Fr. Gene Wilson: A Local Leader of Faith

Cleveland is lucky to be home to many influential African American leaders. Spanning across many generations, organizations, and industries, these leaders have helped shaped our region. Reverend Gene Wilson, CPPS. was one of these great leaders. As the first African American to be ordained as a priest in the Diocese of Cleveland, his story is one of true devotion to Christ. Keep reading to learn more about this remarkable man.

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Wilson was born in Charleston, West Virginia on May 18, 1928. Soon after he was born his parents, Luther Lee and Hilda Wilson, decided to move to Cleveland. While Wilson traveled to several different states throughout his career, Cleveland would always remain to be his home town. At the age of 22, Wilson entered into the Missionaries of the Precious Blood. By the age of 30, Wilson had earned his bachelor’s degree from Saint Joseph’s College in Rennsselaer, Indiana and was ordained a priest on May 28th of that same year.

After his ordination, Wilson devoted himself to parish ministry at St. Adalbert Church in Cleveland. Following a few years of service, Wilson decided to further his education and moved to Washington, D.C. where he attended Catholic University and received master’s degrees in Library Science and Spirituality. After a brief time working as a librarian, he returned to parish ministry. This time, he visited parishes around the country—mainly in California. While on the West Coast, Wilson took part in the formation of the Province of the Pacific, and is credited for his work in entering new cultural communities in the area. After several years of this missionary work, Wilson returned to Ohio at the age of 78 and served as a senior associate pastor of St. Mark Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. While there, he was known for presiding at healing masses and bringing the Black Consciousness movement to his parish. In 2009 he began ministry at the Sorrowful Mother Shrine in Bellevue, Ohio, which is sponsored by the Missionaries of the Precious Blood. Sadly, Reverend Wilson passed away at the age of 88 on March 30, 2017 in Cleveland, OH. He is buried at Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland (Section 92, Lot 1301C, Grave 2).

Reverend Gene Wilson was known for his cheerful and joyful attitude, and his deep dedication to Christ and the Holy spirit. As the first African American to be ordained a priest in the Diocese of Cleveland, he helped pave the way for countless other men pursuing the priesthood. His life proves to us all what a large impact an individual can make on their community.

Information from: http://cpps-preciousblood.org/2017/03/fr-gene-wilson-c-pp-s-1928-2017/

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Memorial Day: Honoring Those Who Lost Their Lives In Service

 

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a day dedicated to remembering the lives lost while serving in the military. First called Decoration Day, this holiday was established after the Civil War to decorate graves with flowers. The Catholic Cemeteries Association takes pride in honoring those who gave their lives in service, and we respect the contributions they made for our country. We are proud to have buried many Medal of Honor recipients here at our cemeteries; two of them even buried right next to each other at Calvary Cemetery. Follow the links to learn more about these respected individuals.

Frank J. Petrarca

William Foster

John R. Towle

Celebrate this day by praying for all those who lost their lives in service.

“O God, by whose mercy the faithful departed find rest, look kindly on your departed veterans who gave their lives in the service of their country. Grant that through the passion, death, and resurrection of your Son they may share in the joy of your heavenly kingdom and rejoice in you with your saints forever. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Prayer gathered from: https://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=1452 

Post written by Mike Freiberg

 

 

 

Anton Grdina: Faithful Community Leader

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.    Anton_Grdina.jpg

Photo Credit

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).

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Post written by Katie Karpinski

Frankie Yankovic: America’s Polka King

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.

 

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Frankie Yankovic

 

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.

 

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One of Yankovic’s albums

 

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!

Information gathered from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankie_Yankovic
Post written by Katie Karpinski

What’s In a Name?

In this beautiful month of June, everything is in full bloom, kids are finishing up with school, vacations are being planned, gardens are being planted and we look forward to celebrating Father’s Day.  There are so many different terms of endearment we use to refer to our fathers: dad, daddy, pops, papa, father or yes, even sir.  Each name evokes different emotions: endearment, respect, love, and possibly fear.  We all can remember hearing or saying, “Just wait until your father gets home!”

When my father died, it had a tremendous impact on my life.  We had lost our patriarch, the provider, the leader of our large family.  I had lost my confidant, my supporter and my sounding board. I felt less secure, more vulnerable and less care free.  Our family was not complete anymore; my mother was now a widow and living on her own.  I felt lost.  Through prayer and time, I have worked through that grief, but on Father’s Day, I still miss Papa.

We also call upon our heavenly Father in so many ways: Abba, God, Lord, Father, Christ and I AM.  These, too, may evoke different emotions. Since my father has died, I find myself approaching our Lord, as I would have my dad.  I confide in Him about my fears, my hopes, my sadness, and my regrets. Jesus is my greatest supporter and a wonderful listener.  He is also a perfect disciplinarian so gentle and so abundant in his mercy.  It is such a comfort to me to know that I have two fathers in Heaven!

Nancy Romaine

Bereavement Coordinator

Catholic Cemeteries Association

Diocese of Cleveland