Albert Wankovic traveled the world — from the frontiers of Alaska to Saudi Arabia’s oil fields — but New York was always his home.
Each time he left, he’d return to his wife and daughter in Plainview, which he called home for a half-century.
“I had a wonderful husband,” said Elizabeth Wankovic, 83, his wife of 62 years. “He was the love of my life.”
Albert Wankovic, a Plainview therapist who spoke four languages, died in hospice care at his Plainview home on Dec. 23 at age 91. Complications from a hip injury led to a decline in his health, his family said, but what they remember most is Wankovic’s exciting memories and devotion to families.
Wankovic was born Sept. 20, 1924, in Brooklyn to Romanian parents who fled a communist regime.
He had a gift for foreign languages, but when he joined the military in Army Air Force unit to fight in World War II, he was assigned a post in the United States — a spot on a military police squad guarding the American border in Alaska, said his daughter, Cathy Varen, 58, of Elmont.
The GI Bill paid for his degrees in business administration and foreign language studies from the University of Southern California after the war. But New York called him home one summer break and that’s when he met Elizabeth, who was working as a bookkeeper in Brooklyn and on Long Island.
“We wanted to get married but didn’t have any money,” Elizabeth Wankovic said.
So Albert signed up to work for the Arabian American Oil Co. For 25 months, he worked in management and led a camel caravan that brought oil workers supplies, saving up the money to marry Elizabeth. Wankovic spoke English, Spanish, Arabic and Russian and hoped to secure a long-term job with an oil company.
By the time the couple wed and returned from their honeymoon, the United States was under the Eisenhower administration and in the midst of a recession, Elizabeth said. There were no oil jobs available. But with a scholarship to Fordham University and a master’s degree in psychotherapy, Albert entered the next phase of his career.
He worked with large groups and at his own practices. He aided soldiers, married couples and families adopting children.
“People were sending him their pictures of babies they adopted,” Elizabeth Wankovic said.
Varen said that before his death, her father wanted to open a sanctuary for animals in the Caribbean. He’d always liked spending time in the Caribbean and considered his pit bull Max one of his closest companions.
“He was always looking for something unique,” Varen said.
A funeral for Wankovic was held at St. Pius X Roman Catholic Church in Plainview on Dec. 28, followed by a burial service at Long Island National Cemetery in Pinelawn.