Las Vegas Sun

November 19, 2018

Currently: 44° — Complete forecast

Longtime MS counselor and activist Drakulich dies

Before World War II Steve Drakulich was one of Nevada's most promising young athletes.

He won the Golden Gloves boxing tournament at age 13 and was working his way through baseball's minor leagues in Idaho and Montana before he joined the Army.

But unlike the thousands of young Americans whose lives were forever changed by enemy fire, Drakulich's wounds came from within. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a neurological disease for which there is no cure.

But that did not stop him. He coached youth sports, campaigned for Democratic Party candidates and, as president and longtime board member of the Northern Nevada chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, raised tens of thousands of dollars to fight the debilitating disease.

Drakulich, who for three decades counseled MS sufferers and earned statewide and national recognition for his work, died Sunday of complications from MS at the Veterans Hospital in Reno. He was 82.

Services will be 2 p.m. Saturday at Ross, Burke and Noble mortuary, 2155 Kietzke Lane, in Reno.

"Steve will be remembered for his personal courage," said former two-term Nevada Gov. Mike O'Callaghan, who in 1971 conferred upon Drakulich Outstanding Nevadan honors. "He never forgot others who suffered from MS."

Drakulich's brother Michael "Chub" Drakulich, the first basketball, baseball and golf coach at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and the school's first athletic director, said when people statewide were diagnosed with MS, Steve often was first the person they talked to outside the medical profession.

"Doctors would recommend their MS patients to Steve, especially if the patients were despondent over the diagnosis," Chub Drakulich said.

"He would spend hours talking to them, and many of them realized that they, too, could live long and productive lives with MS. Steve was a very strong person, mentally and physically, and an outstanding personality."

Steve T. Drakulich of Greenfield, Mass., said his father's positive attitude kept him going.

"He lived believing that one day he would beat MS," Steve Drakulich said. "To the very end, he would call me and talk about latest breakthroughs that one day would lead to a cure."

Born March 30, 1920, in Pueblo, Colo., Drakulich was the fourth of nine children of miner Michael Drakulich and the former Dorothy Dragash. The family moved to McGill when Drakulich was 4.

Drakulich sneaked out of his home when he was 13 to fight as a flyweight in the Golden Gloves in Reno, winning the title but suffering a broken nose.

As a teenager at White Pine High School, Drakulich excelled as a pitcher and shortstop.

While serving in the Army in 1944 in England, Drakulich suffered paralysis and was sent to an Army hospital in California, where he was diagnosed with MS.

Drakulich, who had worked as a carpenter for Kennecott Copper Co. before the war, was given a desk job upon his return home.

When he moved to Reno in 1965, Drakulich joined the Multiple Sclerosis Society. As a longtime board member, he organized events such as the Governor's Barbecue, which each year raised $10,000 to $15,000 for efforts to fight MS.

In 1971 Drakulich received the MS Society's highest national honor, the Hope Chest Award, from film legend Shirley Temple Black. That same year he was named Nevada's Outstanding Disabled Veteran and won the UNLV Iron Man Award. In 1972 he received the Service to Mankind Award.

Drakulich resigned from the Multiple Sclerosis Society board in 1980 but continued to provide consultation for MS sufferers throughout the decade.

In 1996 he, his brother, Chub, and their cousin, Duke Drakulich, were enshrined in the White Pine High School Hall of Fame. But Steve was ill and could not attend the induction ceremony.

In addition to his son and brother, Drakulich is survived by his wife of 49 years, Bette Drakulich of Reno; a daughter, Peggy Leon of Cooperstown, N.Y.; two other brothers, Bob Drakulich of Reno and George Kantar of Galt, Calif., and four sisters, Mary Carline of Reno, Josephine Zakula of McGill, Mildred Goldman of Galt and Helen Platzske of Salt Lake City; and five grandchildren.

The family said donations can be made in Drakulich's memory to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Great Basin-Sierra Chapter, 1201 Terminal Way, Reno 89509.