In September of this year, the Catholic Cemeteries Association had the honor of care taking for the final remains one of this country’s final Pearl Harbor survivors: John Seelie. A man of pure dedication to faith, family, and country, his experiences provide us with a glimpse of what so many men and women sacrifice for the good of our country each and every day—willingly placing themselves in the path of danger and uncertainty. Keep reading to learn more about this brave American solider.
John Seelie was born on November 25, 1922. When he was only 18 years old, Seelie decided to enlist in the United States Army and was stationed at Fort Hayes in Columbus, OH. Only a year later Seelie was transferred to Schonfield Barracks Oahu with the 65th Combat Engineers, 25th Infantry Division with the mission to protect Wheeler Field, a U.S. air base. According to Seelie’s public Facebook page, this transfer was decided by the flip of a coin by his captain. Seelie and another solider were transferred to Hawaii, whereas two other soldiers were transferred to the Philippines. While this may at first seem like a rather unlucky test of fate for Seelie, the two soldiers that were sent to the Philippines did not survive.
That is not to say, of course, that Seelie’s time at Hawaii was without its own tragedy. On the morning of December 7th, 1941 Seelie was just waking up when he recalled seeing the first of the Japanese planes. In a 2009 interview Seelie tells of his experience firsthand:
“We grabbed our M-1 rifles and our redesigned steel helmets we had just been issued, a couple of .30 caliber machine guns and ran outside. We had no ammunition because it was all locked up to keep it away from saboteurs. We asked the sergeant to open the ammunition room, but he had no orders to do that. So we broke the door down to get to the ammo. We started firing at the planes. Whether we knocked an enemy plane down nobody knows.”
Seelie was one of the lucky survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack, and paid constant tribute to those who had fallen by attending yearly memorial services and recounting his experiences to all who would listen.
Seelie passed away on August 11th, 2017. He is buried at Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland, OH (Sec#7, Lot#152, Grave#1). May his dedication and service to our country inspire us all.
John Joseph Bernet, later called the “Doctor of Sick Railroads” is an example of someone who took their business skills and achieved measureable success. Throughout his successful career, Bernet made sure to be charitable and humble. Keep reading to learn more about this intelligent figure!
John Joseph Bernet was born on February 9th, 1868 in Brant, New York. His father, Bernard Bernet, was a blacksmith and at a young age John became an apprentice at his father’s shop. However, the pairing wasn’t meant to be, as John was not as skilled at the craft as his father. Seeing that he needed to explore other career options, Bernet developed his telegraphy skills and was eventually hired to work for the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway in 1889. It wasn’t long before Bernet worked his way up through various positions and became a Vice President for the New York Central Railroad, controlling all the lines west of Buffalo. But this was only the beginning for Bernet.
In 1969, Bernet was asked to lead the Nickel Plate Railroad. Under his leadership, the railroad experienced massive success. This was largely due to upgrades proposed by Bernet which included doubling the total freight capacity and doubling speed while simultaneously cutting fuel costs. After leaving the Nickel Plate Railroad in 1926, Bernet became president of the Erie Railroad. Again, the railroad experienced much success due to his innovative cost-cutting measures. During the Great Depression, Bernet was brought on as President of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, and with his leadership the company actually experienced a profit in the midst of the Great Depression, and even paid dividends in 1932.
Bernet held this position for only a short time, however, as in 1933 he returned as President of the Nickel Plate Railroad. He remained president until his death in 1935. He passed away in his home in Cleveland, OH and is buried in Calvary Cemetery (Sec #78, Crypt #6, Grave #2) Bernet was a man of strong faith and is noted for his charitable giving. In fact, Bernet was involved in the construction of the dormitories at John Carroll University. So much so, that the first residence hall was named Bernet Hall in his honor. Bernet is a wonderful example of someone who used their business acumen and followed a passion to serve God and others.
Saint Padre Pio is one of the world’s most popular and well-loved Saints. His story is one of true dedication and devotion of God, and his spiritual gifts still stun even the most secular of scholars. What’s even more amazing is that Pio is a relatively modern saint, having only passed away in the 1960’s! Padre Pio is proof that Saints still walk among us—keep reading to learn more about his remarkable life and legacy.
