John (Ivan) Kustec was born on October 3, 1925 in Gornja Bistrica, Slovenia and passed away peacefully on August 8, 2021. He was the son of Ivan and Tereza Kustec. John had four siblings, Marijcha, Anton “Tonc” and the late Rosa and Tereza. While growing up, he worked on his family farm, where he developed a true love for animals and fishing.
A very difficult time in John’s life was during World War II, when Germany occupied Slovenia. In October 1944, the young men in his village were gathered and taken from their families by train to Budapest Hungary, then to Berlin and finally to a sub-concentration camp of Neuengamme in Hamburg, Germany. At the end of the war, the men in his camp were liberated by the British.
Following the war, John served as a guard in the British army. In 1948, after his tour of duty, John chose to settle in Britain. Then, in 1951, John received a letter from his Aunt, Tateca Zadravec, that changed the course of his life. His Aunt lived in Cleveland, Ohio and she invited him to join her family in the United States. She encouraged John by sharing, “America was the land of opportunity”. John decided to take a chance. He was issued immigration approval on May 29, 1951 in London. He traveled on the Queen Elizabeth and arrived at Ellis Island, New York on November 27, 1951, where he was greeted by the “Beautiful Lady ~ the Statue of Liberty”. He was finally in his new home ~ America! John often shared that one of his proudest moments was when he became an American citizen in 1957.
John married the love of his life, Ivanka, on June 26, 1954. Together they proudly raised their four children, Mary, John, Joe and Barb. They have eight grandchildren and eight great- grandchildren. They were married for 66 years.
John and Ivanka lived in Richmond Heights for 52 years, but also resided in Cleveland and Euclid. During that time, they were members of St. Vitus, St. William and St. John of the Cross Catholic Church. They were also active members of the KSKJ and owned their own Bowling Alley. John worked as a lead machinist at Motch and Merryweather for over 35 years.
John was very proud of his Slovenian heritage and enjoyed listening and dancing to polkas. He had a great love for the outdoors, and especially enjoyed gardening, yard work and fishing. John also enjoyed reading, painting, playing Pinochle, Yahtzee and Dominos. As he pursued his love of music, he became quite the accordion and harmonica player. John’s favorite sport was baseball and he was a huge Cleveland Indians fan. He also loved to travel with Ivanka. Together they explored the United States, Europe, the Holy Land, Mexico, and took many trips to Canada.
John was known for his easy going spirit, great sense of humor, and kind heart. He always looked for the good in others, was a good friend to many, put others before himself and was devoted to God and his family. John will be dearly missed, but his example and the important lessons he shared will live on in the hearts of many.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in memory of John to Thistle House Assisted Living, 526 Water St., Chardon, OH 44024 or Hospice of the Western Reserve P.O. Box 72101, Cleveland, OH 44121. Mass of Christian Burial Saturday, August 14, 2021 at St. John of the Cross Catholic Church at 11 AM. Burial following at All Souls Cemetery. Family will receive friends to pay tribute to and celebrate the life of John at THE DeJOHN-FLYNN-MYLOTT FUNERAL HOME OF WILLOUGHBY HILLS, 28890 CHARDON ROAD (between Bishop Rd. and Rt. 91) FRIDAY 4-8 PM.