Often, change and improvement doesn’t come from a huge organization or powerful political leader, but rather humble and hardworking locals who care enough about their community to recognize an issue and do something about it. The Cleveland area, especially, is known for these modest leaders—one of which is Anton Grdina. Born in a small Yugoslavian village in 1874, Grdina came to the United States in 1897, settling in the Cleveland area. By 1899 Grdina married Antonia Bizeli and the pair had six children (Anthony, Frank, Catherine, James, Mary, and Joseph). He performed a variety of odd jobs in his local neighborhood before opening his own hardware store in 1904. Grdina found this concept of owning a business quite fulfilling, and decided to expand his entrepreneurial reach by becoming an undertaker and opening Grdina and Sons, Home Furnishers and Funeral Directors in 1928. Being a funeral director, Grdina got to know his community very well, and soon found himself in a variety of community-oriented projects.
Grdina helped organize two local Slovenian Banks (Slovenian Building and Loan Association which is now called St. Clair Savings Association, and North American Buildings and Savings Co. which was later renamed North American Bank). Grdina would remain president of North American Bank until his death. In addition to the financial sector, Grdina also helped in the reconstruction efforts following the EAST Ohio Co. Explosion and Fire in 1944. Grdina was part of an organization that bought the sites of destroyed homes and built new homes—over 16 in total! Grdina put forth $5000 out of pocket to aid in the restoration, not to mention countless hours of hard work and dedication. Grdina also served as treasurer of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation from 1926-1957.
Anton Grdina also made sure to stay true to his Yugoslavic roots by taking on several leadership roles in Yugoslavic groups including being president of the Yugoslav Cultural Garden, organizing the Grand Carnolian Slovenian Catholic Union, founding the National Slovene Catholic Union, and being a member in 16 Slovenian lodges. Grdina made history when he became the first U.S. Slovenian to receive the Third Order of the Yugoslav Crown, awarded to him by King Peter in 1938. However, the most notable achievement of Grdina was his knighthood in the Order of St. Gregory—he was inducted under papal decree and dedicated his life to the Catholic faith.
Grdina passed away on December 1, 1957. His dedication to his faith and heritage provides us all with a wonderful example on how to live our lives through dedication to Christ and others. Grdina’s legacy lives on through the projects he aided, as well as the Anton Grdina Investment School (part of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District). Grdina is buried at Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland, OH. (Section #9, Lot #4, Grave #4).
Cleveland is home to some of the best athletic teams in the country—in the past year alone Cleveland has broken records and collected new titles. Not only is Cleveland home to these amazing teams, but Cleveland is also home to some famous and notable athletes—such as Ed Delahanty. Delahanty’s story is one of great success– proving how hard work and dedication pay off. Keep reading to learn more about Ed Delahanty and his MLB career.
Born in Cleveland on October 30th, 1867, Delahanty had a rather normal childhood. Attending Central High School in Cleveland, and attending St. Joseph’s college, Delahanty stayed local for the majority of his early years. When he was 20 years old, Delahanty signed on to play with a minor league team in Wheeling, West Virginia. It wasn’t long before Delahanty was traded and by the end of 1887 he was sent to Philadelphia, PA to play with the Phillies.
In the spring of 1888, Delahanty officially began his career in the major leagues, starting on second base. Over the next five years Delahanty would begin to build his batting average, so much so that in 1892 he hit a ball so hard it broke the pitcher’s ankle! By 1893 Delahanty had a listed 19 home runs and 146 runners batted in—and his performance was only getting better.
It wasn’t until 1899 that Delahanty won his first batting title, boasting a .400 batting average for three years. However, this wasn’t the first notable achievement of Delahanty’s. In 1896 he became the second person to hit four home runs in a single game, and that same year Delahanty also hit 10 consecutive times while at bat.
