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"VRA" 2006 Obituary


VRAKKING  VRANESIC  VRANIC  VRANJES  VRAZINOFF 

VRAKKING o@ca.on.middlesex_county.london.london_free_press 2006-02-13 published
VRAKKING, John " Jan"
At London Health Sciences Centre, University Hospital on Sunday, February 12, 2006 John (Jan) VRAKKING in his 91st year. Beloved husband of Wilhelmina (Willy) VRAKKING. Much loved dad of Trudy (Truusje) and her husband Manfred VON WISTINGHAUSEN. Opa to Peter, Patrick (Lynne), Christine and Kirk. Father of John VRAKKING Jr. and Rita SCHUHMACHER. Father-in-law of Ada VRAKKING. Opa of Jan-Willem, Jasper, Jeroen, Kateri, Heidi, Elke and great grandfather of five. Visitors will be received at John T. Donohue Funeral Home, 362 Waterloo Street at King Street, on Tuesday morning from 11 o'clock until the time of the funeral service at 12 noon. Interment in Woodland Cemetery.

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VRANESIC o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.toronto_star 2006-02-13 published
Leslie WITT, 72: Chess 'superstar'
Received carved set from Fidel Castro
By Catherine DUNPHY, Obituary Writer
Leslie WITT never talked about the time he beat Bobby Fischer at his own game -- but others did for years afterwards.
It was 1964 and the chess world's greatest prodigy had not yet knocked out Russian great Boris Spassky from his world domination, but the 19-year-old was still a huge chess star and all of Montreal's and Toronto's chess players were thrilled when he showed up for some exhibition matches.
His first day in Montreal, Fischer was subjected to a vapid television interview. He hated being asked questions about dating; he actually hated talking about anything other than chess but the highlight of the show was the one-minute chess match he played against WITT, then the city's best player as well as a member of the Canadian Olympic chess team.
Fischer was -- naturally -- confident. He'd already played two exhibition games -- one in which he faced 56 people at once, beating them all, the other where he took on 10 players with clocks. They were better players but Fischer completed his 40 moves in under two hours, winning every game.
He could be forgiven for thinking he had another easy ride ahead. WITT, a Hungarian émigré, was unprepossessing -- an affable, smiling man who earned his living as a television repairman, not particularly tall, a little on the pudgy side.
"But Les was one of the speediest players I have ever seen," recalled Denis ALLAN, an assistant Crown attorney in Hamilton who was a young chess player at the time. "Not only could he think fast, but the speed with which he could move his hands was incredible. Bobby was not happy about losing. He made that clear."
Much later that night everybody got together at the Boulevard Club, where chess was played seven days a week, and Fischer and WITT faced off for about a dozen five-minute games.
"Bobby cleaned him out," ALLAN recalled. "Leslie won maybe one, but even one game is pretty good. Bobby Fischer was a genius."
But WITT was pretty darn good as well: a four-time Montreal chess champion, three-time winner of the Montreal Closed Championship, winner of the Quebec Provincial Championship, the Ontario Provincial Championship and, in 1962, the Canadian Open Chess Championship, held that year in Ottawa, with a perfect score of 9-0.
He was a member of the Canadian chess Olympic team at the 1964 Olympiad held in Tel Aviv, the 1966 Olympiad in Havana and the 1970 event in Germany.
"I remember the Tel Aviv Olympiad because it was the first time the Canadian team made the A group -- the top two teams," said Zvonko VRANESIC, a University of Toronto professor who often played WITT. In the '60s he and WITT were vying for the country's top spot.
