George L. Kladnik, “Pop,” died peacefully at home as he had wished on Feb. 11, 2013, at the grand age of 96.
Born on Christmas morning in 1916 in Milwaukee, Wis., into a family of Austrian immigrants, his first language was German. His father, Leopold, was a master cabinet maker who had gone through a full apprenticeship before emigrating from Austria. His father’s woodworking skills were transferred to his son, along with his love of beer and wine.
George earned his first dollar as a youngster onstage at the Pabst Theater, where he appeared in several German productions and helped his mother, who ran the refreshment concession and was a hatcheck girl. Giving up the spotlights, he moved on to study chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he met his future wife, Alice, in a German class.
At age 21, George left home to the loud strains of the Can-Can from Gaite Parisienne, bound for California. Alice followed soon after, and they were wed in a private home in Hollywood.
He was studying photography at the Art Center in Los Angeles until World War II interrupted, ending any thoughts of that as a career. During the war, George worked for Douglas Aircraft as a quality control manager, earning high commendations.
In 1945, he and Alice, who died in April 2012 at the tender age of 105.75, moved to Santa Barbara and never left.
Learning electronics through correspondence courses, George landed a job as a production engineer for D&R Ltd., then Moseley Associates, and finally SBRC until he retired and began a new career as an artist, holding several one-man art shows at local venues.
He and Alice loved to travel around the world. With his camera and paint brushes, he captured the beauty of nature and local residents in both mediums.
Involved in the local community, he volunteered for Direct Relief for several years. He even learned to cook after his wife “retired” from the kitchen in 2002. Alice always said, “He cooks like a chemist!” but always enjoyed the meals he prepared.
George had a great sense of humor and loved laughing at a good joke or at himself. He even mugged for the camera while holding his wife’s purse or having a bad hair day.
He is survived by son George “Corky” A. Kladnik of Flagstaff, Ariz., and daughters Sandra Kladnik of Lake County, Calif., and Mary “Marci” Kladnik of Los Alamos, Calif., as well as five grandchildren — Krista Taner of Santa Barbara, Rob Moser and Laura Moser of Flagstaff, Jennifer Siegel of Madison, Wis., and Tiffany Chambers-Goldberg of Los Angeles; five great-grandchildren — Alexandra and Ryan Taner, James and Samantha Moser-Hampshire, and Maisy Blue Chambers-Goldberg.
A private celebration of life will be held Sunday. In lieu of flowers, please donate to Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Santa Barbara (to whom we are very grateful) in his name.