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Wednesday January 2, 2013

Sam Gadjovich

Husband, dad, dedo, community leader, news buff, public speaker. Born July 17, 1932, in Evla, Macedonia, died Aug. 26, 2012, in Toronto of heart failure, at 80

Sam was born in a small Macedonian village to George and Zivka Gadjovski.

In 1934, his father George immigrated to Canada, to Windsor, Ont., leaving his wife and two sons behind until he could save enough to bring them over. While he sent money when he could, Zivka had to make do with very little.

As the elder brother, Sam took responsibility for most of the chores at the farm. He had many stories of walking several hours back and forth to school, of taking livestock to graze overnight in the mountains, and of stealing plums from neighbours' orchards. Young Sam was responsible, independent and a bit mischievous.

He came to Canada at 20, his name by then having been Serbianized to Gadjovich in his Yugoslavian documents.

The trip sounds like a movie adventure - an escape into Greece, a boat that stopped in North Africa, several months in a work camp in Brazil, and finally the trek north.

The first time Sam saw bananas, he ate so many he made himself sick. Bananas became his favourite fruit - though it was a long time before he could eat them again.

While in Canada, he started a two-year, long-distance romance with a beautiful young girl in Macedonia named Menche, who became the love of his life. She agreed to meet him in Brussels for a whirlwind wedding in 1958 before coming with him to Canada. They eventually settled in Toronto and raised three children.

In Canada, Sam worked as a dishwasher, waiter, baker, door-to-door salesman of both Fuller brushes and the Encyclopedia Britannica, and finally, after studying both English and technical drafting at night school, entered the auto industry, where he built a career as a tool designer. He retired from General Motors in 1997.

In the early years, he had a drafting table at home, on which he did work for extra money, always whistling while he worked.

Sam was a leader in the Macedonian community, known for his extraordinary public-speaking skills. As one of the founding fathers and president of St. Clements Macedonian Orthodox Church, he advocated for the Macedonian community, making friends with politicians, city dignitaries and other community leaders.

It was Sam's vision of a higher profile for the community that led to the first Macedonian pavilion at the Metro Toronto International Caravan festival in the early 1970s. Along the way, he was proud to have met several Canadian prime ministers as well as world statesmen including Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela and Marshal Tito.

For his wife, Sam was a devoted partner. For his children and grandchildren, he was loving and protective; for his friends and relatives, loyal and generous. For his community, he was a leader of integrity. He will be remembered for both his wise counsel and amazing barbecues.

Helen Giffen is Sam's daughter.

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