Delahanty began to play for the Washington Senators in 1902, where he won another batting title—making him the only person to hold a batting title in both the National and American leagues. Delahanty would play for the Senators until his untimely death in 1903. He was buried in Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland, OH (Section #10,Lot #135B ,Grave #7)
At the time of his death, Delahanty had a recorded 101 home runs, 1464 runners batted in, 522 doubles, 185 triples, and 455 stolen bases. One can only imagine what he could have accomplished had he continued in his career!
It’s no secret that Cleveland is home to a happening polka scene. Whether you’re at the Happy Dog café on polka night, or at your own neighborhood pub—polka music is a huge part of Cleveland culture. Several notable polka figures got their start in Cleveland, but most notable of all is Frankie Yankovic. Whether you’re familiar with the Polka King or not, keep reading to learn about this legendary Cleveland figure.
Frankie Yankovic was born on July 28, 1915. Born in West Virginia, Yankovic’s parents were both Slovene immigrants, who met at a lumber camp. Yankovic’s father moved the family to Cleveland after experiencing some troubles with the local authorities. Frankie was still rather young at the time of the move, but this didn’t stop him from discovering a world that would eventually lead to his amazing fame.
Upon moving to Cleveland, Yankovic was introduced to brass bands; his main exposure happened to be during Slovenian festivals and social events. At the time, his mother had started to rent out rooms in their home to make some extra money. One of these tenants happened to be Max Zelodec who was a Slovenian performer. Yankovic had previously obtained an accordion, and Zelodec was able to give Yankovic a few lessons before moving out.
By the time Yankovic reached his teenage years in the 1920’s his talent was earning him money by playing at community events and social functions. Just ten years later in the 1930’s, Yankovic branched out into the radio industry, making appearances on a variety of networks such as WJAY and WGAR. Despite his rising popularity, Yankovic still had a hard time signing a record deal. In fact, Yankovic paid for his first few records out of pocket!
Yankovic married in 1940. It wasn’t long before the couple started having children, and with that came a tighter budget. Yankovic’s music was no longer able to support his growing family, and so he opened a tavern called the Yankovic Bar. It was very popular among musicians, and Yankovic wouldn’t sell it until 1948 when he would resurge his career on the accordion.
Many people don’t know that Yankovic enlisted in 1943 to assist in the war effort, all while producing albums! Fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, Yankovic got a severe case of frostbite that almost resulted in him losing his hands and feet—luckily that didn’t happen and he made a full recovery and was then assigned to entertain the armed forces. One audience even included General George Patton and his army!
In 1947 Yankovic finally started to gain some national attention. By 1949 he earned two platinum singles— “Just Because” and “Skirt Waltz.” Success followed Yankovic after that, and he would earn the title “America’s Polka King” after defeating Louis Bashell, Romy Gosz, Harold Loeffelmacher, and the Six Fat Dutchmen, Whoopee John Wilfahrt, and Lawrence Duchow in a Battle of the Bands in 1948.
Yankovic would win his Grammy award for his album “70 Years of Hits” in 1986, and he was the first artist to win an award in the Polka category. Yankovic would later partner with Weird Al Yankovic—while the two are not related, both obtained large amounts of success and fame through their polka style music.
Frankie Yankovic passed away on October 14, 1998 due to heart failure. He is buried in Calvary Cemetery, in Cleveland Ohio. (Section 114, Lot 507, Grave 9). Having sold 30 million records throughout his life, Yankovic is still the best known polka artist in the country. What a legacy to leave!
American culture has always been drawn toward superheroes, just look at the recent movie releases. With all this hero hype, we sometimes forget that heroes aren’t just supernatural fictional characters, but very real people with very real stories. One such hero is William Foster, a U.S. Marine who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Okinawa. Keep reading to learn more about Foster and his heroic actions.
Born on February 17th 1915 in Garfield Heights, OH, Foster attended a vocational high school where he majored in machinist’s subjects. Shortly after graduating, he was employed as a shaper at Cleveland’s Star Machine and Tool Company. He was also a member of the Ohio National Guard for six years before being enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve through the selective service program in April 1944.
