- Past Co-Chairman of the Cleveland Tall Ship Festival
- Past Grand Commodore of the Ohio Commodores
- Honorary chair of the Rotary club of Cleveland
- Honorary president of the Cleveland Rotary Club
- Past Chairman of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
- Past Chairman of the board of the Elyria Country Club
- Board member northern Ohio district export council (Nominated By US Secretary of Commerce)
- Founding Board member of the French American Chamber
- Founding Board member of the British American Chamber of Commerce
- Founding Board member of the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce
- Founding Board member of the Benelux Business Association
- Founding Board member of the German Roundtable
- Past president of the Cleveland World Trade Association
- Past board member of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association
- Past board member State of Ohio economic development Council
- Founding board member business advisory board Maine Maritime Academy, in Castine, ME
- Founding Board member Cleveland World Trade Association Foundation
- Founding board member North East Ohio Trade Network
- He was awarded the "Ordre National du Mérite" by the country of France
James M. (“Jim”) Craciun was born on August 31, 1951, and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. He graduated cum laude from St. Edward’s High School 1969. In 1973, he graduated from Cleveland State University with a Bachelor’s degree in business with a major in labor and industrial relations. In 1976, he became a licensed funeral director, and began working in his family’s business. Jim, with son Jonathan, brother Joseph and niece Alexandra manage, Craciun Berry and Corrigan Craciun Funeral Homes. Jim is a proud Romanian Italian American.
Jim married Marcy Rocawich, and together they had five children, Noelle Fitzpatrick (Jake), Jason (Monica), Jonathan (Michaela), Jesse and Nicolas, before her untimely death in 2010. Jim is the proud grandfather of 5.
In 1974, his odyssey unfolded. Jim smuggled bibles and catechisms into Communist Romania. So began his lifetime commitment to human rights. At an International Human Rights Conference in London in April 1977, he helped draft and sign a memorandum condemning the impact of the Helsinki Accords and it’s lies on the Soviet Bloc countries. This same memorandum was prepared and signed simultaneously in Romania and Czechoslovakia by courageous dissidents, who were all later imprisoned for this act.
Jim began his public speaking in 1982 as a member of the Metropolitan Speaker’s Bureau of Northeastern Ohio with his topic, “Life under Communism.” Jim was a founding member of the World Union of Free Romanians (WUFR) in 1984 in Geneva, Switzerland. He was Vice President of WUFR from 1987 to 2004. Jim advised the Clinton administration on January 13, 1995 on the enlargement of NATO.
In 1985, he was chairman of the anti-pornography campaign (Holy Name Society) that stopped local convenience stores from openly displaying adult magazines. From 1989 to 1991, he served as president of the Diocesan Union of Holy Name Societies covering 8 counties in northeastern Ohio and 245 churches.
Jim’s other Civic leadership has included serving as President of West Cleveland Jaycees in 1980, President of the West Cleveland Kiwanis in 1983, and board member of the West Side Ecumenical Ministry from 1985 to 1988. Jim was the co-chair of the Cultural Committee for the International Children’s Games in 2004. Jim served from 2002 to 2009 as the chairman of the board of the International Services Center, a United Way agency that resettles refugees.
He is past chairperson of Cleveland’s 2000 and 2001 International Folk Festivals in Playhouse Square. In 2006 Jim ran unsuccessfully for State Senate of Ohio in District 23. Jim was founder of Cub Scout Pack #541 of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School, in Cleveland, Ohio, where he also currently serves as Our Lady of Mount Carmel School Foundation president. Jim, today is honored to serve as vice president of the Cleveland Police Foundation, of which he was the incorporating secretary in 2010. He also proudly serves on University Hospitals ENT Council.
Jim was honored to receive the Freedom Award in 2007 from the American Nationalities Movement for his contributions to world peace, human rights, and his dedication to a wide range of community organizations.
Councilman Matt Zone inducted Jim Craciun into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame. In his acceptance speech, Jim mentioned the many mentors who influenced his life. Click on the white arrow below to watch the video of Jim Craciun's induction.
