Ivan Jelic was born the son of Stanko and Iva Jelic on August 19, 1935. He was the third of six children. The family lived in a small peasant's home in the hamlet of Mokro, part of the town of Široki Brijeg, near Mostar which is the capital of Hercegovine (Herzegovina) in what was the newly created country of Yugoslavia (Jugoslavia).
The family owned some land on the Lištica River and built a flour mill. The mill enabled the family to prosper between the wars.
In 1941, World War II had arrived in Široki Brijeg. The guerilla warfare that was fought in the area was the fiercest of any theater in World War II. In late 1944, Široki Brijeg had fallen to communist forces. The Jelic family lost most of their livestock and a wall of their home was heavily damaged by a grenade. As the Jelic family huddled together in the remains of the family home, soldiers made their way house by house through the hamlet of Mokro. The family was spared and World War II finally ended.
The end of World War II resulted in Tito's communist government taking control of Yugoslavia. Whatever wasn't stolen or destroyed by the war, was appropriated by the communist government.
The communists assigned the family (Ivan's father) a flock of sheep to raise for the benefit of the government. Since the family didn't have the ability to feed the sheep, the sheep simply starved. Stanko, Ivan's father, was sent to prison for a period of time. At age twelve, Ivan became the primary breadwinner for the family, while his older brother Jakiša was groomed for medical school.
Ivan was taken out of school and lived at the family flour mill to work the mill full-time. After two years, Jakiša convinced the family that there was no future in the mill, since the communists would eventually take everything. Ivan was finally allowed to go back to school to finish his education.
At age twenty, Ivan finished high school. Ivan's father Stanko had always intended for Ivan to remain in Mokro to take care of the family. Against the wishes of his father, Ivan left for Zagreb (the Croatian capital) to attend technical school. Throughout his life, Ivan suffered from a silent guilt caused by leaving Mokro, that was mixed with a bitterness caused by being assigned a family role in which he had no choice.
In Zagreb, Ivan attended technical school and lived with his brother Jakiša. The two of them spent much of their time plotting different ways to get enough food to eat. Everything was scarce. At age 22, Ivan completed technical school as an electrical technician.
After finishing technical school, Ivan went Austria. He worked in Austria for two months and applied to emigrate elsewhere. He was given the choice between Australia and Canada, and chose Canada because it is closer to Europe. In late 1957, Ivan set sail on an ocean liner for the New World.
Ivan arrived in Canada with one old suitcase. He didn't have money for food, but was able to borrow $5 from someone in the Croatian community to feed himself.
Shortly thereafter, he repaid the $5 and never owed money again in his lifetime.
After some time in Toronto, Ivan moved to Windsor to study electrical engineering. Since English was a new language for Ivan, the courses were difficult. Ivan eventually had to stop pursuing his education when he ran out of money.
Windsor is close to Detroit, where Ivan had some cousins that he was able to visit and get to know. Stanko's brother George emigrated to the U.S. in the early 1900's and had six kids. Ivan became especially close to his cousins Steve and Joe.
Eventually, Ivan received a government assigned opportunity to work in Winnipeg, Manitoba at Manitoba Hydro. Ivan worked as an electrical technician and was treated well. Throughout his life, Ivan felt that his role at Manitoba Hydro was the best job that he ever had.
At age 29, Ivan received a call that his mother Iva was sick. He was urged to make plans to fly back to Yugoslavia to see her and the rest of the family. Upon arriving back in Yugoslavia, Ivan discovered that his mother's health had improved. Since he was back in Yugoslavia, it was decided that he should visit various relatives and meet available young ladies. There was concern in the family that Ivan was a terminal bachelor.
While at his sister Nada's house, Ivan became enamored by a young lady named Ana Topic. Within a week, Ivan and Ana were married. Shortly thereafter, Ivan left to return to Canada. Arrangements were made and Ana eventually also arrived in Canada.