After receiving basic training in San Diego and intensive combat training at Camp Pendleton, Foster was sent overseas to the Russell Islands where he rejoined his usual unit (Company K, 3rd Battalion 1st Marines, 1st Marines Division). From there, Foster would find himself placed in one of the most legendary battles of WWII. On April 1st, 1945 (which happened to be Foster’s first anniversary of enlistment in the Marine Corps and Easter Sunday) Foster’s unit landed on the island of Okinawa, while the infamous battle was occurring. It was there that Foster would perform the act that would later earn him a Medal of Honor.
Foster and another marine were in the midst of an intense hand grenade duel with Japanese combats. Fighting from foxholes, an enemy grenade landed in Foster’s and fellow marines foxhole, and wasn’t within timely reach. Without any regard for his own safety, Foster leapt on the grenade, absorbing the full blow and saving his fellow solider. While Foster survived the initial impact, he passed away shortly after from wounds afflicted by the blast.
About a year later, on August 19th, 1946 the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Alexander A Vandegrift presented Foster’s parents with the Medal of Honor at Cleveland’s City Hall. Foster was originally buried at the 1st Marine Division Cemetery on Okinawa. However, in 1949 his remains were recovered and re interred in Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland, OH (Section 60, Lot 53, Grave 2) next to fellow Medal of Honor recipient John R Towle. (Read more about Towle here)
Being only 30 years old at the time of his death, Foster’s legacy lives on. One can see his name around the city of Garfield Heights, and a branch of the Garfield Heights public school system carries his name sake. It’s important to remember fallen heroes such as Foster, who gave everything for their country.
Post written by Katie Karpinski
Information gathered from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_A._Foster
America is enamored with celebrities. We read magazines to keep up with their lives, follow them on Facebook, and buy products that they endorse. However, things weren’t always this way. Back in the early 1800’s, theater was considered “unholy” and was seen as a rather scandalous business. Being an actor didn’t come with the praise and frills that we see today, making it hard for thespians to make a living in the industry. However, as the 1850’s approached and plays like “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, a play which supported Christian abolitionist teaching, the theater began to regain some of its lost reputation. This slight rise in theatrical popularity was exactly what a young Joseph Haworth needed to make his first leap into the theater industry.
Born in 1855 to Benjamin and Martha Haworth, Joseph was the oldest of the five Haworth children. By 1865, the family experienced several dramatic changes. The Civil War ended; however, Benjamin Haworth, a surveyor for the Union Army, did not live to see this new era as he died in a Confederate prison camp shortly before the cease-fire. For young Joseph, this resulted in him leaving school to provide for his family. The family moved to Cleveland, OH, where Joseph found a job working in a newspaper office. While Joseph was thankful for the position, his true passion was the theater.
Earlier in 1865, Joseph saw his very first theatrical performance, “The Count of Monte Cristo.” This experience instantly captivated Joseph, and when he moved to Cleveland he pursued several different acting opportunities. Being so young and having minimal experience, he was turned down time and time again. Haworth didn’t let his denial squelch his love of entertaining though. After a day’s work at the newspaper office, Haworth was often invited to neighbors’ homes to tell interesting stories and perform short skits. He gained local recognition as an amateur entertainer. These visits paid off, as when Haworth was 18 years old he was finally offered a position at the Academy of Music in Cleveland, which was one of the most respected theater companies in the nation at the time. The gig was minor; Haworth was only to recite a few pieces of poetry. But these few poetry readings were enough to land Haworth favorable reviews in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and soon Haworth worked his way up to acting with several well-known stars at the time such as Fanny Januschek, Anna Dickinson, Lawrence Barrett, and Edwin Booth.
On May 10th, 1878 at just 22 years old, Haworth played the title role in “Hamlet”. His performance was praised by the Plain Dealer which said, “No young actor could have felt more pride in the appreciation of his abilities and merits than Joseph S. Haworth last evening.” Shortly after this newsworthy performance, Haworth decided to leave the Academy (now called the Euclid Avenue Opera House) and joined the Boston Museum Acting Company, which was known the be the finest acting company in the country. Haworth had a growing national presence by the time he moved to Boston, and his time there was one of great growth. He continued to land significant roles and his popularity steadily grew. Eventually, he was the offered the position as Lead Actor, but turned it down to pursue opportunities in New York City.
