Aug. 2, 2005 Claire Culjak, 82, who lived on St. Thomas for 28 years and raised a family here, died in Phoenix, Ariz., on July 30 after a brief illness. She was born in England in 1922.
Culjak moved to St. Thomas in 1960 and worked for Bill Dowling, owner of the Carib Beach Hotel. While there, she opened up the original gift shop that evolved into what is today Cardow Jewelers.
She later worked for the Bolero shops at the old Hilton Hotel, after which she moved to the West Indies Corp., where she ran the in-house sales division.
Culjak's daughter, Terri Solomon-Schirmer, said her mother moved to Arizona to live with her in 1988, helping her raise her grandchildren, Tim and Mackenzie. Culjak also had a son, photographer Don Van Dam, who was killed on St. Thomas in an airplane accident when he was a young man.
"She will be missed more than anyone could possibly know," Solomon-Schirmer said. "My children had the pleasure of growing up with this wonderful woman and have many lasting memories of their 'Bom-Bom,' as they called her."
Culjak was a jazz enthusiast and will be remembered for her support of the jazz movement on St. Thomas. She was a regular at the Sunday afternoon jam sessions at "The Dove" club on the East End, where she was well known and loved for her wit, accented by her clipped British accent.
Culjak was a breast cancer survivor, as is Solomon-Schirmer. Donations can be made to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
Solomon-Schirmer said there will be a memorial service in Phoenix in a few weeks. Later in the year, Culjak's ashes will be spread on St. Thomas.
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