Noteworthy Minnesota Croatians

Athletes

Anderson, John: Head coach of the University of Minnesota Baseball team. His career record with the Gophers is 1,303-876-3 over 35 seasons. Under his guidance, the Gophers have won seven Big Ten Regular Season Championships and nine Big Ten Tournament Championships. He is a seven-time Big Ten Conference Coach of the Year.

Antonovich, Mike: Michael Joseph John “Antone” Antonovich (born October 18, 1951 in Calumet, Minnesota) is a former American professional hockey player, and coach. He was selected in the ninth round of the 1971 NHL Amateur Draft, 113th overall, by the Minnesota North Stars. He is currently a scout for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Bercich, Peter: Former linebacker in the National Football League for the Minnesota Vikings from 1995-2000. He then served as an assistant coach for the Vikings from 2000-2005. Currently the head coach of Hill Murray High School in Minnesota and the color commentator for the Minnesota Vikings.

Bilankov, Dino: Former tennis player for the University of Minnesota men’s tennis team. From Zagreb, he played for the Golden Gophers from 2006 until 2010 and captained the team during his junior and senior seasons. Twice selected to the Academic All-Big Ten team, he received the University’s Outstanding Achievement Award recognizing the top male student-athlete in any sport (2009-2010).

Carlson, Jack: A retired American ice hockey forward. Carlson played in the World Hockey Association with the Minnesota Fighting Saints, Edmonton Oilers and New England Whalers, and in the National Hockey League for the Minnesota North Stars and St. Louis Blues.  From Virginia, MN. His mother was Croatian.

Carlson, Jeff: A retired American ice hockey forward. Carlson is best known for his role in the movie Slap Shot as one of the Hanson Brothers. Carlson also played in the World Hockey Association with the Minnesota Fighting Saints. As of 2007 Carlson is now an electrician in Muskegon, Michigan.

Carlson, Steve: A retired American ice hockey forward and a former minor league hockey coach. Carlson was born in Virginia, Minnesota. He appeared in the movie Slap Shot as one of the three Hanson Brothers, who were based on Carlson and his brothers and teammates, Jeff and Jack Carlson.

Grgas-Wheeler, Kelly: Women’s hockey sports information director at UMD, since 2007. Longest UMD assistant in program history, Grgas- Wheeler joined the Bulldog staff in 2004 with 4 years of previous  high-level collegiate coaching experience. Grgas-Wheeler was a 3-time All-Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) First Team selection (1998, 1997, 1996 As a forward at Ottawa University in Ottawa, Kan). A 2-year captain, she was voted the team’s Most Valuable Player three times while rewriting the  school’s record books. She left Ottawa owning all-time marks for goals, assists, and points and still owns  the number three mark for assists in a season (10 in 1997) and the eight spot for points in a single season (32 in 1997).

Krmpotich, Dave: is an American rower. He won a silver medal at the 1988 Olympic games in the men’s coxless fours. He is from Duluth, MN.

Maris, Roger (d. 1985): Former Major League right fielder from 1957-1968. He set the single season record for home runs in a season with 61.  He was a seven-time all-star and three-time World Series Champion.

Mayasich, John: Former hockey player who represented Team USA in the 1956 and 1960 Olympics, winning a silver in ’56 and gold ’60. He was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1976.

McDonald, Bob (d. 2020): Former head coach of the Chisholm High School basketball team, he retired in 2014 after coaching for 59 years. During those years, he never received a technical foul. He qualified for 11 state tournaments and has a career record of 1,012-428. McDonald is also the author of the book, Travels and Tribulations: A Coaches Journey.

McDonald, Joel: 1991 Mr. Basketball while at Chisholm High School he was the all-time leading boys basketball scorer in Minnesota history with 3,292 points. He is currently the Hibbing High School basketball coach.

McHale, Kevin: Former professional basketball player in the National Basketball Association for the Boston Celtics. He is a three-time NBA champion and a seven-time all-star. He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999.

Mikan, George (d. 2005): Nicknamed Mr. Basketball, Mikan played in the National Basketball League, Basketball Association of American and the National Basketball Association. He is considered one of the pioneers of professional basketball.

Pavelich, Mark (d. 2021): Former hockey player in the National Hockey League for the New York Rangers, Minnesota North Stars and San Jose Sharks. He is perhaps best known as a member of the U.S. hockey team that won the Miracle on Ice in the 1980 Winter Olympics.

Perpich, George (d. 1993): Former offensive lineman in the National Football League for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Baltimore Colts. He played two years in 1946 and 1947. Later he became the head coach of the Hibbing High School boy’s hockey team and led the team for 29 years.