While in New York, Haworth met John McCullough; a well-known actor and future mentor for Haworth. The two became like father and son, McCullough always insisting that Haworth pursue artistic passions instead of commercial gains. The two acted in several productions together before McCullough passed away in 1884. Even before McCullough’s passing, Haworth had landed several solo roles, and his name appeared often in the New York Times. With his raising star power, and loss of his very close mentor, Haworth decided to move back to Cleveland to recoup in 1895. He didn’t reenter the theater scene until 1896 when he moved around the country in a series of Shakespearean plays. Towards the end of 1886, Haworth opened at the New York Grand Opera House in a performance of “Hoodman Blind.” As if Haworth wasn’t already famous, this performance heightened his fame even more, making him one of the hottest young stars in the country.
With the emergence of Broadway in the 1900’s, Haworth would continue to act for a few years before dying of congestive heart failure on April 30th, 1903. It’s speculated that this heart failure was brought on by over-exertion, something that is all too common among entertainers. Haworth is buried at St. John Cemetery, in Cleveland, OH. (Section 11, Level 3, Lot 1 PT 5)
Cleveland-pride has been at an all-time high lately. With our excelling athletic teams, quality music halls, and growing cultural scene– we Clevelanders have plenty to celebrate! However, we often forget the leaders that helped Cleveland rediscover itself and emerge as the thriving city that it is today. George Voinovich, who served as mayor, governor, and senator was one of the most impactful leaders in Cleveland history. Keep reading to learn more about Voinovich and how his time as mayor changed Cleveland history forever.
Born on July 15, 1936 in Cleveland, Voinovich was the oldest of six children. His father, George Voinovich, and mother, Josephine Voinovich, raised their children in the Collinwood neighborhood. A devout Catholic family, Voinovich was a member of Holy Cross parish in Euclid, OH (now called Our Lady of the Lake) where he remained to be a lifelong member. Graduating from Collinwood High School in 1954, Voinovich continued his education by attending Ohio University where he earned his degree in Government. In 1961, Voinovich received his law degree from The Ohio State University. After receiving his law degree, it didn’t take Voinovich long to begin his 46-year tenure as a public servant.
Take a deep breath and get ready for this packed resume:
Starting in 1963, Voinovich served as Assistant Attorney General of Ohio; 1967 he served in the Ohio House of Representatives; 1976 he served as County Auditor of Cuyahoga County; 1978 he was elected as Lieutenant Governor of Ohio. All are quite notable achievements, but Voinovich was merely beginning his career. In 1979 Voinovich was elected as the 54th Mayor of Cleveland, a position that would launch Voinovich’s leadership to new heights.
Voinovich’s appointment as mayor occurred just as Cleveland had reached its lowest point in years (i.e. the burning Cuyahoga river). Cleveland was often compared to Detroit and mocked for being the only major city at the time to file for bankruptcy. Needless to say—Voinovich had his hands full! Now, while Voinovich was considered a very shy and reserved politician, he fought this negative view of Cleveland with vigor, going to great lengths and spending time strategizing how to reposition Cleveland as an evolving city. Voinovich worked closely with local business owners, Cleveland citizens, as well as the Governor of Ohio at the time, James Rhodes, to spark what would later be called the “Urban Renaissance.” Numerous buildings and new businesses sprouted up, city debt was reduced, and public satisfaction sky-rocketed. All of this resulted in numerous nominations and awards for Cleveland, ranging from small neighborhood acknowledgements to national awards such as the National Civic League’s All-American City Award (won by Cleveland three years in a row.) Voinovich was credited for much of this improvement, so it came as no surprise when he was nominated for Governor in 1990.
