Dušan Bezić (Dick) passed away the morning of May 22nd, 2019 in his home at the Russell Hill Retirement Residence, Toronto, several days shy of his 94th Birthday.
Dušan’s beloved wife of sixty-three years, Angeline, predeceased him by five years. His sister, Tomasina, brothers, Ivo and Tomislav, and brother-in-law, Richard Mateljan, have also predeceased him. Dušan is survived by his son, Val (Pamela), his daughter, Sandra (Kevin Albrecht) and his four cherished grandchildren, Shanda, Carlyn, McKenzie and Dean. His nieces and nephews; Niksa Bezić, Rick, Brian and Maria Mateljan and Neda and Vesna Bezic were cherished by him. His sister-in-law, Mary Mateljan, was dear to him.
Dušan Bezić was born in Grohote on the island of Šolta, Croatia on May 31, 1925. At the age of eleven, he left his home to attend school on the mainland and embarked on what became a remarkable life.
Dušan was drafted into the National Liberation Army in 1943 and he was wounded in battle on the island of Korčula. With the help of Allied Forces, he was transferred to a hospital in Italy. He lived in refugee camps in Italy, Egypt and Palestine from December 1943 until March 1950. During this time, he obtained a degree in Philosophy in Jerusalem in 1948.
In 1950, Dušan emigrated to Canada. Kajo and Ivanica Mateljan heard that a young man from their village, who only possessed a suitcase of books and a desire to learn English, had just arrived in Toronto. They took him in and one year later, he married their daughter, Angeline. She was born and raised in Huntsville, Ontario. Angie and Dušan loved Muskoka and Harp Lake became close to their hearts and a summer place for family and friends. He embraced everything Canadian Angie could teach him - except skating. Although his one attempt at skating ended badly, his son, Val, and daughter, Sandra, became five-time Canadian Figure Skating Pairs Champions. As busy as Dušan was running his own business, he never missed his children’s many competitions and always made the effort to experience international culture with them. In 1972, when Sandra and Val represented Canada at the Olympics in Sapporo, Japan, Dušan arranged for an extended family trip throughout Japan.
From 1950 to 1952 he worked as a labourer in a meat-packing factory. Fluent in Italian, this was of great benefit to him when he started his own development and construction firm, Bezic Developments Limited in 1957. In 1983, he joined his son, Val, to form Glen Orchard Homes, which was recognized with eight industry awards and voted Best Builder in Oakville, Ontario. In 2004, the Canadian Croatian Chamber of Commerce awarded Dušan a Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 1963, Dušan successfully campaigned to support Liberal MP, Walter Gordon, Minister of Finance. He was asked to relocate to Ottawa to become a member of the staff, but Dušan declined in order to not uproot his family. He also declined the honour of becoming the Ambassador to Canada for the newly formed country of Croatia because it would have required that he relinquish his Canadian citizenship. He always said that his first loyalty was to his country, Canada.
Dušan was a charismatic, determined, irrepressible force. With eternal optimism, he always saw the silver lining, even throughout many brushes with death. ‘Duško’, or ‘Dick’ to his vast circle of friends, loved a good conversation over a glass of wine and his favourite Mediterranean seafood. His closest friends were considered family. His grandchildren called him ‘Dida’ and family holiday gatherings revolved around his famous barbequed turkey. He nurtured life-long friendships and never hesitated to help when he could.
Dušan started his involvement in Croatian community affairs in the refugee camps in Italy and Egypt and continued upon arriving in Toronto. He was one of the founders of the Toronto Croatian Parish Our Lady Queen of Croatia and served on the Parish Council for twelve years. He was also one of the founding members of the Toronto Croatian Credit Union and was elected to its board for fourteen years, serving as a board member, president, and as a member of the Union's audit committee. He was a founding member of the Croatian Studies Foundation, through whose auspices the Chair for the Study of Croatian Language and Culture was established at the University of Waterloo. He was a member of the Croatian Fraternal Union from 1950 until 2012. He has been a member of the Almae Matris Croaticae Alumni Toronto Chapter, and the Canadian-Croatian Chamber of Commerce, since their inception. In 1991, he served as president of the Canadian-Croatian National Fund. He has been a member of the International Committee of Know Thyself! Nosce te Ipsum! Croatian Section for Outward Bound, since 2006. Dušan assisted financially and materially in the development of the Croatian Centre in Norval, Ontario, and the building of the Croatian Church of the Holy Trinity in Oakville, Ontario.
For three years (1975-1978), he served as the Executive Director of the Toronto Metros-Croatia, culminating with their historic win of the North American Professional Soccer Championship in 1976. In 2010, the Club was inducted into the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame.
In 1991, by a decree of President Dr. Franjo Tuđjman of the Republic of Croatia, Dušan was appointed as the first representative of the Republic of Croatia in Canada. He held this position, pro bono, until February 1994. In 1995, President Tudjman bestowed upon him the Order of the Croatian Trefoil and the Homeland War Memorial Medal.
On June 28, 1994, Dušan received the Canada Birthday Achievement Award from the Metropolitan Toronto and District, Canada Day Committee for his volunteer work in the Canadian Croatian community. In 1991, and again in 1998, he received a Certificate of Appreciation for his humanitarian contribution to Croatia by the American humanitarian organization AmeriCares.
The family wishes to express their heartfelt thanks to all those at The Russell Hill Retirement Residence for their kindness and care and to the dedicated medical staff and many doctors at St. Michael’s Hospital who treated Dušan’s many conditions, including Dr. Anthony Graham, Dr. Samir Grover, Dr. Jason Lee and Haytham Sharar and Aracelie Caalim.
Visitations will be held on Thursday and Friday, June 13th and 14th from 6-9 pm at Turner and Porter Yorke Chapel, 2357 Bloor Street West, Toronto. A Funeral Mass will be held on Saturday June 15th at 9 am at Our Lady Queen of Croatia, 7 Croatia Street, Toronto followed by an entombment at the Park Lawn Cemetery Mausoleum, 2845 Bloor Street West, Toronto.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to: St Michael’s Hospital Foundation for Robert McRea Heart Health Unit, or to: St. Stephen Parish Grohote, Croatia c/o Our Lady Queen of Croatia, Toronto.