Perpich, John: NHL scout for the Ottawa Senators. He served as an assistant coach at the NHL level as well as being a head coach in both the IHL and NCAA. In 2014 he was hired by Ottawa as a scout.

Perpich, Mike: Former hockey player for the United States Hockey League, Perpich played 100 games in two years for the Green Bay Gamblers. He played collegiately at Bemidji State University.

Polich, John (d. 2001): Former hockey player in the NHL. A native of Hibbing, he played right wing for teams in the Hi-School, SCSHL, NHL, IAHL, AHL, and the PCHL hockey leagues. He played for the Hibbing Blue Jackets (1934-1935), Loyola University College Lions (1935-1939), New York Rangers (1939-1941), Philadelphia Ramblers (1939-1942), and the Los Angeles Monarchs (1942-1948). He was a noted football player, KTLA television personality and was also the first person to direct the television broadcast of the Tournament of Roses Parade in 1947.

Polich, Mike: A retired professional ice hockey player who played 226 games in the National Hockey League in 1977–81. He played for played for the Montreal Canadians and Minnesota North Stars. From Hibbing, MN.

Šarić, Dario: Croatian professional basketball player for the Phoenix Suns of the National Basketball Association. He was selected with the 12th overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft. He also represents the senior Croatian national team. Traded from the Philadelphia 76ers in 2018 to the Minnesota Timberwolves where he played 68 games. Traded to the Phoenix Suns in 2019. “Honorary Member” of the noteworthy Minnesota Croatians list.

Schneider, Buzz: Former hockey player who is most remembered as a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team that won the gold medal. He was also an Olympian at the 1976 Olympics. His nickname “Buzz” comes stems from the Croatian word for brother.

Sertich, Mark (d. 2020): was the world’s oldest ice hockey player. At 96 years old, he became the Guinness World Record holder while playing at the Snoopy’s Senior World Hockey Tournament in 2017. He lived in Duluth and was the son of Croatian immigrants.

Sertich, Marty: Professional hockey player most recently for the Hamburg Freezers in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga. He attended Colorado College and won the Hobey Baker award in 2005.

Sertich, Mike (d. 2020): was a retired ice hockey coach. He was the head coach of Minnesota-Duluth from 1983 through to 2000.

Sertich, Steve: Former head coach of the Bemidji State University women’s hockey program. He guided the program to some of their most successful seasons, including 2012 which was the first team to reach a national ranking, reaching as high as number 7.

Vucinovich, John (d. 2011): Coached for 36 years, including head coach in football, basketball, hockey and baseball, at Duluth Cathedral from 1936-49 and Central from 1949-72. He continued as a Central social studies and psychology teacher before retiring in 1979. He has been enshrined in the Minnesota Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame (1978), Northern Intercollegiate Conference Hall of Fame (1990), UMD Athletic Hall of Fame (1991), Duluth Marshall High School Hall of Fame (2003) and the DECC Athletic Hall of Fame (2004).

Entertainers

Crnkovich, Paul Stephans (d. 2021): Musician from Hibbing, he found his way to Nashville in 1971, where he began a lifelong career playing country music alongside some of the best in the business. He was a bassist for George Jones, Eddie Rabbitt, Christy Lane, Kitty Wells, Jack Greene and Ray Price. He has appeared on the Grand Ole Opy, Hee Haw and Pop! Goes the Country.

Ehrlich, Marty: A multi-instrumentalist focusing on saxophone, clarinet and flute. His most important contribution to jazz music is The Long View, inspired by paintings of Oliver Jackson. Ehrlich is considered one of the leading figures in avant-garde jazz.

Gorder, Genevieve: Designer and television host who appeared as one of the original designers on TLC’s hit show Trading Spaces. She has featured in numerous shows on TLC and HGTV. She is of Croatian heritage and grew up in Minneapolis.

Keats, Richard: Actor who is most well-known for his role as Lockhart in the first two seasons of the television show Arrow. He also featured in the 2012 film, The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Mayasich, Paul: Minnesota Blues Hall of Fame, Performer of the Year; Minnesota Music Award, best recording of original song, Arms of the Blues; Minnesota Rock & Country.

Mikels, Teddy: born Theodore Vincent Mikacevich  (d. 2016) was an American independent filmmaker primarily of the horror cult film genre. In 1993, Mikels began running TVM Studios, a film and video production studio based in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Miltich, Samuel: Jazz guitarist from Northern Minnesota. He is currently the front man of his own band, The Clearwater Hot Club. His music has been featured on National Public Radio’s “Weekend Edition,” and he hosts his own radio show “Sam and Friends,” on KAXE radio.

