Hector Boiardi: The canned pasta creator

We know them. We love them. We grew up with them. That’s right– Chef Boyardee canned pastas are an American staple: the saving grace of busy parents, the provider of last minute meals, and the microwave safe option for broke college students. It’s hard to find someone who hasn’t enjoyed a Chef Boyardee meal at some point, or at the very least heard of the brand. For us Clevelanders, we can take special pride in knowing that the creator of the Boyardee products, Hector Boiardi, actually started his business here, in Cleveland!


Chef Boyardee
Picture of Hector Boiardi making a brand appearance, Photo Credit


Born in the village of Piacanza, Italy on October 22nd, 1897, Boiardi was instantly drawn to the kitchen. He found great joy in cooking, and worked as an assistant in one of the local restaurants. In May 1914, Boiardi braved the overseas journey to the United States where he entered through Ellis Island. He lived in New York City upon arrival, where he reconnected with his brother Paolo, who was the maître d’ of the Plaza Hotel. Paolo was able to get Hector a job in the kitchen, and soon Hector worked his way up to being head chef. This sparked a lifelong record of success for Hector Boiardi, so much so that he was even contracted to cater Woodrow Wilson’s wedding to Edith in 1915. After continual success, he eventually moved to Cleveland where he opened his first restaurant, Il Giardino d’Italia which translates to “The Garden of Italy.” The restaurant became very popular, and people would even request jars full of Boiardi’s special pasta sauce.

In 1927, Boiardi would meet two people that would change his life and legacy forever. Maurice and Eva Wiener were regular patrons of Il Giardino d’Italia and noticed the huge opportunity behind the home-cooked Italian food. They owned a grocery store franchise and approached Boiardi with the idea to can his goods and sell them nationwide. Maurice and Eva helped Boiardi develop a canning process for his pastas, and by 1929 the canned goods were released to the public. This release was a huge success, and prompted a swift and massive expansion of Chef Boiardi’s products.

Using only natural and homegrown ingredients, Boiardi moved his factory to Milton, PA where there was more room to grow mushrooms, tomatoes, and other produce needed for his recipes. This factory is still the headquarters for Chef Boyardee products, and produces that canned goods that we know and love today. Amidst all this success, Boiardi decided to change the spelling of his name to Boyardee to ensure that his American customers would pronounce his name correctly.


Vintage Chef Boyardee Label
Vintage Chef Boyardee label, Photo Credit


The Boyardee business grew throughout World War Two, providing meals to soldiers overseas (which would result in Boiardi being awarded the Gold Star Award of Excellence from the US War Department) and even managing a Welcome Home Dinner for World War Two soldiers hosted by President Wilson. However, as political and economic climates changed in the 1950’s and the Boyardee product line was beginning to expand internationally, Boiardi could no longer keep up with managing his business and decided to sell the Boyardee brand to American Home Foods, now called International Home Goods. While Boiardi fought against this sale initially, it ended up being a very lucrative business move for Boiardi as American Home Foods asked him to become the face of the brand. Yes- the face on the can is actually Hector Boiardi! Boiardi would end up earning millions due to his brand presence.

Boiardi passed away due to natural causes in 1985 in Parma, OH. He is buried at All Souls Cemetery in Chardon, OH. His story is a shining example of the American Dream that so many immigrants imagined upon migrating through Ellis Island, and is an inspiration to anyone who dares to dream big enough.


Boiardi’s Crypt at All Souls Cemetery Chardon, OH. 


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Post written by Katie Karpinski



Frank Lausche: Faith, Politics, and Baseball

The 20th century is rich with significant national and worldly history. The Great Depression, both World Wars, the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall, and the introduction of the personal computer are just a few examples. Not many people have been alive to see all of these events take place. However, Frank Lausche is a member of the rare group of people who can say they did! Lausche was born in 1895 and passed away in 1990 making him 95 years old at his time of death. Lausche saw nearly a century of history happen around him, and he was part of that history as well. 


