Obituary of Lela KUKEC

January 21, 1934 – Zagreb, Croatia
April 5, 2020 – Calgary, Alberta

Lela Kukec, of Calgary, AB, passed away in her sleep on Sunday, April 5, 2020 at the age of 86 years.

Lela was born in Zagreb, Croatia on January 21, 1934. There she met the love of her life, Drago Kukec, whom she married in 1954.  The following year Lela gave birth to their first son, Carl Darko Kukec. The trio left their beloved but troubled home to search for a better life, first to West Germany and then Canada, arriving in Calgary in 1961. A year later their second son, Gordon Michael Kukec, joined the new Canadian family.

Like many fleeing communism in that era, they arrived in Calgary without any savings, prospects or knowledge of English, however, the local Croatian and other communities welcomed them and gave them an opportunity to make a brand new start. Both Lela and Drago were selfless and worked hard to provide for their young family.  At one point Lela worked with her sister, Elvira, making cowboy hats at Calgary’s iconic Smithbilt Hats. Eventually, Drago founded his own Electrical Contractor business and Lela was able to establish and run a very loving and supportive home for her family.

Lela thoroughly enjoyed the summertime and gardening in her beautiful yards in Willow Park, Parkland and Evergreen communities of Calgary. Many memorable summer vacations with family and friends were spent in the Windermere and Okanagan areas, yet they never forgot their original home and greatly enjoyed returning to Zagreb, where some of her and Drago’s fondest memories were made and where they will both be laid to rest, together.

Lela and Drago especially loved their grandchildren and were present throughout their formative years providing love, laughter and kindness in their own special way.

Lela also loved animals, feeding the squirrels and birds in the back yard and anywhere else she happened to come across them. She cared for our cat Smokey. She and Drago would often take beloved family dogs Landy & Huey, whom she spoiled to no end, on strolls to Fish Creek.

She will be most remembered for her kind, caring and nurturing ways always delivered with a smile, a sense of humour and often a freshly baked pastry. She was and remains a loving, beautiful soul that will be terribly missed by her family and dear friends.

Lela was predeceased by her husband of 61 years, Drago, in 2015,  her parents Zdenka and Viktor Hrlich, brother George Hrlich and sisters Sonja Hrlich and Elvira Plesa. She is survived by her son Gordon and daughter-in-law Hannamari, son Carl Darko and partner Teresa, granddaughter Lauren and partner Ryan, and great-grand daughters, Emma & Olivia Kukec Marin, grandson Christopher Kukec and partner Catherine, and grandson Ryan Kukec. Lela is also survived by her brother-in-law, George Plesa, as well as numerous nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends. Special gratitude to Mandy Habedus, Kathy Plesa Narfason, Brad Narfason and Peter Plesa who, along with George, were there for her until the end. Thank you, all.

A Private Funeral Service is being held Saturday, April 11, 2020.  Lela’s sons are planning a celebration of her life for friends and family in the future. Condolences, memories and photos may be shared and viewed on Lela’s obituary at www.McInnisandHolloway.com.

In living memory of Lela Kukec, a tree will be planted in the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area by McINNIS & HOLLOWAY FUNERAL HOMES, Fish Creek, 14441 BANNISTER ROAD SE, CALGARY, AB, T2X 3J3,  Telephone: 403- 256-9575.

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