Western Fraternal Life :: A Family Connection Discovered

A Family Connection Discovered

Nov 18, 2015


By Helen Abramson



Photos of the castle paintings by Frank Joseph Fryzek.

Feature stoy photo-color.jpg

 Janice Conklin (center) recieved a picture album of the castle pictures from a member.

Last spring, I wrote an article about the history of the Bohemian National Hall here in Meadowlands. It was published on March 20 in, Hometown Focus, a paper out of Virginia, MN.

As soon as the paper had been distributed, I began to receive phone calls. People who lived in towns surrounding Meadowlands called to ask about this historic building. They were Czechs and had no idea such a place existed so near to them.

Janice Conklin of Mt. Iron, told me that her mother’s maiden name had been Fryzek and she and her brother were interested in learning more about the man who had done the decorating of our hall. All they knew was that their grandfather, Karel Fryzek, had a brother who was an artist.

Several years ago, Deborah Fryzek Andrews, a granddaughter of that artist Frank Joseph Fryzek, came from the Twin Cities area to see our hall. She and her parents had never seen this work done by her paternal grandfather. She shared a history of Frank Fryzek.

I made copies of that history and sent them to Janice Conklin and her brother, Ron Roubal of Duluth.

Information in that history affirmed that Frank Fryzek was their great uncle. It told that in 1904 at the age of 24, Frank left his parents and four siblings, and his homeland of Czechoslovakia to follow older brother Karel Fryzek to the United States of America. Neither Frank nor Karl ever returned to Europe. Frank lived in Omaha near Karel and his family for a few months, then continued his journey to Ord, NE. At first he worked as a hired man on a farm. In 1905, he decided to start up his own painting and decorating profession that lasted for over 50 years. In 1910, he married Bessie Fier and they enjoyed over 50 years of wedded bliss living the majority of their married life in the Ord area. They had 2 daughters, 5 sons, 12 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren.

It was in December of 1929 that Frank and Bessie left Ord for a village of around 100 people called Meadowlands, MN, to paint the National Hall, Meadowlands ZCBJ Lodge. They settled on a farm about four miles out of Meadowlands. During the first four months of 1930, he painted the stage curtain, three flats for the stage, and fifteen castles from the old country on the walls. After completing his painting, the family returned to Ord where Frank resumed his painting business.

Frank Joseph Fryzek passed away on March 17, 1961 at his home in Ord, NE, and is buried on the west end of the Ord Bohemian Cemetery.

Janice and Ron were excited to learn that their great uncle had lived so near to where they now reside. I was deeply honored that I’d been able to help them make this connection.

I invited them to attend the 80th anniversary dinner of our lodge on July 25. Ron and his wife were unable to attend, but his two daughters came to join their Aunt Janice and view the hall. Diana Roubal Devine came from Grain Valley, MO and Laurie Hernandez came from Victoria, MN. Laurie is a professional photographer and took many pictures. Janice’s daughter, Gwyn Roos, her husband Paul, and their daughter, Willa, of Virginia, MN, also joined us. They all enjoyed the traditional meal of Kielbasa sausage and sauerkraut served over dumplings with plenty of gravy, and a large variety of kolache for dessert.

Lodge members and other guests at this anniversary dinner were excited to meet these Fryzek relatives. A member put together a memory album of castle pictures that Frank had painted, with a photo of the outside of the hall on the front of the album. This was presented to Janice as a gift from our lodge.

Category: Czech Connection

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