George Voinovich: A faith-filled political career

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.


Senator George Voinovich


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.

george voinovich
Senator George Voinovich looks over items on display from the Voinovich collection along with family members after the dedication of the George V. Voinovich Seminar Room and senatorial papers collection on Saturday morning, October 1, 2011 on the fifth floor of Alden Library. (Photo by Patrick Traylor/Ohio University Libraries)

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.


Voinovich introducing President George W. Bush during one of Bush’s presidential campaign rallies. 


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!


Visit Senator Voinovich’s Grave here


John R. Towle: A young hero

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.


John R. Towle’s official military picture;  Photo Credit




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.


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U.S. Navy ship named after John R. Towle


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.



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Post written by Katie Karpinski

Gene Carroll: A local talent legend

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.


Gene Carroll
Carroll next to his creative partner, Glenn Rowell


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.


Post written by Katie Karpinski



Bill Wambsganss: A baseball champ

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.

Wambsganss after game 5 of the 1920 World Series

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 standing next to the three players he outed during his historic triple play.



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!

William A. Wambsganss
Visit Wambsganss’ Grave




Post written by Katie Karpinski

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.

Visit Boiardi’s Memorial  




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.   


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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.  


       Visit Frank Lausche’s grave here.      

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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