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Frank Lausche later in his career


Lausche was born on November 14th, 1895 in Cleveland, OH to Frances and Louis Lausche, who were originally from Slovenia. Lausche attended school throughout his childhood; however, as Lausche was attending high school his brother passed away, forcing Lausche to drop out in an effort to support his family. When he wasn’t working, Lausche enjoyed playing baseball. One day, while Lausche was playing, he was scouted and recruited to join The White Motors amateur team. The White Motors soon won a national championship, which resulted in Lausche being recruited for yet another team—the Duluth White Sox. After playing with a few other minor league teams, in 1917 Lausche decided to enlist in the United States Army.  


Stationed in Camp Gordon near Atlanta, Georgia, Lausche was asked to join the camp baseball team. His superior performance on the team prevented him from being sent overseas to the frontlines of World War One. When the War ended in 1918, having completed high school while in the Army, Lausche decided to attend Cleveland-Marshall School of Law in 1919. He graduated in 1920, second in his class, and soon became a respected trial lawyer before becoming a municipal court judge in 1932, and a common pleas court judge in 1937.   


Camp Gordon .jpg
Camp Gordon circa 1918


In 1941 Lausche was elected the Mayor of Cleveland. Soon after, in 1944 he was elected as the governor of Ohio, making Lausche Ohio’s first Catholic governor. He served as governor from 1944-1947. In 1957 he resigned as governor after being elected as a United States Senator representing Ohio. He was known for being very bipartisan and for taking an independent approach to politics. This made Lausche very popular among voters, and led to his reelection as a Senator in 1962. Lausche was so popular, in fact, that there is even evidence suggesting Lausche was considered to be Dwight D. Eisenhower’s presidential running mate in 1952.                    

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The Frank Lausche Building in Downtown Cleveland 


Frank Lausche passed away in 1990 due to congestive heart failure. However, his legacy lives on—if you ever visit downtown Cleveland, you’ll notice that several buildings bear his last name, including the State of Ohio office building. Frank Lausche was also named a Knight of St. John of Malta by Pope John Paul 2, the highest civilian honor that can be bestowed by the Catholic Church.  Frank Lausche serves as a great example of someone who put their God and country first.


Frank Lausche is buried at Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland, OH.  


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Pictures gathered from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/timevanson/25181654456
Post written by Katie Karpinski



Helena Pelczar: A story of sacrifice and heavenly devotion

We’ve all heard the heralding stories of the Catholic saints and the miracles they performed. Be it bilocation, the gift of tongues, or the ability to read hearts; Catholics have become familiar with the exciting tales of ancient and modern followers of God. To some, these figures may seem grandiose and distant—no one hears stories about saints who grew up just a few blocks down. But what most people don’t know is that Cleveland is home to some of these spiritual examples. For instance, Helena Pelczar.

Born on Christmas Day in a small village in Poland, Helena quickly learned to depend on Christ alone. Being one of eight children, Helena’s parents often did not have enough money to provide their children even the most basic necessities like shoes or a daily meal. Helena would go days at a time without eating, but she never complained. Because of this, Helena’s childhood was very challenging, and it became even more difficult when her mother passed away prematurely, forcing Helena to work to provide for her family. She performed mainly farm work, but also was hired as a domestic servant for a short time.

During this time of harsh work, Helena maintained her calm and reflective demeanor. She found great joy and comfort in prayer and, even after her family finally achieved financial stability, she maintained a deep devotion to Christ and Mary– often attending church and praying deeply for several hours at a time. These periods of prayer grew longer and longer, and eventually resulted in prolonged visions. On Easter Sunday in 1910, Helena experienced a vision that lasted three days. During her visions, Helena’s eyes would be wide open, but she would otherwise be unconscious. After, she would report seeing Christ Himself or the Virgin Mary.


These prolonged visions continued after Helena’s immigration to the United States. In fact, upon moving to Cleveland, Ohio Helena would start experiencing painful episodes as well, leaving her bedridden. The most intense pain would protrude from her right side. After 3-5 days, the pain would subside and Helena would begin her work again.


On December 28, 1917 (Good Friday) Helena received her first stigmata. She suffered a great amount of pain in her hands, feet, and right side. Then dark round stigmata appeared and they lasted for several days. Helena’s family, obviously concerned, called the local doctor but they could find no physical cause for Helena’s marks or severe pain.
Helena would continue to receive the stigmata throughout her life (mainly occurring during Lent and Holy Week). During one occurrence, shortly after her original stigmata, Helena received a vision where she encountered Christ who said:
“I shall bless you with a special gift by which you will be able to recognize sinners, for whom you should bear the sufferings I will send upon you. You will experience as much affliction, misery, and pain as I did during my agony on the Cross. Due to your great love for me, you will offer all your torments for sinners whom I myself will point out to you.”


