Thursday, May 21, 2015

Fire in Gig Harbor

I found an old newspaper article in the Gig Harbor Harbor History Museum Research Room regarding a midnight fire where the occupants both lost their lives.  The article is undated, newspaper name cut off and I was unable to find their obituaries.  

The couple, George Mitchell and Mary Elizabeth Nikolac, had been residents of Gig Harbor for several years.  Find-a-Grave records for them show:  George M. Nikolac (December 30, 1897-September 11, 1972) and Mary E. Nikolac (July 8, 1905 - September 11, 1972)

This is the article:

“Mr. and Mrs. George M. Nikolac of North Gig Harbor lost their lives in a fire at midnight Saturday when flames gutted their home.  They were found on the floor outside their bedroom where they apparently collapsed while attempting to escape.  

“A neighbor, Gary Bunch, discovered the fire, but at that time the house was full of flame and he was unable to get in.

“Firemen arrived a few minutes later and had the fire under control within 15 minutes.  They used air-packs to enter the heavy smoke and found the bodies.

“An officer from the state fire marshall’s office conducted an inspection of the house, and is of the opinion that the blaze was of electrical origin.

“Mr. Nikolac was born in Plina, Yugoslavia, and had lived in Gig Harbor for 45 years.  He had been a commercial fisherman for over 20 years until his retirement two years ago.  He was 74 years old.  Mr. Nikolac was a charter member of the Port Orchard Eagles, the Moose Lodge of Friday Harbor, Knights of Columbus and the St. Nicholas Catholic Church.

Mrs. Nikolac, 67, was born in Majestic, Colo., and had also lived in Gig Harbor for 45 years.  She was a member of the St. Nicholas Catholic Church, the Altar Society of St. Nicholas, the Legion of Mary and the Gig Harbor Eagles Auxiliary.

“They are survived by one son, Rudolph F., of Gig Harbor; four daughters, Mrs. Sydney (Evelyn P.) Rogers of Port Orchard, Mrs. Dwight (Leona) Anderson of Olalla, Mrs. Al (Frances M) Clark of Gig Harbor, and Mrs. Douglas (Mary L) Anderson of Oxnard, Calif., and 16 grandchildren.
Leona & Evelyn with unknown boys


Rudolph and Mary

“Besides their children, Mr. Nikolac is survived by a brother and sister in Yugoslavia.

Mrs. Nikolac is survived by five brothers, Julius Smirch of Olympia, Matt of Seattle, Tony and Rudolph of Gig Harbor, the Rev. John Smirch of Fullerton, Calif., a sister, Mrs. Antone (Katie) Karamatic of Gig Harbor.

“Requiem Mass for both Mr. and Mrs. Nikolac will be offered at 10 a.m. Thursday in St. Nicholas Catholic Church under the direction of the Haven of Rest Mortuary.  Rosary was recited at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the St. Nicholas Catholic Church.  Family suggests memorials to the St. Nicholas Catholic Church Building Fund.

“Pallbearers for Mr. Nikolac will be Michael and Kenneth Rogers, Fred Nikolac, Larry and Gary Anderson and Kym Clark.  Pallbearers for Mrs. Nikolac will be Richard Karamatic, Julius, The Rev. John, Tony, Matt and Richard Smircich, with honorary pallbearers to be Dale Bullard, Milton Roby and Peter Vale.”

George Immigrated on September 12, 1907, on a ship “Graf Waldersee” which set forth from Hamburg, Germany.  George was naturalized by the Superior Court of Grays Harbor, Montesano County, WA on December 7, 1926 (8) [note: the date is shown as both 1926 and 1928 on]  and his certificate of citizenship was issued on March 11, 1938.  

More research needs to be conducted on this family, and i hope that this helps explains to all our readers why oral history biographies are so important.  

If you know of someone, or you yourself, are interested in leaving an oral history of your family, please contact your local historical society or history museum and arrange to have a family history record made.  It will help all future historians.

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  1. I knew the Rudolph Nikolac family quite well, though I never met Rudy's parents and don't remember the fire. Rudy's family lived behind the old post office (which was also kind of behind the current post office) where American Family Insurance is now, at the end of Stanich Place. Rudy worked at the Bremerton navy yard until retirement and died at age 89 two years ago. His wife, Pat, died ten or fifteen years before he did. As far as I know, only one of his four children still live in the area, Jeff, and he is one of the department managers at the Port Orchard Fred Meyer store. Rudy was a good guy. Very personable; good sense of humor.

    As for the mention of John, Julius, Matt, Rudolph, and Tony Smirch, I believe the correct spelling of the name is Smircich. I think it was Tony Smircich who for years used to walk the sidewalks of Gig Harbor in a hat and long overcoat, having constant conversations with himself, including hand gestures. I never heard what the topics could've been.

  2. I just came across this entry while catching up on old news. It was actually Rudolph Smircich who walked the streets talking to himself. He had a mental illness. The Nikolac family was fairly well known. Rudy was a nice man. I think the family left the area years ago. It was known that they favored the one daughter and I think it caused divide later on. I do believe that you are right that Jeff is the only one still in the area.

    1. I don't know where you get your gossip from, but my grandparents didn't favor any of their children. They loved them equally until the days they respectively passed away.

  3. George and Mary were my great Grandparents. I never had the privilege of meeting them. Tony Smircich was my uncle and he is the one who used to walk around Gig Harbor. Rudolph Nikolac was my grandfather and he lived in Gig Harbor his entire life. He passed away in 2013. I am the only one who is still around and I was quite surprised to see this article. It is amazing to see a bit of history before my eyes that I had only heard about in family stories before.