METAIRIE, LA (WVUE) - The co-founder of Drago's Seafood Restaurant has passed away.
According to a release, Drago Cvitanovich passed away peacefully surrounded by family Saturday morning. He was 94-years-old.
Cvitanovich was born in Igrane, Croatia where he attended a Franciscan school which laid the foundation for his faith and service to others. He fled Croatia during WWII and went to Germany where he joined the U.S. Army Labor Department and served as a military police officer.
In 1958, Cvitanovich took a trip to New Orleans to visit family and experience his first Mardi Gras. During his trip, he met his wife and soon-to-be co-founder of Drago's, Klara. The two of them married three weeks later.
Drago and Klara moved to Canada where he began his career in food service and started a family. After four years in Canada, Drago, Klara and their two sons were granted U.S. entry visas and moved to New Orleans in 1964.
Once in New Orleans, Drago worked at his sister's restaurant in Lakeview and then at Acme Oyster House in the French Quarter in 1968 and 1969.
In 1969, Drago and his wife Klara opened Drago's Seafood Restaurant in Metairie. Since its opening, the restaurant has become famous for their Original Charbroiled Oysters and has grown to employ more than 450 employees. They restaurant has also expanded to two other locations in the Hilton New Orleans Riverside and Jackson, Mississippi.
The highlight of Drago's day while working at the restaurant was singing "Happy Birthday" to customers.
In 1995, Drago reigned as king of the Krewe of Argus on Mardi Gras Day.
In 2013, both Drago and Klara were inducted into the Louisiana Restaurant Association Hall of Fame. The Louisiana Hospitality Foundation has also created the Drago Cvitanovich Award for Outstanding Philanthropy by and Entrepreneur in his honor.
Drago Cvitanovich is survived by his wife Klara of 59 years, his sons Gerry and Tommy, two daughters-in-law and eight grandchildren.
Saturday evening, the funeral arrangements for Mr. Cvitanovich were released. Visitation for relatives and friends of the family will be held Monday, Feb 6 from 5 p.m. - 9 p.m. at Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home located at 5100 Pontchartrain Blvd. New Orleans, LA 70124. The visitation will resume Tuesday Feb. 7 at 10 a.m. at St. Clement of Rome Church, located at 3978 West Esplanade Ave. Metairie, LA 70002. A funeral mass will follow at 12:30 p.m. and burial will take place at Lake Lawn Park Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to: Drago's Foundation, 3232 N. Arnoult Rd. Metairie, LA 70002. Contributions will be distributed to: The Alzheimer's Foundation, Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation, Louisiana Hospitality Foundation, Sunshine Kids, Jesuit High School, Mt. Carmel Academy, Christian Brothers School and St. Clement of Rome and Catholic Charities.