Obituary of Juraj Pleša
August 1, 1932 - Gornji Kosinj, Croatia
November 12, 2023 - Calgary, Alberta
George was born in Gornji Kosinj, Croatia on August 1, 1932, to Ivan and Marija Pleša. He was the fifth of nine children. Life was extremely difficult during World War II and the subsequent formation of communist Yugoslavia. Despite the difficulties in the old country, he had some good times and earned his trade as a machinist. George escaped Yugoslavia by foot in 1957 with his wife Elvira and infant daughter Darka. It was a difficult journey, but they were helped along the way by the kindness of strangers. They made it to Austria where they spent six months in a refugee camp prior to sailing to Canada.
The trip to Canada was difficult with an infant daughter and rough seas, especially as they were traveling below deck as refugees. They first landed in Montreal, but soon moved West to Calgary where there were more opportunities for a machinist. George initially worked at CP Rail sweeping the shop at nights until he had the opportunity to prove himself as a machinist. He then found work as a machinist at Rice Machine with his brother Nick. The brothers left Rice Machine to start their own machine shop in 1965, George & Nicks Machine Works.
George and Nicks became GN Corporations and then in 1994 George and his daughters Darka and Kathy started GKD Industries Ltd. It was difficult starting another business again, but he relished the challenge and was proud to continue working in the industry he loved with his family. During the many decades he was managing machine shops many of his employees went on to start their own shops. He did not resent this as he saw their success as his success.
George was proud to be a machinist and took great pleasure helping others become better tradespeople. He almost never accepted that a job was too difficult or not possible. No was never the answer.
George was very active in the Croatian community in Calgary and very proud to be Croatian. He was also very thankful for his life in Canada and said it was the best country in the world. He often reminded us that it was because of the opportunities he had in this country that his family lived the good life they did.
George was a survivor and never one to give up. He battled cancer five times and never gave up on life or became bitter. He knew he was full of cancer and very tired but remained positive to the end. A lifelong learner, he was doing what he loved best, reading a book, the day before he passed.
He is survived by his daughters, Darka (Milan), Kathy (Brad); grandchildren, Kristie (Aaron, Savahna, Serena), Jamie (Ryan), Jason (Emma), Rebecca (Luke) and Erika (Jake); brother Matt (Pierette), sister Mandy, cousin Ankica in Australia, and numerous nieces, nephews, great-nieces, and great-nephews. He was predeceased by wife Elvira and dear brother Peter.
George was a true gentleman, and a wonderful father, Dida, brother, uncle, and friend to many. He will be remembered as a patriarch of the family and for his kindness to all. He was positive, patient, proud, gentle, respectful, proper and most of all loving.
Special mention and thanks to his niece Linda and the entire Crnkovic family, Drago, Carlo, Franco and Andjela for helping take care of George and making a tremendous difference in the last months of his life. We are forever grateful.
“Počivaj u miru Dida”
If friends so desire, memorial tributes may be made directly to the Alberta Cancer Foundation of Alberta or donate blood to Blood Services Canada.
Funeral Mass will be Celebrated at Our Lady of Marija Bistrica Croatian Catholic Church (14680 Deer Ridge Dr SE, Calgary, AB) on Friday, November 17, 2023, at 2:00 p.m. Reception to follow in the Parish Hall downstairs. Condolences, memories, and photos can also be shared and viewed here.
In living memory of George Pleša, 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.