Basil M. Russo is the National President of the Order Italian Sons and Daughters of America (ISDA), having been first elected at the organizations biennial convention in Chicago in 2014. The ISDA is one of the largest Italian American organizations in the United States.
Under Basil’s leadership the ISDA’s new website and Facebook page have, in just 18 months, developed a following of 325,000 Italian Americans who look to the ISDA to remain connected to their heritage. The ISDA’s insurance and annuity company has also grown to be the largest Italian American fraternal insurance company in the U.S. with assets of over 100 million dollars. Basil has also initiated a new 32 page monthly newspaper, La Nostra Voce, to keep the ISDA’s membership educated and informed.
Due to his success in reenergizing the ISDA, Basil was offered a seat on the Board of Directors of the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF), in Washington, D. C. NIAF serves as the national spokesperson for the 18 million Americans of Italian descent, with both the United States government and the government of Italy. Basil was also recently elected to the position of Vice Chair of the National Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, which unites 40 of the largest Italian America organizations in the country.
Basil now holds leadership positions in three prominent Italian American organizations in the United States, and as such, is now regarded as one of the most influential Italian American leaders in our country.
At the local level, Basil has a long history of involvement with the Italian American community. He serves as President of the Justinian Forum, Cuyahoga County’s Italian American Bar Association, representing 300 attorneys and 29 judges of Italian American descent. He has served as chairman of Cleveland’s Columbus Day Parade for the past twelve years. Basil helped found, and serves, as Chairman of Cleveland’s Italian Film Festival, which has helped raise over 500 thousand dollars for the renovation of the Italian Cultural Garden in Rockefeller Park. Basil was also a founding member and trustee of the Northeast Ohio Italian American Foundation (NOIA), which has raised over 3 million dollars for charitable purposes. In 1995, Basil was instrumental in leading the effort to create the Bishop Anthony Pilla Italian American Studies program at John Carroll University.
As a native Clevelander, Basil ’s career has been as varied as it is impressive. He has served as Judge on the Ohio Court of Appeals, Judge on the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, for which he received the Excellent Judicial Service Award from the Supreme Court, and Majority Leader of Cleveland City Council. He also founded one of Cleveland’s best known law firms, Russo, Rosalina and Co., from which he retired in 2014. Basil also served as Executive Producer of the independent film Pieces, which was written and directed by his sons, Anthony and Joseph.
Basil and his wife Patricia have served as chairpersons of the Advisory Committee to the Department of Marriage and Family Ministry of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese. They are the proud parents of four children, Gabriella, an attorney who serves as the managing partner of Russo, Rosalina and Co., Angela, an accomplished television writer and producer, who also teaches at Case Western Reserve University, and Anthony and Joseph, who are successful directors, writers and producers of film and television. Basil and Patricia happily spend all their free time with their twelve beautiful grandchildren.
Basil Russo's daughter Gabriella and son-in-law Joseph Rosalina inducted Basil Russo into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame. In his acceptance speech, Basil spoke of the Italian community as well as the contributions that all immigrants have made to the US. . Click on the white arrow below to watch the video of Basil Russo's induction.
William (Bill) Miller
You would be hard-pressed to find anybody in this world who was more fascinated by and curious about the people of Cleveland.
And William F. Miller possessed a passion for telling their stories throughout his four-decade career as a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
His most beloved assignment was the 15 years he spent as the newspaper’s Ethnic Scene columnist, a position that allowed him to focus his journalistic talents on delving deeply into the ethnic communities of Greater Cleveland.
To understand William, know this: upon meeting somebody for the first time he would invariably ask, “What is your ethnic heritage?”.
It was a bit forward, yes, but always asked with warmth and genuine curiosity. A question from an exuberant man who believed one’s cultural roots were not only extremely interesting, but could tell you a lot about a person.
No judgement. No stereotyping. Just a desire to connect at a deeper level.
His commitment to understanding and enlightening others about the people of Northeast Ohio’s ethnic neighborhoods carried him far beyond just conducting interviews.
