HLAVKA, Dr. George E. December 27, 1921 - May 5, 2012 George Hlavka, a loving father, grandfather and partner, passed away on May 5, 2012, after a long battle with Alzheimer's. He was 90. George was born December 27, 1921, the youngest of three children in Racine, Wisconsin, to Joseph Hlavka and Zenonia (Kuchera) Hlavka. He graduated from Racine's Horlick High School in 1939. At age 20, he was declared 4F because of vision loss in his right eye. With encouragement from his brother he chose to become an engineer and began attending the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1946. While at college he worked as a blueprint clerk, pursued scholarship opportunities and lived on campus in the pump house where he served as a night watchman.. He also played trombone in the Racine Junior Civic Symphony Orchestra. In 1948, George was awarded a Tau Beta Pi graduate fellowship and chose to move to California and pursue his degree at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. While at Caltech he discovered folk dancing, which became a lifelong passion. In 1949, he met Nona Jean Dahmke. Together they became members of the International Dance Circle in Pasadena and married on July 2, 1949, in Long Beach, California. A wedding gift from Nona's family was a Scottish Terrier named Angus, the first of many Scotties the couple would own and love. The marriage produced three beautiful children from 1953 to 1959. George graduated from Caltech in 1954 with a PhD. in Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics. George and Nona spent many happy years together until they divorced in 1972. They had many close friends and were very active socially. During his 40 year working life, George was employed in the aerospace industry by among others Garrett AirResearch, Comsat Corporation, TRW (in Washington, D.C.) and finally JPL in Pasadena, where he retired in 1983. He also served as Commissioner for the Southern California Coastal Waters Research Project from 1973-1974. In 1984 George met Jan Chesne and spent the rest of his life with her. Together they shared family, friends and folk dancing. His hobbies and interests included astronomy, computers, genealogy and traveling. He saw almost all 50 United States and together with Jan visited the Czech Republic, the British Isles, Canada and Mexico. He kept detailed calendars of his life for over 60 years. He loved classical music, dogs, his three children, and riding his bicycle along the beaches of Southern California. George will be remembered for his quiet and thoughtful ways, his reliable nature, dry sense of humor, dignity and intelligence. He will be deeply missed by his family and friends. George was preceded in death by his parents and his brother Joe. He is survived by his sister Ella (Hlavka) Johnson, sons Jay and Chris, daughter Jeanine Michaels-Leftwich, daughter-in-law Andrea (Goldberg) Hlavka, son-in-law Curt Leftwich, grandchildren Meghan and Brendan Leftwich, partner Jan Chesne, and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins in Wisconsin. A celebration of George's life for family and friends will be held on June 23, 2012.
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Published in the Los Angeles Times on June 10, 2012