"They were the two superstars," said Toronto Star chess columnist Lawrence DAY. "It was a great rivalry."
Both men were representing Canada when Cuban leader Fidel Castro, a big chess fan, pulled out all the stops for the Olympiad in Havana -- putting them up in the best hotel, even opening the event himself playing an exhibition match with the ubiquitous Fischer. Castro presented each player with a gorgeous wooden chess set, in a splendid carved box.
In 1969, WITT won a Brilliancy Prize in the Canadian Closed tournament. That same year he was named an International Master, which is one rank below Grand Master.
Laszlo WITT was born in Budapest, where chess is respected and popular, and the best chess players accorded the accolades reserved for hockey players in North America. He began playing the game at age 8 and tournaments when 15. By 17, he was the premier player for the Hungarian junior national team.
He was in Vienna for a tournament during the three weeks in October and November of 1956 of the Hungarian Revolution. His wife, Viola, and 4½-year-old daughter, Sylvia, had not been permitted to accompany him to the tournament. "We were collateral," said Sylvia SANKEY, now a stage manager who lives in Winnipeg.
Jews who had pretended to be Christians since the war when most of the family's male relatives -- including WITT's father -- were taken to Auschwitz concentration camp where they perished, they quickly decided to flee the country. Mother and daughter crossed the border to Austria to the sounds of Russians shooting on one side and Germans on the other. For three weeks they had hid out in farmhouses and fields.
They were taken to refugee camp outside Vienna where they were eventually reunited with WITT. They left for Italy and the ocean voyage to Halifax, where one of WITT's six sisters lived, moving to Montreal in 1957.
They lived in a walk-up on the Main in the heart of the émigré chess-playing community.
SANKEY remembers them always sitting at her parents' kitchen table playing chess with her father, all men, all in their 20s and 30s, slapping the button on the top of the clocks.
She and her mother never did really learn to play the game, but SANKEY grasped quickly that she had to be "quiet, quiet, quiet" so her father and his Friends could play. "I would read or go and watch television in the other room. It was just a part of life, coming home to see who ever happened to be in the kitchen playing chess with daddy. It was the norm," she said.
And yet by the time the family all moved to Toronto in the late '70s, WITT had all but retreated from the chess scene. In Toronto and Montreal it was no longer dominated by the émigré master a new generation of home-grown talent had emerged under their tutelage.
Current top-rated Canadian Kevin SPRAGGETT was moving up fast. "He beat WITT in 1979 for the Montreal championship and that was the changing of the guard," said DAY.
WITT was a very private man who simply slipped out of the world of chess. Few questioned it -- chess had become an increasingly young person's game.
"When you've played the game at such a high level, climbing down is difficult," VRANESIC said. "People just quit instead. I think that's what probably happened in this case."
WITT took up painting and backgammon in the '80s and in the last few years frequently went to Casino Rama for poker games.
Before he died at 72 on December 27, his daughter found his easel and paints in the Scarborough townhouse he had shared with a young couple -- as well as the chess set from Havana.
"You know it was kind of sad," said ALLAN, the lawyer. " WITT's death was mentioned on an international chess chat room and it got no comments. I guess people just don't know him anymore."