Miller craved to experience as much as he could about each nationality, immersing himself in his subject’s history, dance, song, language and cuisine.
He danced, sang and ate at the myriad of local festivals. When the music paused, he would ask questions. He would listen and learn.
Then he would return to his desk and write.
William’s columns and feature stories earned him the admiration and affection of Clevelanders. His vivid prose guided readers through the heart of each ethnic neighborhood. You could travel the globe by simply picking up your newspaper.
So, where did Bill Miller come from?
William was born in 1935 in the blue-collar town of New Kensington, Pennsylvania, to a mother with Polish blood in her veins and a father whose ancestors emigrated from Germany.
His journalistic career was inspired by a paper route at age 15 that exposed him to the ethnic neighborhoods of his community.
Soon the paper boy earned a position as photographer for the Daily Dispatch.
After high school, military service called, deploying a fresh grad to Japan, Korea and China with the U.S. Army.
He was fortunate to serve at a time of no combat. Instead of firing bullets, William was assigned to shoot pictures and movies as a military photographer.
Returning stateside two years later, William eagerly enrolled at Kent State University to proudly become the first in his family to earn a college degree.
While studying liberal arts and journalism, the young scholar met the woman he would soon marry--a 19-year-old German woman named Marianne Spaethling, who could match William’s energy, sense of adventure and fascination with people.
Bachelor’s degree in hand, William and Marianne moved to Chicago, where William would cap his formal education in with a Master’s Degree from the prestigious journalism program at Northwestern University.
When recruiters from a half-dozen of the nation’s biggest and best newspapers extended job offers to a promising young reporter, William chose the Cleveland Plain Dealer. His first day on the job: Labor Day 1961.
The journalist retired in 2001, leaving the articles for others to write, but remaining in close touch with the many friends he made throughout the years.
He never stopped asking questions. Never stopped dancing, singing and eating at the festivals. Never stopped immersing himself in Cleveland’s vibrant ethnic sea.
A stroke silenced the man’s booming voice in 2009 just before his 74th birthday.
William received nearly 100 journalistic and civic awards, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his foreign reporting about the fall of communism in Europe, received the highest medals of honor from the governments of Germany and Poland, and was inducted into The Cleveland Journalism Hall of Fame.
He is credited with playing an essential role in helping save and renovate the theaters that now comprise one of Cleveland’s great jewels, Playhouse Square. A plaque with Miller’s name is imbedded in a wall of the Palace Theater, along with the names of others who transformed the dream into reality.
As far as now joining other inductees into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame? You can be sure William is gleefully dancing a polka in heaven over this most coveted honor.
August Pust inducted Bill Miller into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame and Bill's widow Marianna Miller accepted the honor for her late husband. In her acceptance speech, Marianna told how Bill loved the ethnic people of Cleveland and they loved him. Click on the white arrow below to watch the video of Bill MIller's induction.
Since her arrival in Cleveland, Eugenia Stolarczyk has been an active member of the Polish community. She married Jerzy Stolarczyk in 1957 and with a special love for Polish music and folklore, the ambitious and hardworking couple began their radio career in 1961. During her broadcast career, Eugenia interviewed many outstanding Polish artists and scholars. Along with raising three daughters, Eugenia devoted herself nearly full-time to the popularization of Polish culture. She continues to do so today.
Eugenia is a lifetime member of the Polish American Cultural Center where she served on its board for nine years and is now in their advisory board, In 2006 she was honored and celebrated at a banquet for her 45 years of faithful service as the producer and host of the Polish Radio program, by the Polish American Cultural Center.
Eugenia was vice-president and served as the chairperson of the Cultural and Publicity committee for the Ohio Division of the Polish American Congress. . She was state president of the Polish Women's Alliance and is a member of the Polish National Alliance, the Polonia Foundation and the Polish Roman Catholic Union.
She was a board member for the International Services Center for 18 years and was honored for her dedicated and outstanding community service. For 9 years she served on the advisory board of the Catholic Social Serves and also served on the Child Care Panel of the United Way.
