Cleveland Heights resident John Prcela, devotee of St. Joseph, celebrates his 100th birthday

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CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Every year, March 19 is a special day in the life of John Prcela, as it is the feast day of St. Joseph, to which the Cleveland Heights resident has devoted much of his life to seek and revere.

Since 2012, Prcela has written four books on Saint Joseph and is looking forward to the next release of a book by Croatian Dr. Vlado Vladic, The original justice of Saint Joseph, which is largely based on the writings of Prcela on the mystery of Saint Joseph in the drama of salvation. Prcela, himself, has a book coming out soon, formatted by his daughter, Maria Prcela Jackson, which will be titled, Thoughts on Joseph, Son of David.

Additionally, the father-of-four’s only son was born – he thinks it’s no coincidence – on March 19. This son, of course, his name was Joseph.

This year’s St. Joseph’s Day falls during an important year for Prcela since, 10 days earlier, on March 9, he celebrated his 100th birthday. Known for being perpetually in good spirits, Prcela was joined by around 250 friends on March 13 to celebrate his centenary at the Mayfield Village Community Hall. During this celebration, Cleveland Heights Mayor Khalil Seren presented Prcela with a proclamation to mark the milestone.

At 100, the Croatian native said: “I feel good. I have a lion’s appetite. I always like to do chores around my house. I can’t wait to plant tomatoes. Prce also goes to the pool at Menorah Park in Beachwood three times a week for exercise.

Staff at the Peter B. Lewis Aquatic & Therapy Center at Menorah Park in Beachwood applaud John Prcela during a celebration of his 100th birthday March 9. As he does every day, Prcela walked into the center telling the staff his slogan — “Keep smiling.” The center has created masks and bracelets using the phrase in honor of Prcela.

Because of his positive outlook on life, his kindness and his continuous activity, his daughter, Maria, noted that he has more Facebook friends than his eight grandchildren. In fact, her upcoming book is based on thoughts that Prcela posted on Facebook, which is being welcomed by friends around the world.

Early in his life, Prcela went through many difficult times. At 16, at the start of the Second World War, he enrolled in the seminary. In 1945, Prcela was drafted into what he calls the “cruel Yugoslav army”. Due to the massacres perpetrated by the army in the hinterland of Trieste, Italy, Prcela deserted what he calls a “Hitler-type army”. He went to Rome and enrolled as a theology student.

After recovering from a two-year illness, Prcela sailed for the United States in late 1949 and lived for a time in Chicago, before moving to Cleveland in 1951. He later graduated from l John Carroll University then, three years later, in 1957, earned a Master of Arts from Case Western Reserve University. From 1954 to 1988 he taught Latin, French, Spanish and German, first at St. Edward’s High School until 1958, then at Brush High School until 1988.

Prcela met his late wife, Amelia, after seeing her in church during a vacation trip to Spain in 1963. Also a devout Christian, Amelia, who died in 2002, asked Prcela to write a family history spiritual, which became his first book. about Saint Joseph, Saint Joseph, the Virgin Father of Jesus.

It is Prcela’s feeling that the role of Saint Joseph in the life of Jesus is too often overlooked. He calls Saint Joseph “the savior of the Saviour”. His daughter said Prcela lived up to the ideals of being a father set by St. Joseph.

Speaking of her father, Maria Jackson said, “My father came to this country with nothing. He worked hard to educate himself. He worked very hard, my mother too. He put the four of us (her and her siblings) in Catholic education – eight years of Catholic primary school, four years of Catholic secondary school.

“Hard work, faith, perseverance and being a good person – truly finding the good in everything – that’s what my dad means. With faith, hard work and perseverance, he showed that anything can be overcome .I’m so proud to call him my father and so proud to be his daughter.He’s my best friend, second only to my husband.

Maria said that as a schoolgirl, she used to stare out the window of the Prcela house while waiting for her father to come home after his day of teaching. “I was jumping for joy when I saw him say, ‘My daddy is home! My daddy is home!'” she said.

About his positive outlook on life, Maria said, “He always finds the positive in a bad situation. He can find good in everyone. He truly lived as, as human beings, we all should live. God created us all different, none of us are perfect, but in each of us there is something good.

Prcela, a member of both Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in South Euclid and St. Paschal Baylon in Highland Heights, says of the future, “I dream of doing much more for the glory of St. Joseph .

Prcela said he would ask him on his birthday what he would do if he was still 100 years old. “I said that I would spend every moment of my life promoting the glory of Saint Joseph because he is very neglected in the Church even today.”

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