A great man is one who collects knowledge the way a bee collects honey and uses it to help people overcome the difficulties they endure - hunger, ignorance and disease!
- Nikola Tesla

Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.
- Franklin Roosevelt

While their territory has been devastated and their homes despoiled, the spirit of the Serbian people has not been broken.
- Woodrow Wilson

George Vukasin

Former Oakland City Councilman, Vice Mayor, Port Commissioner, and President of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Board of Directors George J. Vukasin passed away peacefully in his home in Alamo on Monday, Feb. 15, just a few weeks short of his 83rd birthday.

Mr. Vukasin was CEO of Peerless Coffee and Tea, the pioneering Oakland coffee roaster that made craft roasting popular long before Peet's and Starbucks were born. He was an early force of the Specialty Coffee Association and served several effective terms as the President of the National Coffee Association. During that time, he was awarded the country of Colombia's highest honor, the Manuel Meija Award, named after the father of the Colombian coffee industry, for the work he did to elevate Colombian farmers out of poverty.

Mr. Vukasin was born on April 18, 1933 at Merritt Hospital in Oakland, the son of John P. Vukasin, who had founded Peerless Coffee in 1924, and his wife Natalie. His only sibling, U.S. District Court Judge John P. Vukasin Jr., died in 1993. 

Mr. Vukasin was educated in the Oakland public schools including Fremont High and attended UC Berkeley, Class of 1955, where he was one of Pappy's Boys, the football players who played for legendary coach Lynn O. "Pappy" Waldorf.

Criminology major, he had his heart set on becoming an FBI agent, but it was not to be.

After graduating from Cal he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, specializing in military intelligence. He completed his active service two years later and joined the Army reserves, where he served for 35 more years, finally retiring as Deputy Commanding General of the 6th U.S. Army, with the rank of Major General. Among the numerous awards and decorations earned during his military career, the honorable Army Distinguished Service Decoration for exceptional meritorious service made him the most proud.

Upon returning to civilian life in 1957 Mr. Vukasin rekindled his ambition to join the FBI, but his father summoned him home to work in and eventually take over the family business.

Mr. Vukasin quickly gained a reputation as a businessman who treated everyone fairly: his employees, his customers, his suppliers - even his competitors.

During the early years of his coffee career, he met a beautiful stewardess for Pan Am named Sonja Halvorsen. It was love at first sight and for the next 50 years they were partners in both life and in the thriving coffee business.

Branching out into the community, Mr. Vukasin served as Chairman of the Alameda County March of Dimes; President of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce, board member of Summit Hospital, St. Mary's College and the Oakland Boys' Club; and President of the Oakland Port Commission, where he supervised the construction of Oakland International Airport and brought the Japanese container program to the Port of Oakland.

In 1969 Mr. Vukasin was elected to the Oakland City Council and served as Vice Mayor from 1975 to 1977. In 1983 he became president of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Board, where he served for 10 years without pay and helped establish the Coliseum as the best of example of one sports complex being the home to 3 professional sports teams.

He was also a longtime member of St. George Serbian Orthodox Church, Yerba Buena Masonic Lodge, and the Scottish Rite for which he holds the prestigious 33rd Degree.

With all his accomplishments, if you asked George what he was most proud of, he would simply say his family. George and Sonja built a life together that was surrounded by fun, friends and family. They enjoyed travelling the world together, exploring exotic locales and building many strong relationships throughout the world that continue on today into the next generation.

Family was the center of his life and nothing made him happier than spending time in Alamo, Lake Tahoe and Los Cabos with his children, (Kristina, Michelle and George Jr.) and grandchildren. He would attend every school activity, sports game and social event he could just to support his grandkids. If there was ever an example of a great father and grandfather, he was it.

Mr. Vukasin is survived by his wife of 50 years, the former Sonja Halvorsen; his children George Jr., Kristina Brouhard, and Michelle Thomas; sons-in-law John Brouhard and Jason Thomas, daughter-in-law Beshka Vukasin; and grandchildren John, Natalie, and Samantha Brouhard; Pryor, Clayton, and Charlotte Thomas; and Ellis and George John Vukasin 3rd.

A public viewing is scheduled at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland from 4 PM to 6 PM on Sunday February 21st 2016. A memorial service is being planned for early next month.

Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Feb. 20, 2016


People Directory

Stella Jatras

Stella Louis Jatras (nee Katsetos) from Camp Hill, PA, was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, as the fourth and youngest daughter of Louis (Leonidas) and Marina Katsetos, originally of Sparta, Greece, and later of Harrisburg and Carlisle.

Stella was quite literally a daughter of Sparta - and her father's name was Leonidas, no less. As Julia Gorin noted, she was Sparta, truly worthy of that heroic heritage. Axia!

In addition to the U.S. Department of State, her professional work included service with the U.S. Department of Defense, NASA and the Veterans Administration.

In 1953, she married George Jatras, also the offspring of Greek immigrant parents, and began a long and varied life as the wife of a career U.S. Air Force Officer.

As a career military officer's wife, Stella traveled widely and lived in several foreign countries where she not only learned about other cultures but became very knowledgeable regarding world affairs and world politics. She lived in Moscow for two years, where she worked in the Political Section of the U.S. Embassy. She also lived in Germany, Greece, and Saudi Arabia. Her travels took her to over twenty countries.

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Publishing

Holy Emperor Constantine and the Edict of Milan

by Bishop Athanasius (Yevtich)

In 2013 Christian world celebrates 1700 years since the day when the Providence of God spoke through the holy Emperor Constantine and freedom was given to the Christian faith. Commemorating the 1700 years since the Edict of Milan of 313, Sebastian Press of the Western American Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church published a book by Bishop Athanasius Yevtich, Holy Emperor Constantine and the Edict of Milan. The book has 72 pages and was translated by Popadija Aleksandra Petrovich. This excellent overview of the historical circumstances that lead to the conversion of the first Christian emperor and to the publication of a document that was called "Edict of Milan", was originally published in Serbian by the Brotherhood of St. Simeon the Myrrh-gusher, Vrnjci 2013. “The Edict of Milan” is calling on civil authorities everywhere to respect the right of believers to worship freely and to express their faith publicly.

The publication of this beautiful pocket-size, full-color, English-language book, has been compiled and designed by Bishop Athanasius Yevtich, a disciple of the great twentieth-century theologian Archimandrite Justin Popovich. Bishop Athanasius' thought combines adherence to the teachings of the Church Fathers with a vibrant faith, knowledge of history, and a profound experience of Christ in the Church.

In the conclusion of the book, the author states:"The era of St. Constantine and his mother St. Helena, marks the beginning of what history refers to as Roman, Christian Empire, which was named Byzantium only in recent times in the West. In fact, this was the conception of a Christian Europe. Christian Byzantine culture had a critical effect on Europe; Europe was its heir, and then consciously forgot it. Europe inherited many Byzantine treasures, but unfortunately, also robbed and plundered many others for its own treasuries and museums – not only during the Crusades, but during colonial rule in the Byzantine lands as well. We, the Orthodox Slavs, received a great heritage of the Orthodox Christian East from Byzantium. Primarily, Christ’s Gospel, His faith and His Church, and then, among other things, the Cyrillic alphabet, too."