For 6 years Eugenia was a local correspondent for the Chicago based Polish daily newspaper "Dziennik Zwiazkowy" organized concerts, art exhibits, lectures and plays. She coordinated many events with the Ethnic Heritage Studies Program at Cleveland State University.
All of the above have led to many local TV appearances promoting Polish culture and tradition.
In 1982, Eugenia received the Polish Heritage Award from the Polonia Foundation for her outstanding service to Polonia. In 1995 Poland honored her with an Order of Merit/ Kawalerski Krzyz Orderu Zaslugi.
In 1999 the International Service Center celebrated her for her outstanding contribution to the community.
For decades in Cleveland, there was hardly an event in the Polish community without the participation of Eugenia and Jerzy Stolarczyk. . Sadly, Jerzy passed in 1983 and Eugenia continues the work they started together by airing their Polish program each Sunday on WERE AM.
Since 1988, as a result of her diligent efforts, Eugenia also produces a Polish program on public radio, WCPN 90.3 FM Ideastream, promoting Polish classical music and featuring interviews with distinguished guests. She continues her work on both stations serving the Polish American community. Eugenia can be heard on WERE 1490 AM on Sunday from 9-10:00 AM, on WCPN 90.3 FM 9-10:00 PM and also online at www.newstalkcleveland.com and wcpn.org.
Eugenia takes great pride in and is recognized for continuing the two oldest Polish American Radio Programs, first started in 1927.
Eugenia Stolarczyk was inducted by Polish Consul General Urszula Gacek from New York
Click on the white arrows to watch the videos from the 2016 Induction Ceremony. Make sure your speakers are on and note that you can maximize the videos to fill the screen.
Video 1: MC Dan Hanson of ClevelandPeople.com told the story of the legendary Polish song the Hejnal before the induction of Eugenia Stolarczyk at the induction ceremony of the 2016 class of the Cleveland International Hall of Fame. Then 12 year old Olivia Gutowski, dressed in traditional Polish costume, played the Hejnal on her trumpet.
Video 2: Debbie Hanson of ClevelandPeople.Com introduced Polish Consul General Urszula Gacek who came in from New York to induct Eugenia Stolarczyk into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame.
Video 3: Polish Consul General Urszula Gacek came in from New York to induct Eugenia Stolarczyk into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame. This was the Consul’s first visit to Cleveland.
Video 4: Eugenia Stolarczyk was inducted into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame for her many contributions to the Polish community including 55 years and counting on Polish radio.”Read
Arnie de la Porte
Charles A. Andre de la Porte, or Arnie de la Porte as he is known, was born and raised in the Netherlands. He is a graduate of de Kweekschool voor de Zeevaart, the oldest Nautical Academy in Europe, and a retired officer in the Royal Dutch Navy.
After his nautical career he became very active in international business first in Shell and later as Sales Director for a B. Elliot and Co., a large European machine tool company, followed by General Manager of McCulloch of Europe and In 1981, he became Vice President International of Ridge Tool and located to Elyria, Ohio. Here he Co-founded Hexon inc. where he specialized in export and turn-arounds
In 1996 Her Majesty the Queen of The Netherlands appointed Arnie as Her Honorary Consul for the State of Ohio.
Here is a partial list of Arnie's accomplishments:
His motto was: "Trading nations seldom go to war."
Arnie de la Porte was inducted by Lithuanian Consul Ingrida Bublys.
Click on the white arrows to watch the videos from the 2016 Induction Ceremony. Make sure your speakers are on and note that you can maximize the videos to fill the screen.
Video 1: Debbie Hanson of ClevelandPeople.Com introduced Honorary Consul of the Republic of Lithuania Ingrida Bublys to induct Arnie de la Porte into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame.
Video 2: Honorary Consul of the Republic of Lithuania Ingrida Bublys inducts Arnie de la Porte into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame.
Honorary Consul of the Netherlands Arnie de la Porte was inducted posthumously into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame. His son Peter accepted the honor and gave this acceptance speech stressing his father’s motto that ‘Trading nations seldom go to war.”