Singing Slovenes (Frank Bucar, Mary Spehar White): The Singing Slovenes are a group of singers from Slovenia, Croatia, Germany, Italy Denmark, Poland, France, Norway, Finland and Sweden. They dress in native costumes to give audiences a cultural experience.

Stojevich, Milo (d.1986): Milo began taking Tamburitza lessons at the age of 8 in Duluth. He performed with the Duluth Tamburitza Serenaders for 62 years.

Phillip Rukavina: Phillip is a founding member of the Venere Lute Quartet and has performed with many prominent ensembles, including the Newberry Consort, the Texas Early Music Project, the Rose Ensemble, the Bach Society MN and with renown sopranos Emma Kirkby and Ellen Hargis.

Miscellaneous

Alar, John (d. 1916): A miner in the Minnesota Iron Range, Alar passed away during the Mesabi Range Iron Range Strike of 1916. The protests were for higher wages and an 8-hour work day that included time descending and ascending the mines. He was the first to be killed by gunshot. Over three thousand came to his funeral.

Badalich, John (d. 2006): Former president of the Croatian Hall from 1978-2006. He was also the former South Saint Paul city engineer, former Chairman HRA, Governor appointed First Director of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and former chairman of the South Saint Paul Charter Commission.

Biljan, Anthony:  President of the Croatian Hall since 2007.

Forti, Tom: The owner of the Iron Ranger pub. The restaurant has a Northern Minnesota flare and the food is focused on the food known in the Iron Range.

Jurkovich, Dr. G. Jerry: Trauma surgeon and Professor of Surgery currently at UC – Davis. Chief of Trauma at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, WA from 1994-2012. Has served as President of the Western Trauma Association (1996-97), American Assoc. for the Surgery of Trauma (2008-09), Western Surgical Assoc., 2010-2011, and as Director, American Board of Surgery (2010-2016). Dr. Jurkovich has co-authored over 370 peer-reviewed research manuscripts. Native of Aurora, MN; paternal grandparents emigrated from Lika to Buhl, MN.

Krezich-Kittleson, Vesna: An artist – was born in Bosnia and Hercegovina, of Croatian descent. She grew up in Split, Croatia, and has lived between Minneapolis, USA; Cambridge, England; and Split, Croatia. She earned BA in Law from the University of Split; BA in Art from the U of M; and the MA in Design from the U of M. Kittelson’s work has been collected by many world museums, most notably: The Getty Research  Institute in Los Angeles; Tate Britain in London, Dibner Library in Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC; and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Some of her best known works are Mrs. Darwin’s Garden, and Young Americans, and DA VINCI and the DRONE.

Lulic, Nicola: Born in Konjsko Brdo, Lulic emigrated to Minnesota in 1902 to work in the Iron Range. In 1912, after visiting his family, he took the R.M.S. Titanic back to the United States. He survived the shipwreck and was rescued by the Carpathia.

Maras, Pavao “Paul” (d.1956): An early entrepreneur in Hibbing, one of several Maras brothers to emigrate to Hibbing from Croatia in the early 20th century. He was an older relative of Roger Maris, who changed the spelling of his last name. Paul and his wife Eva’s youngest child, Matilda Sanborn, lived to 103 years of age and was a lifelong Hibbing resident.

Miksic, Olga Bonc (d. 2011): Olga was a distinguished artist and worked in all aspects of this throughout her life. She was inspired by the beauty of her beloved homeland Croatia and expressed this in her paintings and her poetry. Her main focus was the human figure and the human condition. She also used her art to convey the suffering during Croatia’s war for freedom, focusing on the agony of the Croatian people.

Novak, Louis (d. 2004): Former President of the Croatian Cultural Society of Minnesota, he was instrumental in sending aid to Croatia during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. He also helped set up the honorary consulate, which helps citizens and businesses.

Pavlich, Charles (d. 2000): Worked for 32 years at the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Department as an Under Sheriff, retiring in 1983. He was also a navigator in the Navy during World War II.

Perkovich, Rev Frank (d. 2018): Known as the “Polka Priest,” Rev. Perkovich presided over polka masses in Chisholm and Eveleth Minnesota. He started polka Mass in 1973 after Vatican II loosened restrictions on music in Mass. In 1983, Rev. Perkovich gave Pope John Paul II a record of their polka Mass music.

