Inductees – Europe

    Joe Valencic

    Joe Valencic

    Joe Valencic

    Joseph Valencic is a dynamic and creative presence within Cleveland’s Slovenian-American scene. His enthusiasm for all things Slovenian inspires others to discover and celebrate the uniqueness of their own cultures. Joe sees the commonalities and synergies between Slovenian organizations in Cleveland, across the United States, and in Slovenia. He engages groups to build upon their strengths, attract volunteers, and develop programs and exchanges for mutual benefit. He believes culture, especially music, can build bridges between people of all backgrounds.

    Joe’s involvements have had a positive impact on the city’s cultural profile. He is a founder and past President of the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame, which showcases the style of American dance music that emerged from the city’s Slovenian and nationality neighborhoods. Joe is Vice President and directs the museum, music archives and promotions. He serves as the long-time President of the Cleveland Federation of Lodges of the Slovene National Benefit Society (SNPJ), America’s largest Slovenian organization, which operates SNPJ Farm in Kirtland, a summer music destination since 1939.

    Joe represents Slovenians in the United States on the international advisory board of Slovenia’s Office for Slovenes Abroad. When Slovenia declared independence in 1991, he led the national communications campaign of United Americans for Slovenia to lobby for U. S. recognition.

    He considers Slovenians in the U.S. a part of Slovenia’s history. His films, lectures and exhibitions document the Slovenian-American experience. Joe has been invited to speak to Slovenian communities in thirteen states, as well as in Slovenia and Slovenian regions of Italy and Austria. He wrote or co-wrote documentaries for RTV Slovenia, notably “Polka! The Movie,” about Slovenian music and sausages in America, and “100% Slovenian,” stories shared by Slovenian-American women. He directed “Many Voices, One Heart,” which profiles his parish of St. Mary of the Assumption in Cleveland’s Collinwood neighborhood. He writes English subtitles for films from Slovenia.

    His events create connections between countries and cultures, such as the recent jazz concert in the Slovenian Cultural Garden and Slovenian-American authors at Cleveland Public Library with Slovenia’s Consulate General in Cleveland. He has been guest curator for exhibitions in Northeast Ohio, Italy and Slovenia. Joe’s exhibition on Slovenians in 21st century America for the Archives of Slovenia will soon come to the U.S. He has helped organize appearances by Slovenian artists at Severance Hall, Cleveland State University and Slovenian centers in the area.

    Every Saturday, Joe broadcasts in English and Slovenian with music and news from Slovenia at 1:00 on WINT 101.5 FM and 1330 AM, and streaming on 247PolkaHeaven.com. Joe emcees special events, such as Slovenian Independence Day at Cleveland City Hall. He hosted the annual awards ceremony of the Slovenian Academy of Arts and Sciences for Slovenian television.

    Cleveland offered the Valencic family a new start after difficult years following World War I in the Slovenian lands. Then as now, more Slovenians lived in the city than anywhere outside of Europe. His parents, Josephine and Joe, raised their children, Mary Ann, Cecilia and Joe, in a bilingual home and encouraged their involvement in Slovenian activities. A summer stay with relatives in Slovenia at age five left a lasting impression upon Joe, as did membership in the Slovenian Junior Chorus, directed by his sister, vocalist and writer Cecilia Dolgan. The family sponsors a voice scholarship at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

    Joe attended Collinwood High School and Phillips Andover Academy and holds degrees from Kent State University. As a marketing professional, he worked with Penton Media, Thomson Corporation, and International Management Group, where he promoted the Cleveland Browns, the Cleveland Grand Prix and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, as well as personalities and events around the world. At Cleveland State University, Joe was Director of Public Relations and Publications. He began his career as curator of exhibitions at the Western Reserve Historical Society. He served on the executive boards of the International Services Center and the Cleveland Bicentennial Commission, where he co-chaired the committee on communities and neighborhoods.

    As a lifelong Clevelander, Joe appreciates how the city offers its diverse communities the opportunities, resources and technology to express and uphold their cultural identities. That’s part of the spirit of Cleveland. Joe thanks the Cleveland International Hall of Fame for this honor.


    Joe Valencic inducted on June 7, 2022

    Covid-19 forced the always sold out induction ceremonies to be cancelled in 2020 and 2021. We tried to induct the 2020 class virtually but it was not the same. So once we were able to gather together again, we included the 2020 class in the induction ceremony for the 2022 class on June 7, 2022. The event at Windows on the River was a sell out and the 2020 class finally got their moment in the spotlight.

    On the evening of June 7, 2022 Joe was finally honored in person and was inducted by Cleveland City Councilman and fellow Slovenian Mike Polensek. Watch the video of Joe Valencic being inducted into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame by Councilman Mike Polensek.

