Dr. Joseph T. Bombelles


In Memoriam

bomOne of the founders of the Association for Croatian Studies (ACS) and its former president for many years, Joseph T. Bombelles died in Norfolk, Virginia, on July 5, 2011, after battling cancer for some time. He was born on June 2, 1930. His father, Count Joseph Bombelles, was executed in 1942 by the Croatian regime at the time, while Tito’s communist regime confiscated the family property. He and his mother lived in Zagreb.

After earning a law degree at the University of Zagreb, he went to The Hague to study international law and didn’t return to his native Croatia until it became independent twenty years ago. Soon after coming to the West, he asked for political asylum in Germany and became a political emigrant. While in Germany, his fiancée, Georgia Nina Lolić from Zagreb, joined him and they were married in Munich in 1955.

In 1956, the young couple came to the United States and settled in Cleveland. As experienced by a number of other educated Croatian immigrants, at first he worked in a machine shop in order to make a living. In the early 1960s, he began to teach German and Russian to engineering students at the Case Institute of Technology. He also enrolled in graduate school and earned his Master’s and doctoral degrees in economics at Case Western Reserve University. His dissertation, “Economic Development of Communist Yugoslavia”, was published in 1968 by the Hoover Institute, Stanford University.

Dr. Bombelles taught economics at John Carroll University for 30 years, from 1968 to 1998. He was a demanding but well-respected professor, both by his students and by his fellow-faculty members. For this reason, he received John Carroll’s Distinguished Faculty Award. He was also a Fulbright scholar.

Although he had a successful career, a wonderful family, and truly enjoyed and loved American freedom and democracy, he never forgot his homeland and its people. He desired independence, freedom, democracy, and prosperity for everyone, especially for his Croatian people. For that reason, he was instrumental in organizing various scholarly gatherings to discuss issues dealing with Croatia and the Croatians, at home and abroad. With the same purpose, he and several other Croatian scholars of that generation, founded the Association for Croatian Studies in 1977. We are thankful to him and the others for their enthusiasm, vision, and endurance!

As soon as Croatia became independent, Dr. Bombelles undertook concrete steps to promote democratization and free market economy in his homeland. His goal was not to make money, but to contribute to the education of new generations in their understanding and appreciation of freedom, democracy, free enterprise, and good work ethics. These were all values that he found worthy of transferring to a society that was coming out from under the rubble. With this noble objective in mind, he became one of the founders of a private business school, the Zagreb School of Economics and Management (ZSEM), and served as its chairman. He was instrumental in establishing good working relations between John Carroll University (some other universities too) and the ZSEM, which are beneficial on both sides of the Atlantic, especially in the area of student and faculty exchange.

Besides his professional career, Dr. Bombelles will be remembered for being a wonderful husband, father, and grandfather. He was a true gentleman and a friend to many of us. After his retirement in 1998, he spent much time in Zagreb, but every time he came back to the US, he would call, inquiring what was going on at the ACS and how could he help in the advancement of Croatian studies. We are thankful to Dr. Bombelles for his true friendship and collegiality. We are glad that he was a part of our lives as we were of his, even in a small way. The advancement of Croatian studies was our common goal and that, in turn, lead to a true friendship. We thank him for both!

To his dear wife Nina, his two sons, and four grandchildren, we extend our sincere sympathy. To our friend Joža, we say farewell and may the Good Lord grant you eternal peace.

Ante Čuvalo, Ljubuški

(Bulletin of the Association for Croatian Studies – No. 57 Fall 2011)