Padre Pio was born on May 25th, 1887 in a small town in southern Italy. His parents were two peasant farmers who worked hard to care for their 5 children. Pio was the second eldest, with one older brother and three younger sisters. With his parents being devote Catholics, the whole family was held to a strict Catholic lifestyle which included attending daily Mass and praying the Rosary each night. While his parents were illiterate, they memorized scripture and would tell Pio and his siblings stories from the Bible by memory. Pio felt a special connection to Jesus and Mary from a young age, and it’s said that he could see and speak to Jesus, Mary, and his guardian angel as a child. He simply thought that all children had this ability—little did he know that he was selected by God to accomplish great things! Because of this upbringing, Pio knew by the time he was five that he wanted to devote his entire life to Christ. He began taking penances in his youth. His most notable penance including sleeping on the stone floor and using a stone as a pillow which his mother, as you can imagine, highly discouraged!
While Pio’s childhood was certainly rich in spiritual connection and growth, it was also one of great physical hardship. As a young boy, Pio contracted several severe illnesses such as typhoid fever and gastroenteritis. These illnesses were only the beginning of what would be a life-long health struggle for Pio, but this didn’t stop him from following God’s will. As he grew older, Pio started to experience prolonged visions and ecstasies where he would spend time with the Lord. This ignited his desire to enter into religious life, and at the young age of 15 he was officially made a member of the Capuchin Order of Friars as a novice. On January 22, 1903, he took the Franciscan habit and the name Friar Pio (his baptized name was Francisco) in honor of Pope St. Pius. As a friar, he took simple vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
When Pio was 17, he was struck with another bout of bad health and those around him started to notice changes in him. While praying, he seemed to be completely detached from reality and in some instances there were reports of him levitating off the ground. This, again, was only a precursor to what was to come throughout his life. His health continued to decline, and he was sent home to stay with his family to recover. His illness, however, did not prevent him from being ordained a priest in 1910. While normally this would require Pio to enter immediately into community life, due to his poor health he was permitted to stay with his family until 1916, when his health progressed enough and he was able to move to Our Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary. He would stay at this friary for the rest of his life, aside from his brief time serving in World War I in the Medical Corps (While Pio was enlisted and served for a few months, he was quickly sent home due to his poor health.)
It wasn’t until 1918 that Pio would receive the spiritual gift that would spark his worldly fame. It was in 1918 while hearing confessions that Padre Pio received the stigmata. The marks on his hands, feet, and sides would stay with him his entire life, and they reportedly smelled of flowers or perfume. The occurrence was painful, and later would be accompanied by transverberation, which is a piercing of the heart that indicates a union with God. While very painful, Pio accepted these graces from God and understood that to be in pain was to be in union with Christ. While he didn’t prefer to make any of this suffering public (Pio even wore mittens to hide the marks on his hands), news of Padre Pio spread throughout the world, and he soon became a sign of hope for those recovering from the first World War. Countless doctors and laypeople like came to examine his marks but no one could offer a logical explanation. It was clear that Padre Pio was a true servant of Christ—and the world was taking notice!
Throughout the rest of his life, Pio was known for possessing several spiritual gifts including healing of the sick, bilocation, levitation, prophesizing, extreme fasting from both sleep and food, the ability to read hearts, the gift of tongues, and the ability to convert people. He became a very famous priest and would later become a spiritual director. His focus always remained in walking in Christ’s footsteps. He even outlined five rules for spiritual growth which were:
One of his most famous quotes “Pray, hope, and don’t worry” was adopted by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Sadly, Padre Pio died in 1968 at the age of 81 due to health complications. It wasn’t long before he was declared a Saint on June 16, 2002 after several miracles were attributed to him. It was also discovered during his canonization that his body was incorruptible. Saint Padre Pio and his wise teachings are something we should all strive to live by—his ability to see past his suffering and keep his focus on Christ is just one of the many reasons why he is revered around the world today.
We often hear stories of Saints performing grandiose miracles, partaking on dramatic journeys and accomplishing impossible tasks.While these stories are inspiring and motivate us to better ourselves, sometimes they can make us feel as if becoming saints ourselves is unachievable. However, some saints such as St. Therese Lisieux prove that sometimes sainthood is gained through simple tasks. Keep reading about this amazing saint and her subtle road to sainthood.