After winning his seat as governor of Ohio in 1990, Voinovich was able to take the momentum he gained in Cleveland and applied it to the state of Ohio as a whole. During his time as governor, unemployment fell to a 25-year low, and a 1.5 billion state-wide deficit was recovered. Voinovich served two terms as governor, resulting in Ohio (much like Cleveland previously) to be granted several awards and recognitions. Due to term limits, Voinovich ended his time as governor in 1998, when he turned his attention to running for an open U. S. Senate position.
Needless to say, Voinovich had the experience and approval ratings to make his election to a Senate seat rather smooth. His first term began in 1999 and when it became time for him to run for reelection in 2004, he defeated his opponent by a landslide, winning all 88 counties in Ohio and breaking the record for the highest amount of votes in U.S Senate race in Ohio at 3.5 million. During his time as a U.S. Senator, Voinovich served on countless committees, and helped passed legislation on various topics regarding national security, climate change, healthcare, and national budgeting.
FUN FACT: Voinovich is one of only two people to have served as the Mayor of Cleveland, Governor of Ohio, and a United States Senator. The other is Frank Lausche. Both men were devout Catholics and are buried in the Cleveland Catholic cemeteries. Read about Frank Lausche here.
Many applaud Voinovich for his selfless political nature, as he always put the needs of voters above his own political intentions. Instead of following a political party, Voinovich was considered rather moderate, and was documented working with both Democrats and Republicans in an effort to do what was best for the American people, progressing the country as a whole. After retiring from the Senate in 2010, Voinovich took time to spend with his family. On June 12th, 2016 Voinovich passed away in his sleep, and he was buried at All Souls Cemetery in Chardon, OH after family and friends celebrated Mass at his home parish, Our Lady of the Lake in Euclid. Several notable figures attended the funeral, including Senator Rob Portman, Mayor Frank Jackson, and U.S. Representative Tim Ryan.
Voinovich is a special example of someone who was able to not only balance his career and his faith, but was able to incorporate his faith into his career. His strong passion for making this country a better place was constantly guided by his moral principles founded upon his Catholic faith. What a wonderful legacy to leave behind!
Our country is lucky enough to have thousands of people volunteer and risk their lives every day, putting the priority of the country above their own. As a country, we have witnessed two World Wars, and countless other battles and conflicts. With thousands of films, TV shows, and books about these wars, and the people that fought in them, sometimes we forget that each one of those people had a life before their military service. Even more so, we forget that so many young people have lost their lives serving their country.
John R. Towle was born in Cleveland on October 19th, 1924. Growing up on E.73rd street, Towle attended St. Agnes school in his younger years. In 1943 Towle decided to enlist in the United States Military as a member of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He served in a variety of countries during his service, including South Africa and Italy. However, Towle was in the Netherlands when he would perform the act that would later earn him a Medal of Honor.
It’s September 21st, 1944. Towle is now 19 years old and he and his division were serving in Oosterhout, Holland. US forces were in the process of claiming the strategic position at the Nijmegen bridgehead, which was currently occupied by German forces. With a strong enemy force, and limited defensive options, Towle decided to leave the safety of his foxhole and confront the enemy head on. Using his rocket launcher, Towle was able to hit two enemy tanks, and prevent them from advancing further. Towle then proceeded to enter a nearby house which 9 Germans had been using as a strategic point and continued to secure the building with no additional help.
Upon exiting the house, Towle retreated to another position to take another shot at the enemy tanks, where he was fatally struck by a mortar shell. Towle’s actions were nothing short of being absolutely heroic, and six months after his death he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. He was buried back in his hometown of Cleveland, in Calvary Cemetery.
Towle’s story is not only one of pure dedication and self-sacrifice to one’s sacrifice to one’s country, and deserves proper remembrance and prayer.
Home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Playhouse Square, and Lebron James; Cleveland is no stranger to talent. Many notable entertainers, athletes, and professionals have found success in Cleveland, and Gene Carroll is no exception. Best known for his television program, “The Gene Carroll Show,” this talented performer was a household name throughout the 1950-70’s but very few people know his full story. Keep reading to learn more!
