George Michael Papa, Sr.
I never knew my paternal grandfather. George M. Papa, Sr. died before I was born, but his humility before God is legendary.
George Papa grew up in a family of Croatian bootleggers, supplying Al Capone and his mob syndicate with beer throughout Prohibition and the Great Depression. An abrupt slap in the face by an angel of a woman converted him to the gospel of Christ. After marrying my grandmother, Beatrice Rogers, he was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The two later moved to Snowflake, a small town in Northern Arizona.
To say George was rough around the edges would be merely scratching the surface. He had smoothed some of his broken corners but was still a mighty proud man in almost every way—except when it came to God. To his God, he was submissive and he listened when God spoke.
He taught me you do not need to be perfect to teach, protect and guide your family. You need to be humble and listen for God.
George and his wife Beatrice taught their five hot-headed sons how to be spiritually resilient through their actions while in their hardships.
They must have been doing something right.
George was born in January of 1916 outside of Chicago, IL. Both parents emigrated from Croatia, so my father likes to say his dad was the first Croat baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ. He doesn’t like it when I point out Grandpa Papa was born American. Still, Croatian roots are deep and strong.
Staunchly Catholic, his mother hoped he would be a priest. His father hoped for help in the family bootlegging operation. George, however, was independent and had his eye on the race horses from a young age.