Born on January 2, 1873 to Marie and Louis Martin, St. Therese was immediately immersed in an extremely devout and faithful environment. Both of her parents were strict Catholics. In fact, when Marie and Louis were first married, they lived as a religious brother and sister, practicing a marriage of celibacy. However, their confessor pressed them to discontinue this practice, and so the couple went on to have nine children. Of these nine, four would pass away before reaching adulthood. The five remaining children would all become nuns. Therese was the youngest.
Growing up St. Therese was held to the same religious standard as her older sisters and parents. This meant attending daily Mass at 5:30am, observing religious fasts, and partaking in daily liturgical prayer. As a family, they would often visit the sick and suffering and often opened their home or table to those who needed nourishment. As a young child, Therese was known for being happy yet fragile. She would cry easily and seemed to feel emotions more intensely than her family members. When Therese’s mother died in 1877, Louis moved the family to Lisieux which is where St. Therese would start schooling and continue her religious journey.
The loss of her mother signified the beginning of what St. Therese would later call the saddest days of her life. Starting school when she was eight years old, Therese was often bullied because she was much younger than her classmates yet received very good grades. Therese also did not enjoy the loud and rowdy nature of the children at school. She would find places to hide when the situation overwhelmed her, and savored her time at home. She was very close to her older sisters and father, so when her sisters eventually began to join the local convent, it was very hard on Therese who felt as if she were losing her mother all over again. The ordeal upset Therese so much that she tried to join the convent. However, due to her young age, the prioress did not allow her to enter, but rather called her a “future daughter” and told her to return later in life.
In addition to emotional stress, St. Therese also experienced physical ailments, mainly in the form of tremors brought on by her nervousness. It was later discovered that St. Therese also suffered from scruples, which other saints have also experienced. (Scruples is the condition of feeling overwhelming guilt and sorrow for the evils of the world, and the feeling of hopelessness of not being able to cure the world of evil). This time of sorrow and illness continued until Christmas Eve of 1886 when Therese had a revelation.
Therese recounted the night saying “God worked a little miracle to make me grow up in an instant… On that blessed night… Jesus, who saw fit to make Himself a child out of love for me, saw fit to have me come forth from the swaddling clothes and imperfections of childhood.” Therese was given the strength from God to leave behind her sensitivity and made huge steps toward becoming an adult. This sparked a new beginning for Therese, and the following year her father took her on a diocesan pilgrimage to Rome. During this trip, Therese was given the opportunity to have an audience with Pope Leo XIII. Pope Leo blessed Therese, and she remained at his feet until the guards carried her out. After, Therese and her family visited several cities in Italy, giving her a plethora of new experiences and knowledge. This experience only heightened Therese’s desire to serve the Lord and upon her return to Lisieux in 1888 Therese became a Carmelite postulant.
While St. Therese was so happy to be admitted into the convent, soon after entering she experienced another challenging time in her life. After suffering some a series of strokes, her father began to hallucinate and he was soon admitted to an asylum. As a cloistered nun, neither St. Therese nor any of her sisters, who were in the same convent, were permitted to visit their father. This was also followed by a dry period of prayer for St. Therese. This was partially due to her realization that as a cloistered nun she could not be an active missionary or perform the same acts as a priest. She dreamed of being a martyr and found it troubling to realize she would never perform great acts. However, she would soon realize her true vocation.
Until her untimely death on September 30, 1897, St. Therese dedicated her life to acts of love. No act was too small– be it volunteering for extra work, smiling at someone, or simply being cheerful and happy. Following her death, St. Therese’s sister Pauline collected Therese’s writings and compiled them into a book, which she sent to other convents. This made St. Therese quite famous, and by 1925 she was canonized. St. Therese is a wonderful example to all of us, proving how simple, kind acts can make a world of difference.
One of the greatest elements of the Catholic faith is its ability to reach so many people from so many walks of life. The Catholic faith has been spread throughout the world, with Christ’s message being shared in hundreds of countries both near and far. The Church welcomes everyone no matter their race, ethnicity, or nationality. In fact, the Church celebrates these differences! Saint Benedict the Moor is a perfect example of how the Catholic Church is an all-encompassing family. Born to two African slaves, St. Benedict embraced the Catholic church and became one of the Church’s finest teachers. Keep reading to learn more about this remarkable saint!