     


    Councilman Mike Polensek inducts Joe Valencic into the CIHF

    Mike Polensek hands Joe Valencic his CIHF award

    Joe Valencic gives his Hall of Fame acceptance speech

    Congratulating the new Hall of Fame inductee Joe Valencic


    Congratulations Joe!

    ”Read

    Taras Szmagala

    Taras Szmagala

    Midge and Taras Szmagala
    Midge and Taras Szmagala

    Taras Gregory Szmagala, Sr. was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1933. The son of Ukrainian immigrants Dmytro and Bronislawa Szmagala, Taras (known as “Tary”) grew up immersed in Cleveland’s rich Ukrainian-American community. He graduated from John Marshall High School, and went on to receive his undergraduate degree from Allegheny College and a masters degree in education from John Carroll University.

    A lifelong Cleveland resident, Tary took on leadership roles within the national Ukrainian-American community at a young age, serving as President of the Ukrainian Youth League of North America in the 1950’s. He then followed in his father’s footsteps by serving 24 years as a member of the board of the Ukrainian National Association (“UNA”), the largest Ukrainian fraternal benefit society in the United States. It was through his involvement with the UNA that he met his future wife, Katherine (“Midge”) Herman of New Jersey; Tary and Midge married in Cleveland in 1959. More recently, Tary was active with the Ukrainian Museum-Archives in Cleveland, serving on the board, as board chair and as executive director for many years.

    Tary’s civic involvement has not been limited to the Ukrainian-American community, however. He started his career with Republic Steel, and then became an educator and administrator in the Parma City School System. During those years, he caught the political bug – he volunteered with Sen. Robert Taft, Jr.’s successful Senate campaign in 1964, and Richard Nixon’s successful Presidential campaign in 1968. In March, 1971, he joined Sen. Taft’s staff as his Cleveland office director. Shortly thereafter, Sen. Taft loaned Tary to the Nixon 1972 re-election campaign, where Tary served as the national director of the campaign’s Nationalities Committee.

    After Sen. Taft’s loss to Howard Metzenbaum in 1976, Tary joined the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority as its director of government affairs. He went on to spend more than 30 years with the GCRTA in a variety of roles, including Acting General Manager, having retired as the director of External Affairs. During his tenure, Tary was a tireless advocate for both GCRTA and the City of Cleveland both at the Statehouse and on Capitol Hill.

    Throughout his professional life, Tary never stopped being involved with Ukraine and the Ukrainian-American community. And it was a friendship that Tary made during the Nixon years that allowed him to play a role in the U.S. recognition of Ukrainian independence. After Ukraine declared its independence from the U.S.S.R. in 1991, Tary called the former chair of the 1972 Republican Platform Committee – President George H.W. Bush – to ask that he and other Ukrainian community leaders be able to share their views on the importance of Ukrainian independence. Formal U.S. recognition followed shortly after that meeting.

    Tary also had the honor of representing the Ukrainian-American community at the 1991 dedication of the memorial to the victims of Babyn Yar in Ukraine.

    Tary and his wife Midge live in Bentleyville, OH, next door to their son, Taras Jr., daughter in law Helen Jarem, and grandson Gregory.


    Taras Szmagala inducted on June 7, 2022

    On the evening of June 7, 2022 Taras was honored with induction into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame. Watch the video of Taras being inducted into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame by Andrew Fedynsky.

     


    Taras Szmagala being inducted into the CIHF

    Andy Fedynsky inducts Taras Szmagala into the CIHF

    Taras Szmagala acceptance speech

    Taras Szmagala and Andy Fedynsky

    Everyone came to congratulate Taras at his table


    Congratulations Taras!

    ”Read

    Anda Cook

    Anda Cook

    Anda Cook
    Anda Cook

    Anda Cook was born in Riga, capitol of Latvia, but when she was 9 years old, left with family to escape the advancing Soviet army. The family expected to return back home after the war, but it was not to be. Seven years were spent in Germany, first escaping heavy bombing, and after the war, a multitude of Displaced Persons` camps.

    After intensive screening and tests, Anda and family were allowed to come to the United States, arriving in 1952. The family`s sponsor was in South Dakota, so the first residence in the US was in Sioux Falls of that state. Anda had to work to assist with the family`s finances (besides Anda, there were two younger siblings, and her mother and grandmother). First job was as a nurse`s aide in a hospital, then as language difficulties became lesser, she worked as a waitress. Sioux Falls had a small Latvian community, and Anda participated with many activities, including acting in the Latvian theater and playing the piano at events.