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VRANIC o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2006-07-18 published
Otto SIREK, Endocrinologist (1921-2006)
He was one of the last surviving scientists who worked with Charles BEST, the co-discoverer of insulin
By Carol COOPER, Special to the Globe and Mail, Page S9
Aurora, Ontario -- Otto SIREK's Friends joked that the year of his birth determined his future. The endocrinologist was born in 1921, the year insulin was discovered. But it was his ability, not his birthday, that led to Doctor SIREK's postdoctoral fellowship with Charles BEST. Recruited by the co-discoverer of insulin to join his lab, the Czechoslovak native came to Canada, along with his wife, Anna, then a pediatric surgeon.
The SIREKs' year-long stay became permanent, as did Otto SIREK's study of diabetes. With Doctor BEST as his personal and professional mentor and his wife as his research partner for more than 30 years, Dr. SIREK published more than 100 papers, many of them co-authored with Anna. He was one of the last surviving scientists who worked with Doctor BEST and, like him, became internationally renowned.
When the SIREKs arrived in Toronto on a snowy April day in 1950, Dr. BEST served as both the head of the department of physiology at the University of Toronto and the faculty of medicine's Banting and Best Department of Medical Research.
While Anna SIREK undertook research at the Hospital for Sick Children, her husband worked with Doctor BEST. By 1953, Doctor BEST and Doctor SIREK had contributed definitive knowledge to the understanding of diabetes: Before their studies, many scientists believed that insulin was the sole hormone responsible for physical growth and that all other hormones involved worked through the agency of insulin. The pair proved that, while insulin needed to be present for physical growth, some hormones, such as testosterone and growth hormone, acted independently of it.
The SIREKs, meanwhile, had put down roots and, at Doctor BEST's insistence, stayed in Canada. On his recommendation, they purchased a house 10 minutes from the university and around the corner from him. They lived there for 50 years.
Proximity to the University of Toronto helped with Doctor BEST's next suggestion.
Dr. SIREK's studies involved dogs in which hormonal deficiencies were created by the surgical removal of the pancreas and pituitary gland. Colleagues joked about his lack of surgical skills, so Dr. BEST brought in someone who had them.
Breaking the rules that said husband and wife could not hold positions in the same faculty or department, Doctor BEST insisted that Anna SIREK work with her husband. Carrying out research as her husband's equal as well as operating on the dogs, Anna slipped home to have lunch with their four children.
Playing on the original pronunciation of the couple's surname, shirek, Friends sometimes referred to the pair as Herek and Sherek.
"He was a good partner for life," Anna SIREK said. "He would share the work of the children. My husband supported me in every way I could have been supported."
The couple proved the only correct method to measure blood insulin levels was by the specific laboratory method called radioimmunoassay studied the relationship between pituitary growth hormone and release of insulin and glucagon, the hormones which control the blood sugar levels in the body; and the cardiovascular complication of diabetes.
Along with Mladen VRANIC, the pair determined that removal of the pituitary gland led to normal glucose production by the liver, linking one aspect of the high blood sugar with the pituitary gland.
On the birth of their first child, Ann, Doctor BEST advised the SIREKs that, if they raised their child properly, papers written by SIREK, SIREK and SIREK would eventually be published. One was.
Otto SIREK met Anna when both attended the same school in Bratislava, then in Czechoslovakia but now the capital of Slovakia. Otakar Viktor SIREK was born in that city, the only child of a land surveyor from Moravia and a woman from Vienna.
One of the girls became class president, with Doctor SIREK as leader of the opposition. Their political rivalry and keen competition for top marks became Friendship, and then love, as Anna and Otakar proceeded together through high school and then medical school at Comenius University in Bratislava. They graduated in 1946.
An award for top marks was offered by the president of Czechoslovakia. As it happened, both Otakar and Anna were equally deserving. The dilemma was solved by the university's rector, who suggested that, since in old Roman law husband and wife were regarded as one person, they should marry so both could receive the award.
They did. The award included a year of post-graduate study. The newlyweds moved to Sweden, where Otto SIREK began his research in diabetes and Anna SIREK hers in surgery. With the Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1948, the couple's families encouraged them to stay in Sweden, where Doctor SIREK added the country's language to his English, German and native Slovak.
He began to publish internationally, attracted Doctor BEST's attention and was invited for a fellowship. In a lecture given to the Japan Diabetes Association in Tokyo in 1994, Doctor SIREK described Doctor BEST as a dedicated scientist and efficient organizer with little patience for bureaucratic excesses.
One of Doctor BEST's favourite expressions, according to Anna SIREK, was: "Otto, in your spare time, could you…?"
Under Doctor BEST, Doctor SIREK completed his PhD and began teaching. Eventually, he became a full professor at the university. Among other awards, Doctor SIREK was honoured with the Starr Medal of the university's faculty of medicine in 1958 and the Charles H. Best Prize for outstanding work in the field of experimental diabetes. In addition, he helped start the Canadian Workshop on Diabetes, a convention on the disease that was held nine times during 11 years. As well, postdoctoral fellows came to study with him, and he and his wife held many visiting professorships in countries such as Israel and Iran.
Otto SIREK retired in 1987. He donated his books and papers to a university in Shenyang, China, where a library is named for him.
A humble and deeply religious man, Doctor SIREK treated everyone equally and was universally well-liked. He loved opera, attending live performances and spending Saturday afternoons listening to it on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He counted among his Friends Karel ANCERL, a past conductor of the Toronto Symphony.
In the 1994 Japan lecture, Doctor SIREK also said: "I feel privileged that life has given me the opportunity to develop my intellectual and professional abilities in harmony with my wife, my most faithful ally. I am immensely grateful to Doctor BEST for providing an environment for peaceful and productive work."
Otakar Viktor SIREK was born in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, on December 21, 1921. He died in Toronto on May 5. He leaves his wife, Anna; children Ann, Jan Peter and Terese; and 10 grandchildren.

