Nova Cechie No. 247 Celebrates 100 Years

Nova Cechie No. 247 Celebrates 100 Years

Jan 11, 2017

by Betty Shaw, Secretary/Correspondent of No. 247

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Members of the Slavie Chorus: Theresia Molaski, Bessi Valousek, Emma Bejcek, Thereia Vavra, Pauline Kolaya, Amelia Vilimek, Antonie Cmach, Francis Bartosh, Anna Kowalec, and director Joseph Vilimek (1960's).

On June 11, 1916, Anton Petlach and Frank Wondal of No. 242 Spilberk of Owosso, organized Nova Cechie No. 247 in Flint, Michigan, with 16 members. Dues were set at 5 cents per month. Original officers were: President John Knoblock, Recording Secretary Charles Hasman, Financial Secretary Joseph A. Eckert, and Treasurer Louis Lacina. World War I was in progress. It is noted in historical records that the lodge was voted number one in its efforts focused on liberation and helping others. Long after the war, the sisters of No. 247 were knitting and sewing for people of other countries that were devastated by war. Early members provided the wherewithal for the library and the Slovak Gymnastic Club (Sokol).

Josef Eckert, former treasurer, was a violinist, humorist, and founder of the Slavie Choir. In A Brief History of Lodge Nova Cechie #247, printed in the July 1966 Fraternal Herald, it was noted that his last heartfelt wish was that the new generations would follow their ancestors. In keeping with his wish, Joe Eckert, son of Josef Eckert, served as treasurer for many years. There was a special birthday party for his 90th birthday in 2006, indicating that he was born about 1916, just as the lodge was being organized.

Ed Rozsypal, born in 1922, is an early member of No. 247, and veteran of WWII. He remembers that members were mainly immigrants from the "old country" in Europe (currently known as the Czech Republic or Czechia).

According to Ed Rozsypal, a current active member, former president and vice-president, and former chairman of the National Board of Directors of Western Fraternal Life, meetings were not always congenial, especially when discussing world politics. On the lighter side, there were English classes at Flint International Institute, ethnic dances, ethnic balls, operettas, bazaars, and holiday parties. These activities were immensely enjoyed by members through the 1920's and 30's.

“To this day, many of us cling and sing to the words and melodies that were so popular in those days,” Ed Rozsypal reminisced.

Another popular activity, with teens especially, was the Sokol gymnastic organization. Exhibitions carried members to local events and even to a Sokol Slet in Chicago.

New members taught their children to read and write the native language, and some of this second generation didn't learn English until they went to elementary school.

Members met in rented facilities mainly on the north side and east side of Flint in Tildren Hall, Mississippi Hall, and the St. John Street facility. They continued using rented facilities, as lodge-building plans were delayed, through the 40's.

“To this day, many of us cling and sing to the words and melodies that were so popular in those days,” Ed Rozsypal reminisced.

In 1939, a five-acre plot of land in the Mayfair subdivision of Flint was purchased. The property was in a wooded area, isolated from newly built homes. An outdoor platform and restrooms were built for dancing and picnics in the summer months, but there was no roof.

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Frances Simcik, Olga Miller, Stephie Barta, Mary Herka, Elizabeth Rozsypal, Agnes Kolder, Veronica Skukalek, Joan Kolder, and Leopolda Suchanek prepared the food for the 50th Jubilee Celebration held in Flint, MI (1960's).

The start of World War II, with the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, caused building plans to be put on hold. After the war was over, in 1952, interest-free loans from members in the amount of $11,255 were solicited. Chair was Frank Sukany, the deputy chair was Jerry Herka, and the builder was Paul Otiespka. Along with a $9,000 loan from the Home Office and a lodge-sponsored Harvest Festival profit of $800¸ there was a total of $21,025. (Based on statistics of Dollar Times, that means $187,658 in today’s money)!

Built by volunteers, the hall opened for business on July 26, 1953. After only nine years of lodge activities and rentals to the public, ceremonies to celebrate total payoff of the mortgage were held on July 22, 1962.

Ed Rozsypal noted that in order to meet the expense of doing business, we were supported with profits earned through fraternal activities and renting the building out for weddings and anniversaries. The highlight was the annual Mother's Day dinner, which featured ethnic foods prepared by member cooks. It was held for 27 consecutive years, through 1983 due to its popularity. The building was sold that same year.

Since 1983, the lodge has maintained itself through dinner meetings, annual Christmas parties, District and State Meetings, and community activities.

Presently, Nova Cechie No. 247 has over 400 members. Some are local, but many members are scattered across Southeast Michigan. This happened because in 1933 Hvezda Moravy No. 337 of Blissfield merged into Nova Cechie and in 1986 Renaissance No. 250 of Detroit merged into Nova Cechie. The lodge has also welcomed new members not associated with those mergers.

The current leadership is made up of President Kathy Svrcek-Hetfield, Vice President Bob Shaw, Secretary/Correspondent Betty Shaw, and Treasurer Janice Rozsypal Schlytter. Both Kathy Svrcek-Hetfield and Janice Rozsypal Schlytter, daughter of Ed Rozsypal, have received 50-year membership pins from Western Fraternal Life. Present Chair of the Trustees is Janice Rozsypal Schlytter.

Some events in recent years are well remembered. Annually, the lodge presents a monetary gift to Jana’s Old Country Polka Time Radio Show to promote Western Fraternal Life and provide Polka music in the community. A children’s project provides Christmas cards to those in military service who cannot be home for Christmas each year. Clothing drives and coffee drives provide assistance to street ministries in Flint.

In 2000, Betty Shaw was recognized both by the Western Fraternal Life Home Office and by Michigan Fraternal Organizations as Fraternalist of the Year.

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Louis B. Traycik II, John Uradnecek, Charles Suchanek, Joseph Eckert, Jerome Herka, Edward Rozsypal, James Bejcek, Frank Sukany, Antonin Kolaja, and John Sedlacek (1962).

In 2003, other Michigan lodges joined with No. 247 to deliver a semi-truck full of Boyds Bears to be distributed to hospitals, police forces, firefighters, and charitable organizations. The bears were provided by the Boyds Bear Company to be used as gifts for children.

In 2004, Nova Cechie No. 247 received National Honorable Mention from Join Hands Day for the combined efforts of the lodge and Michigan State University Extension of Genesee County to provide a community garden on Pasadena Avenue in Flint. This project lasted for several years with lodge members working with Junior Master Gardeners to plant the garden. The lodge also provided a camera, hoses, and materials for a bean house as part of the project. Presently, a committee is making plans with Zonta Club of Flint to jointly work on projects to help the children that live in Zonta House, a residential facility of Whaley Children’s Center.

Please join with Nova Cechie No. 247 in celebrating 100 years of existence.

Material for this article was graciously provided by Ed Rozsypal, who provided the lodge history as he remembered it; Tom Bradley, who researched the history of mergers of lodges; Yvette Vitu, who translated the 1966 Fraternal Herald article from Czech to English; and all the people who shared their knowledge with the writer. Information was compiled by Betty Shaw, Secretary/Correspondent.



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