Ismet Kulalic passed away peacefully on Wednesday, November 11th, 2020 following his second battle with cancer. He spent the final month of his life in the comforting care of the staff at Siegenthaler Center Hospice Care, with his family and loved ones at his side. It was there that he celebrated his 72nd and final birthday last month, cherishing the time he was able to spend with those who were closest to him, and receiving many birthday messages and well wishes from his family abroad.
Ismet was born on October 13th , 1948, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. As a young man he was a paratrooper in the army and immensely enjoyed skydiving and jumping out of airplanes at the most inopportune times. One of his favorite stories to tell involved an “accidental” jump out of the army plane which landed him in a remote village where he crashed through the roof at the home of an extremely hospitable family. Instead of chastising him for breaking their roof, they immediately offered him a homemade meal, medical attention, and an indefinite stay at their abode until he could be picked up by his unit. His unconventional ways of making a first impression remained one of his biggest signatures throughout his lifetime.
He had an insatiable thirst for knowledge and spent much of his time poring through books on topics as varied as philosophy, architecture, archeology, psychology, and anthropology. His formal schooling was in the field of engineering, and he spent his working years on both large scale industrial building projects as well as smaller carpentry jobs. He loved to tinker and build things in his free time, resulting in unique furniture and what we would nowadays refer to as “lifehack” utilitarian designs and inventions to fill his home.
As much as he enjoyed working with his tools, he would be just as likely to immerse himself in the arts. He loved all forms of music, and on any given day could be found listening to anything from classical pieces by Richard Clayderman, to rock ‘n roll bands such as The Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac, to traditional folk music from his native Balkans and across the world. As a young man he played the guitar in social circles, and rebelled against tradition by growing out his hair and beard and wearing clothes in the style that graced the record covers of his American musical idols.
Additionally, he was a doting father, avid traveler, enthusiastic gardener, animal whisperer, captivating storyteller, and active environmentalist who sought to preserve our world for future generations. He was critical of organized institutions and highly valued independent thought. He spent his life learning about other cultures, languages, and religions and reserved his respect for those who lived by the Golden Rule, treating others as they would want to be treated. Throughout his life, he adhered to a minimalist lifestyle and maintained a dry and witty sense of humor that helped him to keep things in perspective. Despite surviving many hardships over the years, including war in his native country, he often repeated in his final days that he couldn’t believe how beautiful his life turned out to be – “We had it good,” he would say.
Ismet is survived by his daughter Ibela, his “adopted” daughter Candace, his wife Alma, his sister Bedrija and her husband Damjan, his sister Azra, his brother Fikret and his wife Ingrid, and his brother Vedad and his wife Admira, his sister in law Tatjana, his nieces Sabina, Sanda, and Nadja and nephews Dino, Adnan, Elvir, Dejan, Isak, Timo, and Dino, as well as their spouses and children. He was predeceased by his parents, Muhamed and Nazifa, his sister Hajrija, his brother Nusret, and his brother in law Fahro.
A small traditional outdoor burial ceremony will be held at the Bosnian Islamic Cemetery on Friday November 13th at 3 pm. Due to the global covid pandemic, it was his wish for those who are able to stay home to do so and to keep him in their thoughts from the safety and comfort of their homes. For those wishing to attend the address is 10977 Cosby Manor Rd, Deerfield, NY. If attending, please wear a mask and observe social distancing guidelines.
In lieu of gifts or flowers, Ismet would ask for you to participate in a random act of kindness or to make a donation to your favorite charity.