St. Benedict was born in 1526 in Italy. His parents, Cristoforo and Diana Manasseri were two African slaves that were brought to Italy (exact location is not known, but most likely near Sicily) and given new Italian names. After arriving in Italy, St. Benedict’s parents both converted to Catholicism and had their son, Benedict. Due to his parents’ “loyal service” St. Benedict was born free from slavery, but this didn’t mean his life was easy. Being a peasant, St. Benedict did not attend school, and instead spent his time working as a shepherd in his youth. Much of what he earned he gave to the poor. As he grew older, St. Benedict began to face some persecution for the color of his skin. Instead of becoming angry or upset, St. Benedict was known for being patient and dignified when these instances occurred. In fact, this humble response led to the leader of Monte Pellegrino, a group of hermits that followed the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi, to reach out to St. Benedict to ask if he’d join the order. St. Benedict accepted, leaving behind all of his earthly possessions and joining the order as a cook. When he was only 28 years old, Benedict became the leader of the order, due to his superior knowledge of scripture and his leadership skills.
In 1564 Pope Pius IV decreed that all independent religious groups must be affiliated with a religious order. After this decree, Benedict joined the Order of Friars Minor where he was assigned to the Franciscan Friary of St. Mary Jesus, where he again started as a cook. Over the years St. Benedict increased his rank, advancing to Master of Novices to eventually becoming Guardian of the Community, one of the major leadership roles. This was quite an accomplishment for St. Benedict, who remained to be a layperson due to his inability to read. (At the time, it was required that priests and religious figures be able to read and write). During his time as Guardian, St. Benedict encouraged and developed a more structured and strict Franciscan rule of life. St. Benedict was very well respected due to his very involved understanding of theology and scripture. He was seen as very wise and was often sought after for advice and console, as well as healing the sick and suffering. Later in life, St. Benedict returned to working in the kitchen, as cooking was something he greatly enjoyed.
St. Benedict passed away when he was 65 years old. He passed away on the exact date and time he predicted, further proving his higher connection to Christ. His death drew attention from across the continent, and King Phillip of Spain constructed a tomb to hold St. Benedict’s remains in the friary church. In 1743 St. Benedict was beatified by Pope Benedict XIV, and he was eventually canonized by Pope Pius VII. During the beatification, it was discovered that St. Benedict’s body was incorrupt. Today St. Benedict’s legacy lives on as he is the Patron saint of African Americans, and provides a source of strength for those facing racial prejudice.
In case you missed it, this Wednesday was October 4th—St. Francis of Assisi’s feast day! Let’s take a closer look at one of the world’s best known saints. Not only is St. Francis well-known, but he is also an extremely respected saint, and is even represented by Pope Francis, who took the saint’s name upon his installation as Pope in 2013. So what makes St. Francis so notable? Keep reading to find out!
Born in 1181 in Assisi, Italy, St. Francis was born into a life of luxury. His father was fairly wealthy from dealing in the cloth trade, and his mother was considered extremely beautiful. St. Francis’ family was certainly one of high social standing, which led to St. Francis being spoiled in his younger years. As he grew up, St. Francis lived the life of a sinner, being known as a rebellious teenager who was self-obsessed and prone to drinking and partying. Instead of following into his father’s footsteps as a cloth merchant, St. Francis instead dreamed of becoming a knight and fighting in epic battles. So when the war between Assisi and Perugia began in 1202, Francis immediately enlisted, thinking that his fantasies of becoming a knight would come to fruition. However, due to his complete lack of experience, St. Francis was quickly captured by enemy soldiers. Francis spent nearly a year as a prisoner in the enemy camp. While some might consider this the lowest point in St. Francis’ life, it is actually one of the most profound periods in his life.
While captured, St. Francis began to receive visions from Christ who told St. Francis to change his ways and heal the church, which at the time was rather corrupt. When St. Francis was finally released, he wasn’t the same man he was before. He began to spend most of his time in prayer and eventually he took a complete vow of poverty and devoted his life entirely to Christ. He began to preach around Assisi, and soon had 12 loyal followers. Sounds familiar right?
Now, this drastic change in Francis turned a few heads, especially those of his mother and father. As St. Francis’ fame grew to a global scale, his ties with his family were weakened. This tension grew until one day Francis stole some of his father’s cloth to pay for church expenses. His father was obviously upset, and the local bishop demanded that St. Francis return the money he bartered for the cloth. St. Francis returned the money, along with his clothing to his father and then stated “God is my only true Father.” That instance marked St. Francis’ last communicate with his parents.