    As family circumstances changed, in 1955 Anda and family came to Cleveland. She did not know a soul, but found the Latvian community and joined some youth organizations, also volunteering as a Girl Scout Leader. Her first job in Cleveland was with the American Steel and Wire as a price analyst. And then she met the love of her life, Bill Cook (they have been married for 61 years). She became an American citizen three days before their oldest child was born in 1963. Education has always been an important aspiration, and even with the sporadic attendance at a variety of schools, (including Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota), at age 50 she earned a Master’s Degree from Case Western Reserve University Weatherhead School of Science.

    While staying home for 14 years raising their family, daughters Lisa and Inta and son John, she started volunteering. First with the PTA, while president with that organization she initiated amblyopia testing at Louisa M. Alcott school, and engaged the local police for training students in bicycle safety at the school`s playground. She has been a League of Women Voters` member since 1970 and as president of that organization she successfully worked with the Ohio state legislators to establish a separate Housing Court in Cleveland as well assisting the League to bring the Presidential debates to Cleveland.

    Returning to work, she joined a newly established fair housing organization, The Cuyahoga Plan, Inc., where she stayed for 16 years. During that time she was recognized with the Joe Battle award by the Cleveland Area Board of Realtors and the Eleanor R. Gerson Leadership in Social Justice by the Greater Cleveland Community Shares. .

    In 1990 she was invited to become executive director of Living in Cleveland Center, Inc. An organization that promotes residential choices in the City of Cleveland when the trend was to move to the suburbs. In that position she designed many programs like the Buying into Cleveland Home Show, Continuing Education classes for real estate professionals, and progressive dinners in Cleveland neighborhoods.. When she retired, then Mayor Michael R. White presented her with the Key to the City.

    Among the many volunteer activities, Anda has served as Foreperson of the Cuyahoga County Grand Jury, has served on the boards of the Citizens League, Young Audiences, Cuyahoga County Welfare Board, and has received resolutions and proclamations from Congressman Dennis Kucinich, the Cuyahoga County Commissioners, Cuyahoga County Sheriff Gerald McFaul, and others. She was also recognized with the Artist of the Year Award for her photography by Tyrian, Inc. In 1990 she was a member of the then Governor of Ohio, Richard F. Celeste, Trade Commission to Moscow. Anda is listed as Who`s Who of American Women.

    She was a member of the group that worked to establish the Latvian Cultural Garden, and served as vice president on the Board of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation. In 2010 Anda initiated a change for the format of the iconic One World Day, from an event hosted by just one of the gardens to all of the gardens in the Federation participating, chairing the event for the next three years.

    Anda has been active in the Cleveland Latvian community, has co-authored a book, Mūzikas Mozaika, and served 10 years as Chair of the Cleveland Latvian Concert Association. As a board member of the Latvian Cultural Association, TILTS, In November, 2018 she received a Certificate of Appreciation from the American Latvian Association. After Latvia regained independence from the Soviet occupation, she conducted workshops at the University of Latvia and was invited to be a presenter at the International Latvian Science Congress, July, 1991 in Riga. Anda writes for the internationally distributed Latvian newspaper LAIKS.

    Anda is humbly thankful for the honor bestowed on her this evening, and congratulates the other recipients. She also thanks the Greater Cleveland Community for allowing her to participate in so many areas of community service. And most of all, Anda thanks husband Bill for his continuous support.


     Anda Cook inducted on June 7, 2022

    Watch the video of Anda Cook being inducted into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame by Dagmar Celeste.

     


    Anda Cook at Induction Ceremony

    Dagmar Celeste inducting Anda Cook

    Anda Cook receiving her CIHF award from Dagmar Celeste

    Anda Cook giving her acceptance speech

    Anda Cook with her granddaughter


    Congratulations Anda!

    ”Read

    Margaret Lynch

    Margaret Lynch

    Margaret Lynch
    Margaret Lynch

    Margaret Lynch has served as Executive Director of the Irish American Archives Society since 2008.  She had been a founding Board member of the Society since its inception in 1994. 

    As Executive Director, she researches, develops, and presents talks, displays, walking tours, and other programming related to the history of the Irish in Cleveland.  She helped to spearhead the commissioning of a sculpture in Cleveland by noted Irish artist Rowan Gillespie.  Titled “Fighting Heart,” the sculpture group commemorates world champion boxer Johnny Kilbane, a Cleveland son of Achill Island immigrants.

    Margaret Lynch and Gerry Quinn
 at the Johnny Kilbane statue
    Margaret Lynch and Gerry Quinn at the Johnny Kilbane statue

    She also researched and wrote a history of the Irish in Cleveland as seen through the lens of Cleveland’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which dates back to 1842.  The resulting book, The Day We Celebrate: 175 Years of Cleveland’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, was published by the Irish American Archives Society in collaboration with the United Irish Societies of Greater Cleveland. 

