal grandmother ran the household alone after her husband died in 1920 as a result of the worldwide Spanish flu pandemic. She was in charge of her three sons and one new wife in a home to three generations. Family was everything… It was a busy household and the island had no electricity at that time. They used water from a well that captured rainwater. It was very rustic. They grew their own food as best they could but money and food were scarce on the island. Zvonimir's childhood was interrupted when he was 7-years-old. In 1937, the eldest uncle Mihovil, who was involved in politics and religion and had studied to become a priest, got wind that World War II was coming. He warned his brothers to leave the country. So Zvonimir's father and two uncles left him with his mother and sister and moved to the United States. It was difficult, as Zvonimir would spend the next 13 years without his father as he was growing up but he looked forward to seeing him again. His father was a very knowledgeable sea Captain and Zvonimir had a dream of joining the Yugoslav Navy or becoming a mariner and running a ship. His family was everything… Zvonimir was greatly influenced by his mother in those years but he remembered that it was not an easy time in history. The Italian Army occupied Yugoslavia and he remembered the lowering of the flag of Yugoslavia, having to learn Italian, and grade school being interrupted because of War. The Germans would point a ship toward the island of Olib and start bombing, there were planes flying overhead, bullets being shot, and it was a gruesome war. Meanwhile, Zvonimir would try to scrape up dinner by going out on the water in a rowboat to fish and all of a sudden planes would skim the water and he'd have to wave his arms begging not to be shot. The war finally ended in 1945. Zvonimir became a teenager and he fell in love with a beautiful girl on the island named Tereza. He asked her mother for permission to marry Tereza and she said, "Yes!" But soon he was leaving for the United States so the marriage did not happen on the island. Instead, Zvonimir and Tereza promised they would wait to marry until he could legally bring her to the United States. In 1950, Zvonimir moved to the United States with his mother and sister. To stay in touch, he and Tereza sent letters by mail back and forth. Once, he mailed Tereza a letter while on a commercial fishing trip to Cabo San Lucas and there were so many stamps, they covered the entire outside of the envelope. Zvonimir took on odd jobs in and around San Pedro to support himself. He worked at the Henry Ford Auto Plant in Wilmington for a while. He worked as a bartender at several bars, one was owned by his uncle Celestin. He also took work as a commercial fisherman. In 1956, Tereza came to the United States with only one dress and few belongings. They both had waited six years to be together again. The couple was married on January 6th of 1957 and settled in San Pedro. In his time off, Zvonimir would walk the waterfront of San Pedro and Wilmington looking for someone to sponsor him into the Longshoremen's Union. While bartending in San Pedro, he befriended John Arneson, who was a retired Charter Member of the Longshoremen's Union Local 13. John would come into the bar to look at the horses in the racing forum. John liked Zvonimir so much that he agreed to sponsor him. Zvonimir waited for his union letter but it did not arrive. When John came into the bar again, he was infuriated that Zvonimir had not received his letter so they drove to the Union Hall together. John started yelling at people, asking what happened to his paperwork, and the Union then agreed to give Zvonimir the sponsorship he needed. That moment changed Zvonimir's life forever. It gave him a job with opportunity that also opened opportunities for his family. Most importantly, it gave him a livelihood for the next 36 years. He was a Class B Longshoreman from 1959 – 1963 during a probationary period before he would reach Class A status. In 1977, he was promoted to a Foreman local 94 until his retirement in 1995. He worked long hours every day on the docks. It was a regular job. In 1959, the couple's son, Boris, was born. The young family lived in an apartment and money was tight but Zvonimir was blessed and felt lucky to have a full-time job as a Longshoreman to provide for his family. In 1962, the couple's daughter, Jane, was born. That same year, the couple bought their first home in San Pedro on Summerland Avenue. They paid $24,000 for the house and they were so proud of their home. They really worked as a team. Tereza was a seamstress and a stay-at-home mother who made a lot of clothing for their family, while Zvonimir worked as a Longshoreman. Boris didn't learn English until he was in Kindergarten. The family spoke an island dialect of Croatian and he had learned the language that his mother and father spoke at home. When Boris started school, Tereza and Jane started picking up English from him. Zvonimir had learned English as his second language by going to night school, reading current events in the newspaper, and watching television. The children learned so much from their father about responsibility, discipline, having a strong work ethic, and being kind to people. Zvonimir taught his children how to ride a bicycle, how to drive a car, and how to fish. When there were days off, Zvonimir and Boris would go fishing in nearby lakes or in the ocean off the shore. There were rules in parenting that didn't need to be spoken or explained during that time in history. You knew there were lines of respect for your parents and one look from Zvonimir would be clear. One of Zvonimir's loves in