Rebrovich, John: Former leader of the United Steel Workers Union for over 40 years. Retired in 2018. He was a third-generation miner in the Iron Range who later helped negotiate labor contracts and helped miners through difficult economic conditions.

Radosevich, Bill: Co-founder of the International Slivovitz Association and co-host of the Slivovitz Tasting Festival for many years. In 1994, he founded the U.S.-based International Slivovitz Tasters Association, which hosts an annual festival and influential international competition that draws distillers from around the world.

Rukavina, Joseph (d. 2013): Former President of the Croatian Cultural Society of Minnesota, he was instrumental in sending aid to Croatia during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. He also helped set up the honorary consulate, which helps citizens and businesses.

Rukavina, Steve: Humanitarian and seven-time president and co-founder of the National Federation of Croatian Americans. Rukavina has served actively with the Special Olympics program in Croatia. He has also served as a congressional political aide and presidential campaign press secretary..

Sertich, Greg (d. 2016): Leader and active member of many professional and civic groups including: President of the Minnesota State Sheriffs Association, President of the Arrowhead Police and Peace Officers Association and governor’s appointment to special task force on corrections and security. As sheriff, he worked diligently to modernize and improve law enforcement services throughout St. Louis County. He was known for his expertise in the use of firearms. He was a NRA police firearms instructor and taught firearm safety to hundreds of youth throughout his career. He was an Arrowhead Peace Officers Association handgun champion and the Minnesota State Police pistol champion three times.

Tesija, Kathee: Former Chief Merchandiser for the Target Corporation, the number 2 job. She is currently a Senior Advisor and Consultant for Simpactful, a retail and consumer packaged goods consulting firm based out of San Francisco.

Vrohidis, Ashii: Self-employed designer who also owns the new French restaurant, Moderna Kouzina.

Vuk-Pavlović, Stanimir: Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the May Clinic College of Medicine. In addition, he is the director of the Stem Cell Laboratory in the National Cancer Institute of Mayo Clinic. He was born in Zagreb.

Politicians/Public Servants

Arimond, Jennie (nee Marincel) (d. 1982): 1st woman elected to the Hopkins City Council. Born in Mountain Iron, MN to Croat immigrant parents, she was a social worker who married, raised 6 children, and volunteered for many educational, political and civic programs, including tutoring at-risk high school students, co-founding a shelter for battered women, and lobbying for the creation of a downtown park, where the city has erected a memorial stone in her honor.

Baumann, Beth: Former mayor of South St. Paul from January 1st, 2003 to December 31, 2016.

Begich, Joseph: Former politician who served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1975-1993 as the Representative from district 6A and 6B. He is a member of the Democratic Farmer Labor Party.

Begich, Nick (d. 1972): Born in Eveleth, former member of the United States House of Representatives from Alaska, serving one term from 1970-1972. He went missing in a plane crash in 1972 and his body has never been found. Begich was a member of the Democratic Farmer Labor Party.

Chutich, Margaret: Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, nominated by Governor Mark Dayton in 2016. Previously, Chutich served on the Minnesota Court of Appeals, worked in the office of the Minnesota Attorney General, and was assistant dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. Chutich is one of twelve LGBT state supreme court justices in the United States.

Ellison, Keith: Former member of the United States House of Representatives, serving Minnesota’s 5th congressional district beginning in 2007. He is the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress. He is also the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee. Ellison is currently the Minnesota Attorney General. He is a member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. Ellison is of Croatian heritage on his mother’s side (Marinovich).

Jugovich, Mike: 7th District Commissioner, Vice Chair Hibbing, former Chisolm mayor.

McDonald, Paul: Duluth County Commissioner replacing Tom Rukavina in 2019.

Miksic, Boris: Born in Zagreb, he emigrated to the United States and started Cortec Corporation.  In 1995, Miksic was appointed Honorary Consul General of the Republic of Croatia to the United States. Miksic ran for President of Croatia in 2005 as an independent candidate, finishing as second place and was seen as the more decent and less corruptible candidate of the election.

Novak, Chuck: Current mayor of Ely, Minnesota. 2018.

Pattni, Bhupesh: Attorney appointed to be the next Hibbing-based district judge of the Sixth Judicial District. He was born and raised in northern Minnesota and graduated from Virginia High School. He will become the first person of East Indian descent and the first Croatian American to serve as a district judge on the Iron Range. His father was born on the island of Zanzibar now located within the United Republic of Tanzania. His mother (Radosevich) was born in Duluth.

Perpich, George (d. 2018): From 1971 to 1980, Perpich served in the Minnesota State Senate and was a Democrat. He was a brother to both Rudy and Tony Perpich.

