George T. Starkovich|
George Tony Starkovich, 91, died at his Seattle home on Feb 26, 2014. He was born on April 27, 1922 in Bellingham, to George and Zora (Radosevic) Starkovich, immigrants from Lic, Croatia. George was very proud of his Croatian heritage. He traveled to Croatia three times & greatly enjoyed visiting his Croatian aunts, uncle, cousins, & their children.
George left school at age 16 and began working at the same Bellingham coal mine as his father, joining the union local his father helped organize. George held various labor jobs in Bellingham & Seattle until 1957, when he started on a Seattle gardening crew, eventually working for himself and finally taking a grounds crew position at the U of W in 1965.
George proudly served in the army during WWII as a medic. He spent nearly 3 yrs in the South Pacific primarily with 754th tank battalion stationed in Bougainville, Solomon Islands and the Philippines, participating in the liberation of Manila. While in the Philippines, his unit received a direct bomb hit, killing his commander. George was awarded a purple heart and bronze star for his "composure, courage and unselfish devotion to duty." His citation stated that "his calmness and courage inspired the others present and was largely responsible for restoring order" while he treated the wounded. He submitted to treatment of his own wounds only after he had supervised the evacuation of all others to the hospital.
Although politically active before the war, his war experience solidified a life-long drive and continuing hope for world peace. George was a key organizer and emcee for the International Youth Peace Rally at Peace Arch Park in Blaine, WA in 1950, with singer Paul Robeson and thousands of participants from Canada and the US. Later that year he traveled to Warsaw, Poland as a delegate to a World Peace Conference.
George was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1954. He not only refused to testify, but angrily challenged the committee members with his own questions. He was charged (but ultimately acquitted) of six counts of contempt of congress. His family has always been proud that he was called the "most contemptuous witness" to ever come before HUAC.
When George began working at the UW in 1965, he immediately became active in his local union (AFSCME, Local 1488). He served as president and vice-president for many years and helped union membership grow from a couple hundred workers to more than a thousand. George worked tirelessly to improve the working conditions for the UW's lowest-paid employees. Through his leadership role and with the help of many others, the first contract for the workers was obtained, many equal pay battles for women were won, and the first women were hired in previously all-male departments. After retirement from the University in 1984, George continued his leadership and activism serving as president and vice-president of the UW/Harborview (Chapter 28) Retired Public Employees Council for many years. He was honored to be a delegate to the White House Conference on Aging in 1995.
George and his wife Pat were loving friends and guardian of Richard, a developmentally delayed adult, for about 15 years until Richard's death. They remarkably enhanced Richard's life with inclusion in their lives & family, allowing the whole family to experience wonderful gifts from knowing this special individual.
George rode the Seattle-to-Portland bike ride 5 times in his 60s & 70s. He enjoyed mushrooming in the Cascades with his dear friend, Lyle Mercer, into his 80s.
George was preceded in death by his sister, Mildred, and his mother and father. He is survived by his wife and true life partner of 61 years, Pat; his son David (Vivian); his daughter Patty (Greg Allen), grandsons Elliot & Tyler Allen and Ronnie, and many dear relatives in Croatia.
No flowers please. George would have been so pleased by simply being remembered for his random acts of kindness, commitment to his community & union, and a legacy of inspiring those actions in others. Please take a child to the park, pick up litter, help an elderly neighbor with yard work, acknowledge and appreciate the housekeepers, custodians, and gardeners that you see, and always speak out for peace, social justice, fair pay and working conditions and the rights of all peoples and groups.
A celebration of George's life will be held at the UW Center for Urban Horticulture (Northwest Horticulture Society Hall), 3501 NE 41st St, Seattle on Sunday, March 9th at 2:00 PM.
Published in The Seattle Times on Mar. 2, 2014