Dan G. Bjeletich(1925 - 2014)

Dan G. Bjeletich, loving husband, father and friend to everyone he met, died Friday, July 11, 2014, at an Austin hospital. He was born on Jan. 29, 1925. Funeral: 2 p.m. Friday, July 18, at the Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church, 414 St. Stephens School Road, Austin, 78746. Entombment will follow in Cook-Walden/Forest Oaks Memorial Park Mausoleum. The family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Cook-Walden/Forest Oaks Funeral Home with a Trisagion Service to be held at 7 p.m. Arrangements are under the direction of Cook-Walden/Forest Oaks Funeral Home, 6300 W. William Cannon Drive, Austin, Texas 78749, 512-892-1172. Memorials: In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in his name to the West Travis County Rural Advisory Committee, 8656 W. Highway 71, Austin, Texas 78735, attention: Jane 512-854-4143, or to a . Dan was a proud World War II veteran, and honors graduate in accounting at the University of Oklahoma. He retired in 1990 as comptroller at Bell Helicopter Textron. His life was a Horatio Alger story that began with his birth in Montenegro, a beautiful mountainous country on the Adriatic Sea, which eventually became part of Yugoslavia. He immigrated to America at the age of 5 with his mother and older brother, traveling by ship and then by train from New York to Butte, Mont., to join his father who had worked in the gold fields in Alaska and eventually became a copper miner. Dan quickly learned English and became an accomplished student. A tireless worker, he had many jobs, from railroad construction to selling newspapers to help his family during the Great Depression. His boyhood and family life in Montenegro and Butte became the stuff of many stories Dan lovingly shared with friends and family throughout his life. Wherever he lived, Dan carried his home with him, in his heart and through his stories. To hear them made you feel as if you lived them, too. Dan's high school graduation in Butte in 1943 coincided with his draft into the U.S. Army Air Corps. He was stationed in London where bombings during the Battle of Britain became almost a daily routine. One morning when he and another serviceman were moving a desk in their command office, they "accidentally" blocked the path of a petite Brit who was also working there. "You're so small, you can crawl under it," Dan jokingly told her. Her name was Marguerite "Margo" Gauthier, who was to become his wife of 61 years. After the war's end, Dan and Margo moved to Frankfurt, Germany, where Dan served as civilian personnel officer at Rhein Main Air Force Base, and daughter Cheryl was born. Margo and he also served as support personnel during the Berlin Airlift. They watched thousands of C-54 transport planes fill the sky, carrying life-saving food and fuel to people who were blockaded in Berlin. They worked around the clock in their roles. Of this airlift, they both said, "This was a wonderful humanitarian event, saving the people of Berlin." They never forgot the magnanimity of those involved, and this influenced them throughout their lives as they would spend much of their time helping others. In June 1950, the couple and their 1-year-old daughter moved to Norman, Okla., where Dan enrolled in accounting at the University of Oklahoma. While also working to help support his family, Dan finished the course work for both his undergraduate degree and a master's in a record three years, once taking as many as 21 hours in accounting in a single semester. When an advisor questioned how he could carry that many classes, Dan answered, "I'm here to be a student. I'm not a playboy." Dan graduated with high honors in 1953. He was a member of several honor societies at the university: Phi Eta Sigma, Delta Sigma Pi, and Beta Gamma Sigma. He continued his service to his country, joining the United States Air Force Reserve, serving until 1960. After graduation the family moved to Irving. In 1953 Dan went to work as a CPA for Arthur Andersen & Company. He traveled Oklahoma as an auditor for many companies, including Halliburton and numerous other oil companies. In 1959, he was invited to join a newly-arrived aerospace company in Hurst, Bell Helicopter. He rose through the ranks in accounting to become director of financial controls. In his last five years at Bell, Dan and Margo moved to Amsterdam, Holland, where Dan