Carroll was born on April 13, 1897 in Chicago, IL. It seemed like Carroll was drawn to the stage and public eye at a young age, as he first started acting when he was a mere 5 years old in a production of “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.” This seemed to spark a deep desire to perform, and resulted in Carroll dropping out of high school to pursue a career in variety shows. After a few brief stints, Carroll ended up working at a radio station, where he met the man who would become his business partner– Glenn Rowell. Carroll and Rowell, along with Ford Rush, built a very successful radio show. However, Rush left the show in 1929, which was when Carroll and Rowell (then dubbed Gene and Glenn) relocated to Cleveland after receiving an offer to triple their salary.
Working at WTAM in Cleveland, Gene and Glenn garnered a huge audience, and were often featured on the NBC Radio Network. It’s reported that the two received upwards of 40,000 pieces of fan mail a day, and broke several box office records at the Palace Theater in Cleveland. The two had their fair share of success at a few other national radio stations before Rowell decided to leave in 1943 in order to assist in the efforts of World War II.
It was after Rowell decided to leave the act that Carroll accepted the role of “Lena, the maid” on the “Fibber McGee and Molly” program on NBC. After playing this role for a few years, Carroll decided to move back to Cleveland and start a talent school. This talent school was the building block for the show that would eventually give Gene Carroll his major source of fame: The Gene Carroll Show. Carroll’s talent school became very popular, and Carroll eventually began to showcase some of his students on his show “Giant Tiger Amateur Hour”– later renamed “The Gene Carroll Show.” Airing on Sunday afternoons, the show became an instant hit, featuring several national and local stars.
Carroll passed away in March, 1972. Be is buried at Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland, OH. Carroll is a testimony to the talent Cleveland has nurtured and produced throughout the years, and his dedication to the influence of music and the arts on young people is truly admirable.
1920 was a momentous year for Cleveland baseball. While many people may recognize 1920 as the year Ray Chapman was tragically killed by a wild pitch, the year is also host of a more uplifting piece of history. It was during the 1920 World Series that Bill Wambsganss made the only unassisted triple play in World Series history.
Born on March 19th, 1894, Wambsganss had a strong connection to his faith and the sport of baseball. In fact, before Wambsganss was a second baseman for the Cleveland Indians, he studied briefly at a seminary in Indiana, and considered entering the clergy. However, Wambsganss’ father encouraged him to pursue his true passion, baseball, while still keeping his faith strong and an important part of his life. Wambsganss started off playing on several small minor league teams, practicing his skills and improving enough to be eventually placed with the Cleveland Indians. Playing along with Ray Chapman, Wambsganss became a valued player to Cleveland Indians, steadily improving and honing his skill. He and Chapman became a notable and rather famous duo.
However, the height of Wambsganss’ skill and fame came to fruition on October 5th, 1920. The Cleveland Indians were playing the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 5th game of the World Series. It was during this game that Wambsganss made his historical play.
In one swift play Wambsganss made a triple play, outing three players without the help of any teammates. He caught a line drive (outing the batter), tagged second base (outing the second base runner), and tagged the runner coming from first base. Got it? In a matter of seconds Wambsganss made MLB history. Perhaps the team was inspired by his momentum and sportsmanship, because the Indians would go on to win the World Series that year, gathering other historical records such as Elmer Smith’s grand slam (which was the first in World Series history)
Wambsganss continued to play baseball for a few more years before retiring to become a team manager for the Kansas City Club, All-American Girls Professional Baseball Leauge, and the Muskegon Lassies. While Wambsganss certainly had a fulfilling and enriched career, he was always remembered for his historic triple play. On December 10th, 1985 Wambsganss died due to heart failure, and he was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland, OH. Shortly after his death, in 1988, Wambsganss was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Wambsganss’ passion and prowess for baseball is a true testimony to the gifts God give each of us. Never hesitate to pursue your passion!
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!
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.
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.