After cutting of his connection with his parents, St. Francis left Assisi and began to travel from city to city preaching God’s word. During the height of his preaching, he was visiting over 5 cities a day! He was so passionate about his preaching that he even began spreading the word of God to animals on his travels, which many found extremely odd at the time. Little did he know that this would lead to his eventual patronage! Francis was a very powerful leader, gathering thousands of followers that would later be known as Franciscan Friars.
In 1224, St. Francis received the stigmata of Christ, making him the first saint to receive the holy wounds. About a year later, as St. Francis’ health declined, he returned to Assisi. By that time, people were already aware of his approaching sainthood, so Francis was guarded by the knights of Assisi to ensure that people did not try to steal relics or disturb him during his final days. St. Francis died the night of October 3, 1226 still bearing the stigmata of Christ. Just two years later, he was canonized as a saint in the Catholic Church. His legacy lives on in countless recorded miracles and his story shows us all how we are all called to leave behind comfort and convenience for a life dedicated to Christ, and how it’s never too late to turn from sin and turn toward Christ.
When one thinks of sainthood and the saints that have gone before us, we often call to mind images of perfect Catholics: baptized at birth, growing up at their local church, becoming missionaries, etc. In some cases, these perceptions are very true. But what’s more interesting is the fact that a majority of saints were actually converts—people who came to discover the faith later in life, or after the intercession of another saint or religious figure. Saint Kateri Tekakwitha was one such saint. Born in 1656, St. Kateri was a member of the Mohawk clan and lived in the village of Ossernenon (northern New York state). At a young age, St. Kateri’s family contracted small pox, resulting in the deaths of both her parents and siblings. St. Kateri herself was not left unscathed, as she would carry smallpox scars with her until her death. This was often a source of embarrassment growing up, and St. Kateri would often hide her face behind a blanket or cloth to cover the numerous scars.
After the death of her family, St. Kateri was adopted by her uncle, who was the chief of the Mohawk clan, and his wife. St. Kateri was described as a very patient and kind person, who was also a very skilled worker who contributed greatly to the clan. When St. Kateri reached the appropriate age, her aunt and uncle arranged marriages with several of the clan’s members, but each time St. Kateri refused. As she approached adulthood, St. Kateri befriended a local priest who instructed her on the Catechism, and at the age of 19 she converted to Catholicism, taking a vow of chastity and pledging to marry Christ alone. She was baptized under the name Catherine, for St. Catherine of Sienna. (Kateri is actually the Mohawk version of Catherine) The conversation upset her clan in several ways– not only was she still refusing to marry, but she was converting to a faith that many of the clan considered to be a product of sorcery. After this negative response from her clan, St. Kateri decided to move to a native Christian community in Montréal, Canada.
From there St. Kateri completely devoted her life to Christ. She would often partake in self-mortification, often in the form of fasting or burning herself. It was also rumored that she slept with thorns on her sleeping mat. She prayed often for the conversion of her Mohawk tribe, and prayed to Jesus and Mary consistently. Sadly, St. Kateri’s self-mortification led to her pre-mature death at the age of 24. After her death, it’s said that her facial scars disappeared, and that she appeared to three of her closest friends over the three days following her death. Since her death in 1680, St. Kateri has been credited with several miracles, including healing a boy with small pox in the 18th century, and the healing of a priest and nun shortly after. Once news of St. Kateri’s miracles circulated, people began gathering dirt from around her grave and wearing it in bags around their necks. One woman is known for saying that the relic saved her and her husband from disease. This continued for hundreds of years, but the miracle that would finally solidify St. Kateri’s sainthood took place in 2006 in Washington state. A young boy was suffering from an aggressive strand of flesh-eating bacteria. The boy’s parents had prayed to St. Kateri, and even enlisted the help of their friends and family to offer up intentions. One day, Sister Kateri Mitchell, a Catholic nun, came to visit the young boy and placed a bone fragment of St. Kateri on his skin. The next day the bacteria stopped spreading the boy began to recover.
Saint Kateri was officially canonized in 2012 by Pope Benedict EVI, after being beatified by Pope John Paul II. She was the first Native American to be recognized as a saint, and she is considered the patron saint of ecology and the environment.
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!