    For her work on The Day We Celebrate, she received the “Outstanding Services to the Irish Diaspora” award at an annual conference sponsored in November 2018 by The Irish Echo, as well as The William F. Chambers Memorial Deputy Directors Award bestowed in April 2019 by the Unites Irish Societies of Greater Cleveland.

    In addition, as a free-lance writer, she has managed arts education projects for a variety of cultural institutions in Cleveland and written plays about the immigrant experience.  She has a PhD in Literature from the University of Chicago and did her undergraduate studies at Marquette University.  She is the mother of three daughters. Her grandparents were immigrants from County Mayo.” 


    Covid-19 forced the always sold out induction ceremonies to be cancelled in 2020 and 2021. We tried to induct the 2020 class virtually but it was not the same. So once we were able to gather together again, we included the 2020 class in the induction ceremony for the 2022 class on June 7, 2022. The event at Windows on the River was a sell out and the 2020 class finally got their moment in the spotlight.

    Margaret Lynch inducted on June 7, 2022

    On the evening of June 7, 2022 Margaret was finally honored in person and was inducted by Gerry Quinn. Watch the video of Margaret Lynch being inducted into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame by Gerry Quinn.

     


    Gerry Quinn inducting Margaret Lynch

    Gerry Quinn gives CIHF award to Margaret Lynch

    Margaret Lynch Hall of Fame acceptance speech

    Margaret Lynch and Mary Lynch

    Margaret Lynch with Marie Leffel and Marilyn Madigan

    Three Hall of Fame'rs
    Margaret Lynch, Gerry Quinn and Ken Kovach

    Mary Lynch and Pat Monroe


    Congratulations Margaret!

    ”Read

    Paul Burik

    Paul Burik

    Paul Burik

    Paul Burik

    Paul Burik was born in the city of Budvar – yes, the namesake of Budweiser Beer, in what is now the Czech Republic. He escaped with his father from Czechoslovakia in 1968 after the Soviet invasion. Mr. Burik attended Kent State University where he received a degree in architecture. Paul spent much of his professional career working for the City of Cleveland as Chief Architect. There, he also served on the Landmark’s Commission and the Streetscape Committee. He retired in 2010.

    Paul is past president of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation – umbrella organization of the 30 nationality gardens and currently serves as Vice President. He is Cleveland Chapter President of  “Svaz Vedy a Umeni”, aka SVU – Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences, organization dedicated to advancing the understanding of Czech, Slovak and Rusyn cultures. Paul is also a member of Sokol Greater Cleveland – Czech athletic and cultural organization, where he serves on the cultural committee. He is a member of Cleveland Bratislava Sister Cities and Carpatho-Rusyn Society.

    In his home town of Avon, Mr. Burik is past president of the French Creek Foundation, an organization which he co-founded 25 years ago to improve and promote the down-town area of Avon. He also served as chairman of the Planning Commission there, developing the town’s master plan and zoning regulations.

    Paul also volunteers with the youth at the Lorain Sailing and Yacht Club, teaching sailing. He is a past rear commodore, vice commodore and commodore of that club.

    Paul with his wife Fran have a combined family of 5 adult children and 8 grandchildren. They both enjoy gardening, cooking and travel.

    Paul was inducted by Chris Ronayne (University Circle President)

    Click on the white arrow to watch the video as Master of Ceremonies Chris Tanaka, news anchor of Channel 19, introduced University Circle Incorporated CEO Chris Ronayne who inducted Paul Burik, past president of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation and delegate of the Czech Garden,  into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame.

    University Circle Incorporated CEO Chris Ronayne inducts 
Paul Burik into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame.
    University Circle Incorporated CEO Chris Ronayne inducts
    Paul Burik into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame.

    Chris Ronayne and Paul Burik
    Chris Ronayne and Paul Burik

    Paul Burik gives his induction speech 
at the Cleveland International Hall of Fame
    Paul Burik gives his induction speech
    at the Cleveland International Hall of Fame

    Paul Burik gives his induction speech 
at the Cleveland International Hall of Fame
    Paul Burik gives his induction speech
    at the Cleveland International Hall of Fame

    Paul Burik gives his induction speech 
at the Cleveland International Hall of Fame
    Paul Burik gives his induction speech
    at the Cleveland International Hall of Fame

    Paula Tilisky and Fran Burik
    Paula Tilisky and Fran Burik

    Back to the 2019 Cleveland International Hall of Fame Page

    ”Read

Menu Title