Ben Stefanski: Business, Family, and Faith

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.

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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

8 Attainable Resolutions for the Bereaved

While we are already a few weeks into 2018, it’s never too late to adopt some new year’s resolutions. For those who have lost a loved one, new year’s resolutions come down to personal preference. For some, the idea of a resolution may seem too overwhelming at the time– similar to starting a new project or chore in the midst of extreme sorrow. For others, resolutions serve as an inspirational and motivational tool that helps them cope with grief and grow as a person. Whether or not you choose to take on a new year’s resolution is entirely up to you and where you are on your grief journey. However, if you are interested in taking on a new year’s resolution, keep reading for some ideas!

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  1. Recognize your strengths

Losing a loved one can install feelings of weakness or helplessness. Start the new year by making a list of your personal strengths, your blessings, and your dreams. Take action and leverage your strengths to accomplish new goals and cope with your grief.

  1. Slow down

Make sure that you aren’t using a busy schedule or work life to cope with your grief. Not only does that make for an unhealthy healing, but it can also be emotionally and physically exhausting. Make a promise in this new year to slow down and take more time for yourself.

  1. Attend a support group

Support groups are a great way to cope with your grief. Sharing experiences within a support group is a way for all involved to grieve in a healthy and constructive way. (Interested in joining a support group? Click here.)

  1. Try a new hobby

It’s never too late to learn something new. If you feel stagnant or if you feel stuck, pick up a new hobby and see where it takes you. Whether it’s photography, sewing, or hiking– find something new to learn and enjoy to bring some excitement in your life.

  1. Get 20 minutes of sunlight or fresh air each day

Fresh air and sunlight can do wonderful things for the mind, body, and spirit. While it may be tempting to stay indoors all day, try to get outside for at least 20 minutes each day. Even if it’s just in your backyard.

  1. Speak your loved one’s name

Keep the memory of your loved one alive in the new year by speaking their name often. The key to grieving is not to forget, but to remember with hope that you will one day be reunited.

  1. Start a journal

Journaling can be a great way to cope with grief and express your emotions. Think of journaling as a personal letter to God. What are you feeling? What are your hopes? Share these with him and see where the journey takes you. Try to make it a daily habit—God likes to hear from us every day.

  1. Be open to happiness

While there will always be a part of you that misses your loved one dearly, never forget to be open to happiness and new experiences. Pay attention to the blessings God has placed in your life, big and small.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

John Seelie: Pearl Harbor Survivor

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.

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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.

Information gathered from: https://pearlharbormemorials.com/survivor-john-seelie/ 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

 

John Joseph Bernet: Railroad Tycoon

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!

 

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John Joseph Bernet was born on February 9, 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 1916, 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, Lot #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.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

 

 

Meaningful Music: THY WILL by Hillary Scott and the Scott Family

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

I’m sure we’ve all recited this passage at one point or another in times of great stress. It doesn’t matter how kind you are, how selfless you are, or even how faithful you are– no one is immune to the pain that life brings. Suffering can be hard to comprehend at times– why would God, who is supposed to love us, put us in so much pain? What purpose does suffering serve in His plan? Why is it necessary?

We can turn to scripture (such as the verse above) to help guide us on our search for answers, but in the end it all comes down to trusting God and His will for our lives. Hillary Scott and the Scott Family use their music to address topics such as this. Their song “Thy Will” has grown to be incredibly popular, expressing the pain and desperation so many of us have felt throughout our lives.

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The song begins with Hillary opening up to God:

I’m so confused
I know I heard you loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here  

This first verse is applicable to so many of us who listened closely to God, who remained faithful and devoted to Him– yet still experienced pain and suffering. It’s these instances that are the hardest to understand. How could following God lead us astray? Hillary expresses this confusion saying:

I don’t wanna think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of your plan
When I try to pray
All I’ve got is hurt and these four words 

Often, when we are going through a painful experience we feel distant from God. We may even be angry that He let something so awful happen to us. As Hillary so openly reveals, we may never understand the reasoning behind God’s will. But that’s why we have faith. The chorus of the song, taken directly from the Our Father, is a repeated reminder of the foundation of the Catholic faith– having full trust in God’s will and not our own:

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done 

Take some time to listen to the song. Read the lyrics and reflect on your own experiences.

 Post written by Katie Karpinski