Jun 30th 1922 - Sep 13th 2013
With a life that spanned nearly a century, Peteris Lielzuika had a zest for life that was contagious to those around him. He was always on the lookout to find a more efficient way of doing things, and his work ethic was unmatched. Blessed to spend nearly 60 years alongside the love of his life, Peteris instilled within his children and grandchildren invaluable life lessons such as the notion that anything is within reach with hard work and determination. As his friends and family can attest, he was frugal, even described as cheap at times, but there was no limit to what he would do for those he loved. Peteris will be remembered for his positive outlook, his lyrical singing voice, and his dapper way of dressing, but it will be his unending devotion to his family that will be his lasting legacy.
It was shortly after the Treaty of Riga was signed between the Republic of Latvia and the Russian SFSR in August of 1920 that a young couple from Liezere, Latvia, was overjoyed with the birth of their baby boy on June 30, 1922. Peteris was the sixth of seven children born to his parents, Peteris and Marija (Kakitis) Lielzuika, and he was raised alongside his siblings, Robert, Janis, Karlis, Rasma, Erika, and Lidija. His parents were farmers, and Peteris helped out on his farm with many farming chores. The entire Lielzuika family had great singing voices, especially his mother. Peteris completed a nursing program In Riga, Latvia and worked as a male nurse. Peteris completed Latvian high school in Germany. His family escaped to Germany during World War II. It was also during his formative years that he established a lifelong interest in photography, developing pictures in his darkroom.
While still a young man Peteris was sponsored to come to America by a farmer, Mr. Jones, in Hickory Corners. He came with his mother as his father had died while in Germany. After he had paid the debt for his family to come to the United States, Peteris bought a house in Kalamazoo where his mother lived, and eventually Robert and Janis, with their families, joined them in Kalamazoo.
As a young man Peteris moved to New York to study voice at the Brooklyn Music Conservatory and Amato Opera School for two years. Unfortunately he was never able to graduate as his mother became ill.
New and exciting days were in store for Peteris when he met the young girl who stole his heart. She was a young Latvian girl named Aira, and they were introduced by a good friend while at the Mid Summer Night Festival. Aira played the piano, and she was attracted to Peteris’ singing and dancing, and the rest is history as they say. Deeply in love, Peteris married his sweetheart on July 30, 1955, at St. John’s Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church.
After enjoying a honeymoon at Niagra Falls in Canada with Aira’s parents, the newlyweds returned home. It wasn’t long before they welcomed their first of three children into their hearts and home with the birth of Lilita. Two more children, Ardis and Kaija, later followed. Peteris brought adventure into the lives of his children as he did things like take them ice skating, planned day trips to South Haven, and arranged a few trips to Florida.
Peteris worked hard in a variety of industries throughout the years. He performed all over the U.S., Canada, and Europe, including Carnegie Hall in New York. Singing was his passion, however, he worked as a contractor, landlord, handyman, and florist in addition to other odd jobs here and there in order to support his love for singing. Not only was Peteris working to support his family, but he also raised money and helped rebuild his home church in Liezere, Latvia that was destroyed in WWII. He had a fantastic lyrical voice, and Peteris most likely would have been more successful in a singing career if he had been represented by a manager. For a time Peteris sold Nutrilite vitamins as well.
Throughout his life Peteris was never one to be still. It comes as no surprise that he always had music on and was singing throughout the house and as he worked. Peteris was into healthy living, regularly walking and eating healthy, too, with a diet that included lots of honey and a Hershey bar in his briefcase. He had a keen eye for beauty and always wore a suit - even when he was at home! Peteris mastered the art of making wine at home, and he also brewed beer. With a love for honey he became a bee keeper. Honey was the magic salve for any ailment according to Peteris! He was forever trying to do everything himself, and since he was known to be frugal he sold Christmas trees from his front yard and started his floral business from home. Peteris renovated run down homes to rent and resell. Some of his tenants worked for him in exchange for reduced rent, including the time he put a pool in his back yard. He combined his love for entertaining with his love for dancing and installed a linoleum floor in the garage for dancing. Latvian friends and relatives were among his most frequent dancing guests. Peteris was often doing something around the house and did his best to fix things on his own. He did quite a bit of traveling including trips to Europe, Hawaii, Mexico, and Canada. Many of his travels included performing in concerts. Peteris also played volleyball, skied, and enjoyed ice skating during his younger years.
The things that made Peteris Lielzuika such an extraordinary man are endless. He never shied away from speaking his mind and was a firm believer in the notion that what goes around, comes around. Peteris was the eternal optimist who loved lecturing wife, children, and grandsons whenever he saw the need. He lived an active lifestyle and experienced near perfect health along the majority of his life’s journey. Peteris will be dearly missed while his memory is forever cherished by those who were blessed to feel his touch.
Peteris Lielzuika died on September 13, 2013, in Kalamazoo. Members of Peteris’ family include his wife, Aira Lielzuika; 3 children, Lilita Bush, Ardis (Holly) Lielzuika, and Kaija (Eduard) Petrovskis; 5 grandsons, Karl, Edgar, Alexander, Andrew, and Martin; 2 siblings, Robert Zuika and Rasma Birkis; and many nieces and nephews. Peteris was preceded in death by 4 siblings: Janis, Karlis, Erika and Lidija. Visitation will be held Tuesday, 3:00 p.m. at the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran United Church (122 Cherry Hill St.) where services will be held at 4:00 p.m. A reception will follow in the church hall. Please visit Peteris’ personal web page at www.lifestorynet.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Latvian Evangelical Lutheran United Church or Kalamazoo Latvian Welfare Association (Daugavas Vanagi). Arrangements by Life Story Funeral Home, Betzler-Kalamazoo, 6080 Stadium Drive; 375-2900.