On March 15, 1966, Ivan's first son Stanley (Stan) Emil Jelic was born. His younger brother Robert (Bob) John Jelic arrived on November 18, 1968. Ivan doted on his sons when he could, taking Stan for a walk after coming home from work.
Ana always felt that Winnipeg, Manitoba was too cold. So in February 1969, Ivan moved his new family to Michigan, near his cousins Steve and Joe. The family rented a house on Twelve Mile Road in Southfield, Michigan for roughly two years.
Ivan began working as a union electrician at the Ford Motor Company, Wixom Plant, in April, 1969. Although he was consistently harassed by coworkers as an immigrant, he persevered at the job and retired from the plant at age 65, after 30 years.
In 1970, Ivan bought a piece of land in Farmington Hills. He then proceeded to landscape the property, design a house, and then build the house. He did everything himself, from the bricklaying, to the wood framing, to the plumbing and electrical work.while working his full-time job at Ford. In 1971, he completed the home and owned it debt-free. The family moved-in shortly thereafter. Ivan had put down his roots and built a home which in-effect contained the essence of his soul. He stayed in his home, until almost his last dying breath.
Ana became unhappy with the marriage and filed for divorce in late 1972. After an acrimonious court battle, Ana won custody of Stan and Bob. She eventually settled in Grosse Pointe, Michigan with her sons. Until Stan was 16 and able to drive, Ivan consistently drove 90 minutes round-trip to visit his sons for his allocated child visitation rights. Like many men, Ivan felt that he was cheated by a system that encourages divorce and strips men of their rights as fathers. He never lost his love for Ana, nor his dedication to his sons.
As his boys grew, Ivan was able to take them on vacations to Disney World in Orlando, Florida and Washington D.C. He also took Stan back to Yugoslavia for three weeks. The vacations had a positive effect on his kids. Based upon the experience, Ivan's son Stan made sure to take his kids on vacations to Florida, Washington D.C., New York, and Croatia when he was a single father.
On August 5th, 2000 Ivan's first granddaughter Amelia was born to Stan and Monika Jelic. His second granddaughter Madeline was born to Bob Jelic and Lisa Schutz Jelic on October 5th, 2000. His only grandson Aidan was born to Stan and Monika Jelic on December 14th, 2002. Finally, his last granddaughter Abigail was born on April 24th, 2003.
Both of Ivan's sons and their families settled in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Although Ivan was strongly encouraged to move to Ann Arbor to be closer to his family, he never seriously considered moving. Still, he drove to Ann Arbor on a regular basis and attended family gatherings whenever he was invited. He also encouraged birthday dinners for his grandchildren, for which he treated the family at an Ann Arbor restaurant.
After surviving colon cancer at age 65, Ivan retired from Ford and focused on his life as a bachelor. He took the opportunity to travel to many places in his lifetime, including Germany, Florida, Hawaii, Croatia, the Canary Islands, Italy, and occasional Caribbean cruises. He also owned a mobile home, boat, and for a period of time a condo in Naples, Florida.
Through his involvement with the Croatian community in the Detroit area, Ivan eventually met Ankica Hrosc and found love again. It was a fiery relationship, on and off over a period of decades. Ankica became Ivan's treasured travel partner as well as his complement within the Croatian community. Although they were never married, their relationship was always a special one.
Ivan passed away on July 15, 2022 at age 86 after suffering from an infection in his foot that was complicated by diabetes.
Ivan was a proud father and grandfather. He enjoyed taking his grandchildren to dinner to celebrate their birthdays. Ivan met his former wife, Ana, through family when he returned from Canada to visit his home country of Hercegovina/Croatia. They had two children together. The family moved from Canada to Michigan in 1969. Ivan worked as an electrician at the Ford Motor Company Wixom Plant for 30 years and retired at age 65. He was an active member of the Croatian Community in the Detroit area.
Ivan leaves behind his two children, Stanley and Robert, and his four grandchildren Amelia, Madeline, Aidan, and Abigail.
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