We are taught as Catholics to find a passion and use that passion to serve God and others. This certainly is no easy fete, but there are a few people who have seemed to accomplish this goal exactly. Ben Stefanski, a well-known business man and devout Catholic was able to turn his business into an opportunity to serve those in his local community, helping them accomplish their own dreams. Read more to learn about this influential Cleveland figure.
Ben Stefanski was born in January 1902 in the Broadway neighborhood in Cleveland. This neighborhood was well known for its strong Polish-American culture, making it the perfect place for Stefanski’s parents, William and Anna, to settle down. Staying in the Cleveland area throughout his life, Stefanski attended Fullerton School as well as South and East Technical high schools growing up. Stefanski then decided to pursue higher education and attended Cleveland Business college and even participated in extra course work from the American Savings and Loan Institute. Little did Stefanski know that this education would result in the founding of one of the most successful saving institutions in Cleveland’s history.
In 1937, Stefanski married Gerome Rita Rutkowski. While honeymooning in Washington, D.C. the newlyweds applied for a federal charter. This charter was designated to found a new savings and loan company. Within the following year, the Third Federal Savings and Loan Association of Cleveland was established. With Stefanski as its leader, the association flourished. It’s stated that the core mission of the association was (and still is!) “helping the working man attain a home of his own.” This mission, which led to the association’s great success, led to some criticism in the 1980’s as some suggested that the association was too “old fashioned.” However, Third Federal proceeded to grow throughout the decade. By 1995 the association boasted 21 offices and an estimated $4.6 billion in assets. Stefanski remained leader of the association until his retirement in 1987.
While Stefanski is certainly known for his success in the field of business, he was also known for his devotion to family, community, and faith. He and his wife had five children: Ben, Hermine, Abigail, Floyd, and Marc. Marc would take his father’s place as Chairman of Third Federal upon his retirement. As a proud Polish-American citizen, Ben Stefanski was honored by both the Polish American Congress and the Polish Legion. As a devout Catholic, Stefanski donated one million dollars in 1965 to the Catholic High School Building fund. Stefanski passed away in October of 1991 and is buried at Calvary Cemetery (Sec#8, Lot#95, Grave#4). His name and legacy live on in the association he built, as well as the people who he served throughout his lifetime.
Post written by Katie Karpinski