life was looking at the crystal clear waters in the ocean. He grew up by the sea and he worked by the sea. He also enjoyed gardening and taking care of his home. And he loved to dance and sing the Croatian songs such as waltzes and polkas. He loved all Latin music, too. He enjoyed getting together with friends and family and sharing holidays together. In the United States, they practiced holidays such as Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. They also celebrated birthdays but everything was a simple celebration and an acknowledgment that it was about being together, not presents. When he was spending time with his family, he liked to laugh, share stories, and tell jokes. Zvonimir and Tereza had so much love for one another. They were born on the same island, they grew up a rock's throw from one another, and they loved to dance and play music in the home. They came to a country where they knew no one except for relatives so they enjoyed visiting with friends that shared the same ethnic background. They gravitated toward people who spoke the same language and they spent many days at the Dalmatian American Club for functions, celebrations, and gatherings with friends. They were raised Catholic and so they attended church on Sundays with people they knew from the neighborhood, from work or the community. They shared their lives and they shared respect for each other, as Tereza was the homemaker and Zvonimir was the breadwinner. Everyone always appreciated Tereza's home-cooked meals such as lamb chops, French fries, and a salad or homemade stew. Zvonimir also enjoyed having a glass of red wine with his homemade dinners, too. Family was everything… Zvonimir was a hard worker but there were family vacations over the years. There were trips to Big Bear Lake for little weekend fishing trips. But the big vacation came in 1969 when he scraped together enough money to take a vacation back to their island home on Olib for a summer trip. It was a wonderful visit with family. In 1972, the couple moved a few miles away to their second home on Santa Rena. They grew their own vegetables and they kept the yard trim and proper. Everything from the inside of the home to the outside of the home was always meticulous. They came from nothing and they were proud of what they owned so they kept everything clean, neat, and tidy. In 1975, the family took another trip back to Croatia and they stayed for an entire summer. There were many trips to Croatia over the years because their friends and relatives were still living there. Every trip was memorable. After Boris moved out of the house, he was in constant contact with his parents. They lived in the same small town in San Pedro and there wasn't a day that he didn't see or talk to his parents on the phone or in person. He saw Zvonimir do that with his parents by calling them every day after work to check on them and so he did the same. Boris would take Breanna over to their home regularly for dinner and every meal was a great time. Jane also kept in touch with her parents visiting regularly. In being greatly influenced by both of her parents, she had both Zvonimir and Tereza walk her down the aisle when she married Larry. Jane's parents would call regularly and ask, "What are you making for dinner?" They wanted to make sure everyone would eat so much so that Zvonimir would surprise them and bring them food. They'd call him Meals on Wheels because he'd stop by and drop off amazing food all the time. In 2018, Jane and Larry created flashcards to help Zvonimir study for his driver's license renewal. They drove all the way to Needles and it took him a long time to answer the 18 questions but he earned his driver's license again. He was a happy man. With Zvonimir's encouragement, both Boris and Jane followed in his footsteps. They both became longshoremen, Boris worked his way up to become a crane operator and Jane worked her way up to become a clerk. His foundation in work changed their lives and he was very proud of both of them. In honor of their parents, Boris and Jane held a surprise 40th wedding anniversary party at the Dalmatian American Club. It was a big celebration with 150 family and friends attending. He loved it! Zvonimir's sister Milica said her brother was always very protective of her. He was especially protective of her during the war when their island was being bombed. They loved to dance together when they were kids. She said that her brother was liked by all. His late cousin Vjekoslav's wife Dolores and their daughter Antoinette have many good memories as well. In 1963, when Vjeko and Dolores moved from New York to California, they lived with Zvonko and Tereza until they found a home of their own. This was the beginning of spending many Holidays and Sunday dinners together. Zvonko and Tereza were always very welcoming, kind and helpful. One year while Vjeko and Dolores were in Croatia, Zvonko and Tereza surprised them by planting a beautiful garden for them. Zvonko and Vjeko always enjoyed discussing Longshore work and they especially loved to reminisce about their beloved birth island Olib. Antoinette, Zvonko and Tereza's Goddaughter has fond memories of trips to Olib where she stayed with Zvonko and Tereza. One year Zvonko took Jane and Antoinette on a walking tour of the island. Every evening before dinner, Zvonko would make Schweppes Lemon Bitter and vodka cocktails. The family celebrated Zvonko's 80th birthday that summer and it will always be a treasured memory. With their grandchildren, Zvonimir and Tereza were very involved. Zvonimir retired in 1995 so he spent a lot of time with the grandchildren: Krysalynn, Breanna, and Samantha. Zvonimir was