Perpich, Justin: Legislature – Congressional District 8 Chairman and Political Organizer.

Perpich, Rudy (d. 1995): Former governor of the State of Minnesota. He served as the 34th and 36th Governor from 1976-1979 and 1983-1991, making him the longest serving governor in Minnesota history. Perpich is also the only Catholic Minnesota governor. Perpich as a member of the Democratic Farmer Labor Party.

Perpich, Tony (d. 2017): Brother of Rudy Perpich, served District 62 and District 6 in the Minnesota State Senate from 1967-1974 (62) and 1975-76 (6). He was a member of the Democratic Farmer Labor Party. Perpich also served as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Service.

Popovich, Peter (d. 1996): Former judge in Minnesota, he is the only person in Minnesota history to serve as Chief Judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals and Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Popovich also served in the in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1953-1963.

Radinovich, Joe: Former member of the Minnesota House of Representatives serving District 10B from 2013-2015. He campaigned for Minnesota’s 8th congressional district in 2018.

Radosevich, Margaret (d. 2013): Former DFL political campaigner, working in the 8th District DFL office during political campaigns in the 1950s and 1960s, and serving on the executive committee of the Young Democrats of Minnesota. Margaret was active in the Council of Catholic Women, especially in raising funds for the work of the Maryknoll in East Africa. She was appointed by Governor Rudy Perpich to two terms on the Minnesota Board of Marriage and Family Therapy.

Radosevich, Tony (d. 2007): Former chair of the Duluth DFL Coordinating Committee. For over 20 years, he served as financial secretary of Croatian Fraternal Union Lodge 381 and was a member of the Knights of Columbus. He served as Chair of the Lake County DFL. Governor Rudy Perpich appointed him to the Dislocated Workers’ Advisory Committee.

Raukar, Steve: Former public servant, he worked for then lieutenant governor Rudy Perpich from 1974-76 as a liaison/information officer to the State Bicentennial Commission. He was elected to the Hibbing School Board serving 6 years from 1983-89 and served the citizens of St. Louis County as a County Commissioner from 1989-2017. He led efforts to expand intergovernmental cooperation, economic development and tourism in the Arrowhead Region of Minnesota providing leadership on numerous boards, commissions, authorities and agencies.

Reichgott-Junge, Ember: Former state senator that served the New Hope area of Minnesota. She served from 1983-2001 and during that time served as majority whip from 1991-1994 and assistant majority leader from 1995-2000. Reichgott-Junge is a member of the Democratic Farmer Labor Party.

Rubin, Mark (Rubcic): retired St. Louis County Attorney in Duluth, MN. He was first elected to a four-year term in January 2011 and served in that role until 2021.

Rukavina, Tom (d. 2019): County Commissioner of St. Louis County and former member of the Minnesota House of Representatives serving district 5A from 1987-2013. Rukavina is a member of the Democratic Farmer Labor Party.

Schunk, Mae: Former Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota from 1999-2003. She was elected with Jesse Ventura and became the first Reform Party lieutenant governor in any state. A former teacher, Schunk frequently visited schools during her tenure.

Sertich, Tony: Former member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, serving District 5B from 2001-2011. He served as House Majority Leader from 2007-2011. Currently, Sertich serves as the Commissioner of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board. He is a member of the Democratic Farmer Labor Party.

Tomljanovic, Esther: American lawyer and judge from Minnesota. Appointed by Governor Rudy Perpich to the Minnesota Supreme Court. Tomljanovich served on the Minnesota Supreme Court until her retirement in 1998.

Academics/Educators

Cetkovic – Cvrlje, Marina Dr.: Professor of Immunology at St. Cloud State University. Teaches (undergraduate and graduate level courses: Immunology, Hematology, Pathophysiology); Short-term study abroad (University of Rijeka, Croatia); Research (autoimmune type 1 diabetes), Pedagogical activities.

Pocrnich Phillips, Patty: Nursery school, kindergarten, and elementary classroom teacher, as well as a principal, curriculum director, and superintendent, in both the Virginia and North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School Districts. She is a sought after presenter and has given keynote addresses and numerous presentations for educational organizations. She has served on the Minnesota Association of School Administrators’ Professional Assistance Team for nine years and won the Minnesota Superintendent of the Year Award in 2010.

Schrunk, Vanča Dr.: Professor of Archeology at the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul. Dr. Schrunk has taught at St. Thomas since 1990 and specializes in history, archaeology, and art of the ancient Mediterranean world, with special interest in the Roman imperial period.