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VRANJES o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.toronto_star 2006-01-21 published
ULSETH, Reverend Lawrence Christopher
Went to be with the Lord, on Friday, January 20, 2006, at Scarborough Grace Hospital. Predeceased by his wife Esther on January 27, 2001. Dear father of Darlene (Jerry) CALLAN of Rome, Georgia, U.S.A., Betty (Philip) VRANJES of Derbyshire, England, and Robert (Robyn) of Lawrenceville, Georgia, U.S.A. Loving grandfather of Lisa, Cheri, Casey, Isaac, Emilie, Lori, Charles, Jason, and Mandy, and great-grandfather of Ayla and Wyatt. The family will receive Friends at the Ogden Funeral Home, 4164 Sheppard Ave. East, Agincourt (east of Kennedy Rd.), on Monday from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. Funeral Service Tuesday at 1 p.m. at the Church In The Village, 3758 Sheppard Ave. East, Agincourt. Interment Highland Memory Gardens.

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VRAZINOFF o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2006-03-18 published
EVANS, Vassa (née GIAMOU)
Passed away peacefully at Sunnybrook Hospital, on Thursday, March 16th, 2006, surrounded by her family. Beloved wife of the late Theodore (1977.) Loving mother of Gloria CHICULES (George,) John (Karen) and Mary Ann KOTEFF (Stan.) Proud Baba of 8 grandchildren and 6 greatgrandchildren. Dear sister-in-law of Jenny VRAZINOFF. Vassa will be sadly missed by many nieces, nephews and Friends. She will be well remembered for her great dedication to the Macedonian community through her efforts for the Canadian Macedonian Place and St. George's Macedonian Church. She was recognized as an Honorary Citizen of the City of Toronto. Friends may visit at Heritage Funeral Centre, 50 Overlea Blvd 416-423-1000 on Sunday March 19th from 1 to 9 p.m. Funeral service to be held on Monday March 20th in the funeral home chapel at 11 a.m. Interment to follow at Pine Hills Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Canadian Macedonian Place or St. George's Macedonian Church would be appreciated.

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VRAZINOFF o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.toronto_star 2006-03-18 published
EVANS, Vassa (née GIAMOU)
Passed away peacefully, at Sunnybrook Hospital, on Thursday, March 16, 2006, surrounded by her family. Beloved wife of the late Theodore (1977.) Loving mother of Gloria CHICULES (George,) John (Karen) and Mary Ann KOTEFF (Stan.) Proud Baba of 8 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren. Dear sister-in-law of Jenny VRAZINOFF. Vassa will be sadly missed by many nieces, nephews and Friends. She will be well remembered for her great dedication to the Macedonian community through her efforts for the Canadian Macedonian Place and St. George's Macedonian Church. She was recognized as an Honorary Citizen of the City of Toronto. Friends may visit at Heritage Funeral Centre, 50 Overlea Blvd., 416-423-1000 on Sunday, March 19th from 1 to 9 p.m. Funeral Service to be held on Monday, March 20th in the funeral home chapel at 11 a.m. Interment to follow at Pine Hills Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Canadian Macedonian Place or St. George's Macedonian Church would be appreciated.

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