Cardiologist, adventurous boater

By Tom McCann
Tribune staff reporter
Published December 10, 2001

Ever since he was a boy growing up in Yugoslavia, Dr. Nenad Belic loved boating. His ancestors were great seafarers, he was told, and his father took him on regular boat trips. The lifelong hobby ideally suited his adventurous spirit.

Dr. Belic, 62, embarked on his most ambitious trip in May, hoping to row across the Atlantic Ocean to Portugal and return home in time to attend his daughter's bat mitzvah in October.

But in November his rowboat was found floating upside down 6 miles off the Irish coast after capsizing in a violent storm. His body was never recovered.

"I tried to talk him out of taking the trip. But it meant so much to him," said his wife, Ellen Stone Belic. "Once he had a mission, he didn't stop until it was completed. That's also what I loved about him."

Dr. Belic graduated in 1964 with a medical degree from the University of Zagreb in Yugoslavia. He did post-graduate work in Seattle before coming to Chicago to complete his training in cardiology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Before retiring, Dr. Belic headed the cardiology department at VA Lakeside Medical Center in Chicago.

He left for his cross-Atlantic trip armed with a satellite phone and Internet access, his wife said, and frequently kept in contact with family. He weathered several storms, so when a bigger storm came through Sept. 24 as he neared Ireland, Dr. Belic told oceanographers that he didn't want to give up ship, being so close to shore.

Six days later, Dr. Belic set off the boat's emergency beacon 230 miles off the Irish coast, his family said. The Irish Coast Guard searched for Dr. Belic for five days, and the family then hired private planes to continue the search.

"All I can say is he died doing what he loved," his wife said. "He was a kind, generous man. He loved adventure, and he loved his family."

Also surviving are two sons, Adrian and Roko; two daughters, Dara and Maia; three brothers, Predrag, Ivan and Meco; and a sister, Ana. A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday in Chicago Sinai Congregation, 15 W. Delaware Pl.

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