Dr Petar Josip Kokan was born in Split, Croatia, on 9 July 1930. He witnessed the events of World War II and how they affected Split, including the Italian occupation, followed by the German occupation. After the war, Petar was a hardworking student and rowed at the Gusar rowing club in Split. He studied medicine and graduated from the University of Zagreb in 1954. He then went to Germany, where he completed a residency in general surgery.
Petar did not want to live in a socialist state and made the difficult decision to leave his family behind and take his new bride, Nada, with him overseas. He arrived in Canada in 1960 and, after living for a short while in Toronto, moved to Victoria, Vancouver, and then Nelson, where he was the public health officer.
He moved back to Vancouver by 1968, completed a residency in orthopaedic surgery, and started his own in practice in 1974. He worked consistently and always did his best for his patients, whether from his office on Burrard Street across from St. Paul’s Hospital or from Shaughnessy Hospital or Mount Saint Joseph Hospital. He finally closed his practice in 2000.
Although he was most often at work, he made the most of his occasional days off and loved the outdoors that British Columbia has to offer. He loved hiking and skiing especially, and the beach and windsurfing in the summertime.
He will be remembered for being the centre of attention wherever he went. He loved people and loved telling stories, making speeches, or singing in an impromptu klapa.
He loved his regular walk down to the Fraser River. He loved watching his grandchildren play soccer, ride horses, or play their musical instruments. He cherished debating anybody and listening to their views, but of course he was always right!
On 14 September 2022, at age 92, he passed away peacefully with his family at his side at Vancouver General Hospital, following medical difficulties that developed after falling and suffering fractures. He was steadfast in his Catholic beliefs and knew that he would be ascending to heaven where he would join his beloved brother, Luka; sister, Pina; and parents, Manda and Ivan.
He leaves behind his wife, Nada; children, Jane, Matthew, Peter, and Daniel; and daughters-in-law, Marnie, Michelle, and Melisa. He is sadly missed by his beloved grandchildren, Daniel, Julia, Owen, Thomas, Faye, Steven, Ethan, and Natalia.
Our family is eternally grateful to the Croatian Catholic community and to Fra Duje, who blessed him twice in hospital, with last rights given shortly prior to his death. Petar was a proud Croatian and will be sadly missed by all.
—Peter Kokan, MD
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