George Kreshka July 23, 1923- March 9, 2021
World folk singer and musician, Navy pilot, retired teacher and man of many languages, George Kreshka left us for another performance on March 9, 2021 at the age of 97. He died at home in Nevada City, California with the love of his life, his wife Mary Anne.
George grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the youngest in a family of six children to parents Anna Levkanich and Demetrius Kreshka, a Russian Orthodox priest. George sang with church choirs as a boy soprano and later as a bass in the famous Bethlehem Bach Choir.
He attended Lehigh University, then enlisted in the Navy in 1942. Very quickly George was identified as a leader, trained to fly, was promoted to Ensign and became a flight instructor during the remainder of WWII. After the war, George used the GI Bill to attend university, graduating from UC Berkeley in 1948 with a degree in Slavic Languages.
George received a fellowship from Charles University in Prague, Czechoslovakia where he met and then married Eva Konrad, a Vassar College grad. Because of the Communist Party takeover of the Czech government, when their son Paul was born in February 1950, George had Paul registered in the American Embassy as an American citizen. George and 6-month-old Paul left Prague without Eva, who later escaped through Paris. The family was finally reunited, and George completed his Master’s in Slavic Languages at UC Berkeley in 1952.
Due to the US political climate in 1952 George abandoned his goal to become a Slavic Language professor, and instead got a teaching credential and taught in Berkeley public schools from 1953-1983. From 1980-1983 he taught English as a second language in the Berkeley Adult School. Most of his students were from China, so in true polyglot fashion, George began to study Chinese. He and his new wife, Mary Anne, joined a group of Americans to study Chinese at Suzhou University in the summer of 1982. After his retirement, George went back to Suzhou University to teach English to Chinese teachers on four different occasions from 1983-1996.
In 1987 George and Mary Anne moved to Nevada City, California. He volunteered at local preschools and elementary schools, and a for a group of adults living with the effects of strokes or dementia, singing songs he had written and performed in his Berkeley classrooms in the 1960s and 70s as well as foreign language folk songs. George joined a local folk dance band, Village Folk Orkestra, which practiced for years at George and Mary Anne’s home.
Until COVID-19 restrictions closed live performances, George sang and played the autoharp and guitar with his beloved folk dance band where he sang in Russian, Czech, Serbo-Croatian, Bulgarian, Armenian, Turkish and more. George was able to continue entertaining his neighbors, following COVID protocols, throughout the pandemic at porch side sing-alongs.
George is proceeded in death by his parents Demetrius and Anna Kreshka, his brothers: Vladimir, Vasil, Alexander and Emil, and his sister Olga. He is survived by his wife Mary Anne Kreshka (Nevada City, California), his son Paul Kreshka and wife Ilene (Austria), his stepdaughter Wendy Griffin and husband Glen (Spokane, Washington) and his stepson David Kojan and wife Ligia Giese (Berkeley, California). George was grandfather to four brilliant children: Christina, Charles, Theo and Cash; and great grandfather to Della with whom he would sing songs over Facetime this past year. A celebration of life will come in the future.
George wrote, “…some nights when I have trouble falling asleep, I imagine myself swinging aboard my “Phoenix” bicycle and pedaling off the campus of Suzhou University, headed for the Cold Mountain Buddhist Temple with its peace and serenity.”
Ride on George.