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Klara Virskus (Ponelis) Rugys

December 15, 1923 ~ February 13, 2018 (age 94)

Klara Ponelytė Virskus Rugys, age 94, died peacefully Tuesday, February 13, 2018 in Johns Creek, Georgia, with family by her side. Born December 15, 1923, Klara was one of four children born in Siaulai, Lithuania to Barbora (Parokaitė) and Pranas Ponelis. She was preceded in death by her parents Barbora and Pranas; her first husband Juozas Virskus; her second husband Antanas Rugys; her sister Marija Grazulis; brothers Viktoras and Alfonas Ponelis; and her infant son Algimintas. Klara will be remembered by her family and friends as an energetic, fun-loving and multi-talented mother, wife, aunt and friend. After completing high school, Klara was admitted to study medicine at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Lithuania. Klara married Captain Juozas Virskus the following year, but the Russian invasion of Lithuania during WWII made it necessary for them to flee Lithuania with other refugees. They had to stop in Dresden with their ailing first-born infant. Klara survived two nights of the bombing of Dresden, Germany, and walked across the entire burning city, barely twenty years old, to find her infant son, who died soon after. They lived as displaced persons in southern Germany near Tubingen, where their daughter Audrone and son Vytautas were born shortly after the war ended. In 1950 they finally received permission to immigrate to the United States and made the long ocean journey aboard a Liberty Ship, the USS General W.C. Langfitt, entering the United States through Ellis Island in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty. Arriving with only $500 and the few things a steamer trunk could hold, they began to rebuild their lives in Flint, Michigan. They rented a small house, found work, and saved to buy their first home in the United States. The family grew their own vegetables and Klara canned and preserved everything possible to feed her young family. A talented seamstress, Klara sewed clothing and knitted sweaters for herself and children. She attended cosmetology school to learn a new profession, and became a well-respected cosmetologist in Flint. They saved every dime they could and, after only a few years in the United States, were able to purchase a beautiful home in which to raise their family. Klara and Joe put all three of their children through college and eventually retired to West Palm Beach, Florida. Following the death of her first husband Juozas, Klara married Antanas Rugys. With Antanas she enjoyed travelling to many parts of the world and gardening and entertaining in their Florida condominium. Klara was a talented artist in many mediums. While living as a displaced person in Germany, she made beautiful leather wallets, briefcases and other objects decorating them with designs she worked into the leather by hand. Her pieces were in demand from all who knew her, and she helped provide income for her young family through her efforts. Once settled in the United States she decorated hundreds of Easter eggs (margučiai) and over the years gave them as gifts to all her friends and relatives. Anyone who ever received a piece of correspondence from Klara saw the evidence of the love she put into each card and letter, by the decorating she did to the cards and envelopes before mailing. She loved to garden and especially enjoyed the tropical flowers she maintained in Florida. Klara will also be remembered for her wonderful holiday meals, delicious traditional food and upholding Lithuanian traditions. Her parting words to every guest were, “When will you come back?” Her children have said that their mother was heroic for all she endured and persevered while surviving through WWII in Europe; her granddaughter Jennifer Virškus is working on a fiction novel based on her life. So many of that generation came to know the value of perseverance and hard work, but as a result they achieved many of their dreams…and the American Dream. Klara was also a very faithful member of the parish of St. Benedict. Klara is survived by her daughters Audrone (Mark Browning) and Danute (Paul Mahady), her son Vytautas (Catherine Lessard) Virskus; 8 beloved grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren; numerous nieces and nephews. A Memorial Mass will be held at St. Benedict Catholic Church, 11045 Parsons Road, Johns Creek, GA 30097-1769 at 10:30 am on Saturday, April 14, 2018. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in memory of Klara Rugys to St. Benedict Catholic Church, 11045 Parsons Road, Johns Creek, GA 30097-1769 and directed to Pastor: Rev. Paul A. Flood. Questions may be sent to  or directed to the front office by phone at (678) 992-2501. Condolences may be sent by visiting Bill Head Funeral Homes & Crematory Duluth Chapel (770)476-2535.


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