I apologize to my former professor and dear friend, the late Dr. Jure Prpić, and his family for not being able to write a timely obituary in his honor for the Fall 2009 issue of the ACS Bulletin. At the time, my family and I were too preoccupied with our move to Croatia/Bosnia-Herzegovina. However, this short text about him should remind our ACS members and his friends of the life and work of this wonderful man, husband, father, friend, and scholar.
Jure Prpić was born on November 16, 1920, of Croatian parents in Djala, Banat, where his father moved from Lika and his mother from Hrvatsko Zagorje. His elementary schooling took place in Nasice and Pozega. After graduating from the Real Gymnasium in Pozega in 1939, he and his family (parents and six more siblings) moved to Zagreb where Jure began his university studies. He received his diploma in Jurisprudence in 1944. However, his life dramatically changed soon after graduation.
As a war-time young university graduate, Jure was caught up in the great tragedy that beset the Croatians at the time. In May of 1945, with thousands of others, he found himself as a post-war refugee in Austria. While in Austria (1945-1948), he studied history at the University of Graz and, with some of his friends, tried to promote at least a minimum of cultural activities among his fellow Croatian refugees. From this time we find a collection of poems, expressing the anguish of those unstable times.
After coming to the U.S.A. in 1950, Jure lived for a few months in Cincinnati and then moved to Cleveland, where he labored as a factory worker in the Cleveland Twist Drill Co. for five years. In 1951, he married Hilda Hermann (Slovenian-born) in Montreal, Canada, whom he had met earlier in Graz, Austria. While working full-time at his factory job, he enrolled as a part-time student at John Carroll University and, in 1956, he received an M.A. in history. Shortly after that, in 1959, Jure earned his Ph.D. in history from Georgetown University. His dissertation turned later into a well-known book The Croatian Immigrants in America, which was published in 1971. From 1958 until his retirement in 1989, George Prpić taught history at John Carroll University in Cleveland, where he became a well-respected personality among his colleagues and students. I was one among numerous other graduate students who were not only his students but also his friends. Jure shared with us more than his knowledge of history. He taught us with love, and he really cared for each one of us. Who can forget his deep voice, his always calm personality, and his favorite saying at times of exams and also of political turmoil: ―This too shall pass.‖
Dr. Prpić authored numerous books, booklets and articles. He wrote many articles in various Croatian immigrant publications (Journal of Croatian Studies, Hrvatska Revija, Zajednicar, Hrvatski Glas, Danica, Hrvatski kalendar, Nasa Nada, Studia Croatica, etc.). Besides his contributions in historical literature, especially in the history of Croatian immigration, he was also a poet. Some of his well-known works are: The Croatian Immigrants in America (1971); South Slavic Immigration in America (1978); Croatia and Croatians: A Selected and Annotated Bibliography in English (1982); with his wife Hilda Croatian Books and Booklets Written in Exile (1973 and in Croatia in 1990); and A Century of World Communism (1973, 1975); Posljednji svibanj (1973 and in Croatia 1990).
Dr. Prpic deserves a special place in the history of the Association for Croatian Studies. Besides being one of its founders (1977), for quite a long time he was its main pillar and promoter. He selflessly served as ACS secretary/treasurer and editor of the Bulletin from 1977-1991. He was tireless in expanding ACS membership and soliciting support for its activities. The ACS and its members will remain thankful to him, as well as to his wife Hilda, for all that they did for Croatian studies in America.
After 88 years of a not so easy but fruitful life, Dr. Prpić passed away on April 23, 2009. The Mass of Christian burial was at St. Paul Croatian Catholic Church in Cleveland. Those of us who had the privilege of knowing Jure Prpić as a friend and colleague can bear witness that he was truly a gentle soul, a genuinely good person.
May his wife Hilda and their children, Frank and Maya, find comfort in the fact that they shared their lives with a wonderful man. I remember him fondly.
God bless, dear friend and mentor.
Bulletin – Association fro Croatian Studies
Issue No. 54 – Spring 2010