Tom Skansi, M. D., aged 89, of Norfolk, passed away peacefully on Saturday, June 17th.
Born Tomislav on November 22, 1933, on the Adriatic island of Brač, then a part of Yugoslavia, Tomislav spent his early years attending school in the neighboring town that, according to his telling, he reached by donkey. He was the youngest of three and spoiled rotten by his mother and older sister. When World War II came to Brač in 1944, his father, accused of being a Nazi sympathizer, and older brother, Nick, fearing being drafted by the Yugoslav Partisans, left separately for the United States by way of Italy. It was not until 1962 that he was reunited with them when he emigrated to the States.
While serving in the Yugoslav National Army, Tomislav fell in love with medicine and pursued a medical degree upon discharge. There he met his future wife, Viviana Karlovac, who was also studying to become a doctor. With his father sending him money from the US, Tomislav enjoyed the luxury of owning a Vespa. They married in 1959 and emigrated to the United States – Tom in 1962 and Viviana in 1963 after graduating from medical school and the birth of their first child, Sanja. Their second child, Tim, was born 18 months later in Delaware. In a circuitous route that included Charleston, WV, Lewes, DE, Rijeka, Yugoslavia and finally Virginia Beach, VA, Dr. Skansi settled into a radiology residency and internship at Norfolk General Hospital. Upon completion, he established a private practice at Pembroke One, followed a decade later by the opening of the first mammography center in Tidewater across from Virginia Beach General Hospital.
Tom’s greatest passion was the sea, whether sailing it or collecting art depicting it. He was a Commodore of the Broad Bay Sailing Association, a member of the Rotary Club of Hampton Roads and the Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, CT. He was also a proud Croatian and sponsored a family during the Croatian War of Independence.
Upon retirement, he set sail and spent many winters in the Virgin Islands and Florida Keys, as well as flying to Croatia to spend summers at his childhood home where he tended his fruit trees and vegetables, prepared fish direct from the docks, walked the seaside quay and enjoyed a bevanda every afternoon. With the help of a crew, he sailed his boat, Sunshine Baby, to Brač and back, during which he marked his 70th birthday. When he wasn’t on his boat, you could find him in the nearest bar with a gin and tonic in his hand and a smile on his face.
He is survived by his children, Sanja Skansi deGarmo (John), of Orono, MN, Tim Skansi (Brenda) of Austin, TX, his ex-wife, Viviana Skansi of Norfolk, his five grandchildren and three great grandchildren. A family service will be held later this year.
“And now the end is here
And so I face that final curtain
My friend I’ll make it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more
I did it, I did it my way…”
⁃ I Did It My Way, Paul Anka for Frank Sinatra