PORTLAND — John (Ivan) B. Gajduko, 80, of Jay, passed away unexpectedly Sunday, Sept. 3, at Maine Medical Center in Portland.
He was born July 7, 1937 — 7/7/37, all prime numbers he was fond of pointing out — in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia (now Serbia). He was the first-born son of Vasily and Maria Gajdukov(a). He, along with his siblings and mother, spent much of World War II in Displaced Persons camps throughout central Europe. The horrors of war that he witnessed as a child in these camps molded the man he became. He immigrated to the United States with his mother and siblings in 1950 and he clearly remembered sailing into New York Harbor on the USS General Blatchford and seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time.
The family settled in Gardner, Mass., where John attended the local schools. Despite having to learn English at an older age, he was a terribly bright student who found high school to be unchallenging. He dropped out in 1956 and enlisted in the US Navy. He excelled at electronics and radar technology and was assigned to the USS Vandivier, patrolling the Atlantic Ocean along the Eastern Seaboard in search of any incoming assaults, be they missile or plane. In 1958, the USS Vandivier escorted President Dwight D. Eisenhower during the Americas Cup Races off Narragansett Bay, a fact John remembered with pride.
Despite not formally graduating from high school, he did acquire his GED and was the most brilliant, self -taught man, and he didn’t mind making sure you knew how brilliant he was. Once he was honorably discharged from the Navy, he put the electronics and radar knowledge he gained to use in a career spanning engineering radar components used in the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line to detect incoming Soviet bombers during the Cold War, to acoustic research and application, and reliability engineering for computer hardware. His thirst for knowledge never left him and he was constantly reading about topics as varied as quantum mechanics, history, philosophy, and political science. Science, in general, was his guiding principle and how he viewed the world was through a scientific lens.
He loved nothing more than a good beer and a willing audience to listen to him expound on various topics for hours on end. He enjoyed challenging people to think critically and logically and would verbally drag them along to his side of thinking, eventually. While typically a very serious person, he alternately enjoyed silly movies and loved the “Big Bang Theory” on CBS, often saying, “I’m Sheldon.”
John will be dearly missed by his loving wife, Natalie, of 51 years, his daughter Julie (and husband Michael) of Glendale, Ariz., his son John of Germantown, Md., his daughter Marina of Jay, and his namesake grandson, Ivan, of Germantown, Md. He leaves behind his brother Michael Gajdukow, of Jay; many nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his father, Vasily, his mother, Maria, his sister Anna, his sister Elaine, and his brother Paul.
Condolences and tributes may be shared with his family on his memorial wall at www.wilesrc.com.
John B. Gajduko