From then on Helena was the subject and source of several miracles. Some include bilocation, healing of the sick, and prophesizing. Helena also reported having constant support and supervision of her guardian angel, who accompanied her into purgatory so she could properly see and comprehend the torment of souls. These gifts were not without great suffering though. Helena would continue to suffer as Christ did throughout her life, offering up all of her pain and anguish to heal the sinners of the world.


Helena joined Christ on April 26th, 1926 while praying the “Hail Mary.” Shortly after her burial, it was reported that singing could be heard from her grave. Helena was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland, OH where she currently remains.


Helena Pelczar
Photo credit:  Catholic Cemeteries Association



Helena Pelczar is currently being reviewed for Sainthood. Pray for her, as she prayed and suffered for so many sinners.

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Post written by Katie Karpinski

Frank Battisti: A Legacy of Faith and Civil Liberties

1976- The year that Steve Jobs founded Apple; the year gymnast Nadia Comaneci was awarded a perfect 10 score on her Olympic routine; and the year Judge Frank Battisti would receive the most controversial case of his career. On August 31st, 1976 Robert Anthony Reed III filed a lawsuit against Cleveland Public Schools on the grounds of purposeful discrimination and segregation, thereby denying Reed, and countless other students, their rights founded upon the 14th Amendment. The case cast a spotlight on Judge Battisti; however, he was no stranger to controversy.     

Frank Battisti
Photo Credit: Cleveland Memory Project           Judge Battisti Presiding over Reed v. Rhodes

Born on October 4th, 1922 in Youngstown, Ohio, Battisti served as a combat engineer during World War II. Upon returning from active duty, he attended Ohio University to study law and soon after attended Harvard Law School. He served as a civil attorney for the U.S. Army before teaching Law at Youngstown State University and opening his own private practice.  

JRK Picture
Photo Credit: Kheel Center via Flickr President John F Kennedy appointed Frank Battisti as the District Judge of Northern Ohio in 1961. Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States. Learn more about John F Kennedy here.

In 1961 President John F. Kennedy appointed Battisti as the District Judge of Northern Ohio. Being only 39 years old at the time, this made Battisti the youngest federal judge in the country. In 1969 he would be appointed head judge, and it wasn’t long after this appointment that Battisti earned a reputation for accepting controversial and challenging cases. Some highlights include his decision to deport John Demjanjuk, an Eastern European immigrant suspected of Nazi war crimes, and the acquittal of eight Ohio National Guardsmen who took part in the Kent State Massacre in 1970. These, among other cases, accelerated both Battisti’s regional and national exposure that would only escalate further upon the Reed vs. Rhodes case.     

Kent State Shooting
Photo Credit: Cliff via Flickr  
The Kent State Shootings took place on May 4th, 1970 in Kent, OH. During a student protest of the Cambodian Campaign, Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on the students, killing four and wounding nine. Learn more about the Kent State Shootings here.


Siding with Reed, Judge Battisti ruled that Cleveland Public Schools were, in fact, guilty of intentional segregation and ruled that Cleveland Public Schools start an integration program. (A process that would last upwards of 20 years or, as some would argue, continue to this day). The ruling was very controversial and resulted in Battisti and his wife, Gloria Karpinski (m. 1963), receiving multiple death threats. Many people close to Battisti testify that it was his deep Catholic faith and respect for civil liberties that aided Battisti’s decisions. 

Battisti’s strong resolve earned him several honors throughout the course of his life; most notably, the 1979 Award for Outstanding Trial Judge by the Trial Lawyers Association of America, and in 1974 a plaque awarded by B’nai B’rith for Battisti’s commitment to civil rights. 

Frank J Battisti died on October 19th, 1994, and his death received national media coverage. He is still known today as a major civil rights advocate, and his ruling in Reed v. Rhodes has shaped the Cleveland school system as we know it today. While Judge Battisti certainly lived a life full of controversy, his effect on Cleveland history is undeniable. He is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio.     

Photo Credit: Catholic Cemeteries Association

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Post written by Katie Karpinski