took the post of comptroller of Bell Helicopter Europe. The assignment in Holland gave them the chance to revisit many of the places in Europe they had not seen since the end of World War II. At their downtown apartment overlooking a canal, they were hosts to many American visitors and American expatriates living abroad. Dan and Margo delighted in hosting their family in December, taking them on wonderful trips to France, Germany, Italy, and Belgium. Some of those visits were highlighted by enjoying Christmas in Paris as well as hearing the Pope's Christmas Eve address at the Vatican. When Dan retired in 1990, he and Margo relocated to Austin to be near their daughter and son-in-law, Les, and grandchildren, Philip and Sarah. From the start, they both loved Austin. Dan, a world traveler, called it "one of the most beautiful cities in the world." He was immediately active in community life, serving as president of the Municipal Utility District #4. He was a believer in service to both country and community which led him to memberships in the Oak Hill Rotary, VFW Post #4443, and the West Travis County Rural Center. He spent much time in those organizations, receiving the Outstanding Rotarian Award in 2012. He also served as quartermaster for VFW District 28 as well as VFW Post #4443. Besides his involvement in community service organizations and his time spent traveling abroad with Margo, Dan enjoyed two things greatly. He was a licensed pilot, having earned his license in the 1970s. Margo and Dan flew their small plane mainly into small Texas airports, but his favorite place was New Orleans, La. He loved flying into that area and seeing the beautiful city that it is. Dan had another passion: gardening. His backyard in Circle C was full of trees loaded with fruit -pomegranates and figs. He was usually engaged in nurturing cuttings from his trees so that his friends and family might have their own crop one day. When Margo was diagnosed with advanced cancer in 2002, Dan dedicated himself to becoming her caregiver. He worked tirelessly in taking care of her to the highest of his ability through operations and lengthy trips to the Mayo Clinic and stays in hospitals and rehabilitation centers, where Dan never left her side until death ended the struggle they faced together in 2008. Dan was a faithful lifelong member of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Butte, Mont., as well as Shepherd of the Hills Presbyterian in Austin, but anyone who witnessed the loving and devoted care he gave his beloved wife for all those years could not help but believe he earned his place in heaven. Though he was confined to a rehabilitation center in his last weeks and despite being in pain from a broken shoulder, Dan was determined to take his place at the head of July Fourth parade at VFW Post 4443, where he has carried the American flag every year for the past 20 years. With his one good arm, he hoisted the flag again last Friday and accomplished his mission one last time, faithful until the end. Thank you, Dan, from all of us. Thank you for the fine example you gave us. We'll miss you and we'll miss your stories. Job well done. Dan was preceded in death by his wife of 61 years, Marguerite; his brother, Bob; his mother, Andja Bjeletich; and his father, George P. Bjeletich. Survivors: He is survived by his daughter, Cheryl Thomas and her husband, Leslie Thomas; grandson, Philip Thomas; granddaughter, Sarah Randall and her husband, Jason, and their children, Grant, Lane, and Charlotte, all of Austin; his brother, John G. Bjeletich; his sister, Helen Adzich of Cupertino, Calif.; sisters-in-law, Nancy Bjeletich of Cupertino and Joan Bjeletich of Seattle, Wash.; nieces and nephews including Marko Bjeletich and wife, Elissa, of Austin, as well as Peter and Karen Bjeletich of Livermore, Calif., Christine Adzich of Redondo Beach, Calif., Malena Adzich of San Ramon, Calif., George and Arynn Adzich, Robert and Kathy Adzich of Cupertino, Calif., Vaso and Mary Adzich of Tustin, Calif., Sharon Bjeletich, Barbara Bjeletich, Caryl Bjeletich, Sheila Bjeletich, and Robert and Pandora Bjeletich of Seattle, Wash. He also leaves behind many great-nieces and great-nephews who adore him.

Funeral Home

Cook-Walden/Forest Oaks Funeral Home and Memorial Park
6300 West William Cannon Drive Austin, TX 78749
(512) 892-1172

Published in Star-Telegram on July 16, 2014