like a second father to all of the grandchildren. Krysalynn has so many fond memories of her Dide. She will always remember their trips to Ports O' Call and the Queen Mary. He was the type of grandfather who she knew she could rely on. If Krysalynn ever needed him he would drop whatever it was he was doing and he was there. The night Krysalynn went into labor with her son Luke, his first great-grandchild, her Dide and Nana waited all night just so he could be there to see him be born. Krysalynn loved her coffee dates she would have when Dide would come to visit. Even though he already had his cup of coffee in the morning she knew he wanted only a little bit of coffee with half of a Splenda in his special cup she had for him. One memory she will cherish is from their trip to Croatia. While everyone else was asleep they went off to go explore. He bought her a cocktail and they just walked the Harbor Pier together enjoying their time just them two. Breanna remembers the trip to Croatia and seeing the little village where he was from. She always liked to spend time with Dide and Nana. Just having dinner with him was a treat and listening to him talk in half Croatian and half English. He'd always start to laugh before he told a punchline to a joke, making it even funnier. She was always grateful that even though her parents were divorced, her grandfathers were the best of friends and they'd go out fishing with her Dad on his boat all the time. Samantha has so many wonderful memories and Dide was always there for her. There wasn't a day that she didn't see him. He'd pick them up from school and he was always early and such a character. He'd always say, "I just want you to be happy." He also wanted her to be a Longshoreman. She remembers him going to church every Sunday and afterwards he would come over and have coffee with her family. There was nothing more Samantha loved than to dance with her Dide. Even up to his last days he would call Samantha to dance with him. Zvonimir loved his great-grandchildren: Luke, Ashlynn, and Stella. Breanna is so happy that Dide got to meet his great-granddaughter, Stella. She's also grateful that she has pretty feet with straight toes just like him. Krysalynn remembers Dide would drive to her house every day after Luke was born. He loved Luke and Ash – those were like his own kids. Luke and Ashlynn loved their Dide very much. They loved to go visit Dide and play outside and pick fruit from his garden with him. They loved how he always gave them Hershey chocolate bars and Napolitanke cookies. Dide would always tell Luke how he wanted to him to be a crane driver. They loved to facetime Dide and they would FaceTime up until his last day. One thing he always would tell both of them is to always love each other. The year 2011 marked Zvonimir's last trip to Croatia. In November 2019, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. He made sure to share as many stories and memories as possible for his family to document. These stories are his stories. While his focus was on his family, he also loved his homeland, the United States, being a longshoreman, and Harry Bridges and the ILWU. His son-in-law Larry remembers he helped him at work a lot – showing him how to drive winches and keeping an eye on him. He remembers he was very protective of his family like a lion. His daughter-in-law Keri was also struck by his incredible sense of pride of his humble beginnings, and being a Croatian American and a longshore union member. His pride was his family. The last day Boris spoke with him, he told his dad, "Save me a spot in Heaven." Zvonimir passed away peacefully at the age of 90 with his family by his side. He had been married for 64 wonderful years. His wish was to stay in his own home until the end and his family honored his wishes. His purpose in life was to be a father first, take care of his family, be a good provider and good citizen, and never create any trouble. He was a good husband and grandfather who instilled good morals and good character by being a gentleman to everyone. He will be remembered as a kind, loving, honest gentleman. Zvonimir hoped unconditional love would be the main thing he passed on to his children – to put differences aside and to love one another. At the end, Zvonimir believed that family and love was the most important thing. Everyone in the family feels that Zvonimir is at peace, no more suffering. Boris misses the nightly talks with him, hearing his voice, his presence, and sharing stories about what happened during the day. Jane misses his phone calls, his sense of humor, and having dinners with him. He always made her feel safe and as though she never had to worry about anything. His advice would be to remember him, move forward, and be happy in your own lives. Zvonimir was preceded by both of his loving parents Kazimir and Marija. Zvonimir is loved by his wife Tereza; his son Boris and wife Keri; his daughter Jane and husband Larry; his granddaughter Krysalynn and husband Kevin; his granddaughter Breanna and husband Theo; his granddaughter Samantha; his great-grandchildren Luke, Ashlynn and Stella; his sister Milica and her children Danny and Tammy; cousin Dolores and her daughter Antoinette; extended family and many friends.
Life's Journey... 1930 - 2021 Zvonimir Stipicevich was born on August 6th, 1930 to his parents Marija and Kazimir. He was born in the family home in the former Yugoslavia, now Croatia, on the beautiful island of Olib, off the coast. The... View Obituary & Service Information
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1930 - 2021
Zvonimir Stipicevich was born...
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