HISTORY OF MARY STAR OF THE SEA COUNCIL # 4752
On May 15, 1958, the local weekly newspaper, The Grand Island Dispatch, carried the following news item:
'A Knights of Columbus Council is being organized on Grand Island. Several meetings have been held to lay the groundwork. If interested, contact Mr. Joseph Plewinski, telephone BRIDGE 3130'. This was the first public notice of this new organization. The meetings referred to in the newspaper were held in the homes of the late Eugene Bucher and James Dysinger. These two men were very active in forming the new Council. They personally made visits to the homes of parishioners of our Church, St. Stephen, received applications for membership and obtained transferees from Councils in Buffalo, the Tonawanda's and Kenmore. The first meeting was held in the basement meeting room of St. Stephen Old Church on February 2, 1959. Mr. Edward Kinney was elected temporary Chairman and Richard O. Robinson was elected temporary Secretary. There are 44 Charter Members and their names appear on the 50-Year old Charter.
The name, Mary Star of the Sea, was chosen as the Council's name, after having been the name of the Ferry Village summer Church supported by St. Stephen Church. Construction of this church was completed in 1913 and the first Mass was celebrated on July 4, 1913. Operation of the summer Church ended in 1948. The name was then unused until selected by our Council in 1959. At a later meeting, permanent officers were chosen. The first officers were: Grand Knight James Malaney; Deputy Grand Knight Patrick Carroll; Chancellor, Mr. Thomas Tierney; Treasurer, Mr. Anthony Kustich; Advocate, Joseph Conboy; Inner Guard, Mr. Donald Crowell; Outer Guards, John Signer and George Ivancic and Chaplain, Reverend Rupert Wright.
Our Charter, approved and dated March 25, 1959, officially allowed us to operate legally as a Knights of Columbus Council, as required by various laws governing fraternal organizations. We were given the number 4752 at that time since we were the 4752nd Council in existence within the United States.
Subsequent meetings were held at a local public restaurant, Del and Herb's, beginning May 21, 1959. On September 17, 1959, the Club moved its headquarters to the local American Legion Hall, formerly known to old Island residents as 'Mary Star of the Sea' Church, and known later as the Grand Island Masonic Lodge. The Council began its first building fund at this time. By selling $100 Building Bonds, over $4,200 was raised to support future building requirements.
In June of 1960, the Council was fortunate to be able to lease the former home of the retired Erie County Sheriff, the late Frank Offermann. This beautiful stone mansion was located on the tip of the Island with the skyline of Buffalo in the horizon. Finally, the Council had enough room for its needs, such as a kitchen and room for meetings and committees. The foyer had a large stone fireplace and on the second floor a Chapel was built. Nevertheless, this old house was in need of repairs and restoration; the members were required to roll up their collective sleeves. As the home was rented unfurnished, members donated furniture, bar equipment, curtains, kitchen equipment, a piano and much more. The Council will forever be grateful to the pioneers who gave up so much of their time and effort in this endeavor. On many nights brother knights, their wives and children worked in the building doing all sorts of repairs (electric, plumbing, floor tile, etc).
After the Grand Opening of our new home, numerous compliments came from other Councils and neighbors. Fraternalism and good times became the watchwords of the Council. As a result, the membership increased rapidly.
On November 26, 1960 the Charter was formally presented to us by State Deputy Symons at a party held at the Edgewater Hotel located on Grand Island. The Charter bears the following names: Patrick Carroll, Carl R. McClure, Harold Weber, James Niland, Donald Crowell, Franklin B. Pinzell, Joseph Conboy, Thomas Tierney, Ralph Gabarro, Richard Niesen, Joseph Wylegala, R. Moran, William Gasbarre, John F. Young, George Ivancic, Richard Sepanski, Richard Robinson, Edward Kinney, J. Fred Conrad, Carl Verbanik, Ted P. Dunbar, Lawrence James, John Signer, Joseph Jerge, Raymond Knavel, Raymond Killian, James Malaney, Robert P. Hamlen, Harry L. Jerge, Joseph M. Soprano, Louis Madia , Anthony Kustich, Lawrence P. McManus, James Dysinger, Arthur Lettie, Edwin Swan, John R. Messmer, Fred F. Angelo, W.A. O’Brien, Paul Ungaro, Eugene Bucher, William Burns, Edwin Pfohl and Reverend Rupert Wright.
The Ladies Auxiliary formed on July 5, 1962, has been a great aid in spiritual, financial and social ways.
Auctions, rummage sales and parties held by them have many times added to the good fortune and success
of the Council. Their first President was Mrs. Mary Clifford, the wife of one of our Past Grand Knights,
Michael Clifford. The monthly fish fries were handled by the auxiliary at that time. Also in 1962, the Council supported the parish "living rosary" for the May Crowning.
On January 14, 1965, with the money raised from the Building Fund Drive sponsored by the Catholic Club, eight acres of land were purchased for the council's new home on Whitehaven Road. In 1965, the Council obtained permission from Supreme Council to work with the Masons Lodge and jointly supported Brotherhood Dinners and golf outings. Proceeds from these events went to local Charities.
On July 14, 1966, with the aid of the Building Fund Drive money and the proceeds from our weekly bingo game, held at the old Bell's market place, we signed a contract for construction of our present home. Crea Construction Co. of Grand Island was chosen as the primary contractor. The offices of Pfohl, Roberts & Biggie provided the expertise in the design and construction of our building.
Ground was broken on July 31, 1966. Financing was arranged by Mr. Edward Kinney, with funds coming from the Council, the Catholic Club building fund and Sander Roofing (who provided us with a reasonable mortgage to complete the financing of the project).
Construction began in early September 1966, and the Council moved into the completed building on January 1, 1967. Thanks to the hard work, dedication and many hours put in by our members, the goal to finally have a permanent home was accomplished. The first meeting was held in the new building on January 20, 1967.
The building was officially dedicated on April 22, 1967 by the Rev. Richard Graeber the Assistant Pastor of St. Stephen Church. On that day the following words were included in the welcoming address: "The Knights of Columbus has planted its roots in the soil which lies beneath us and we stand here today to take our place in this community and to serve its people the best of our ability". As a result of these words and subsequent actions of Community Service in 1968, the Town of Grand Island awarded a Certificate of Appreciation to the Council for its service to the Community. In 1979 the Chamber of Commerce chose the Knights of Columbus as an Outstanding Organization Award for that year.
On July 4, 1976, the Council participated in the Grand Island Independence Day Parade. Since 1976 was the Bicentennial year, the membership had a fantastic experience decorating the float and marching with it in the parade. The council continues to be represented in the parade annually. The Albert Schoenle Memorial for Deceased Members was dedicated on October 10, 1976. With this memorial, the flag pole which still stands today was raised and secured. As a gesture of friendship, the Masonic Lodge donated the original bell from Mary Star of the Sea Church. The positioning of the bell completed the Memorial. (In 1976, the Masons owned the building that was the former summer Church 'Mary Star of the Sea'.)
On January 29, 1977, a snow storm known to many as "The Blizzard of '77" stranded many travelers on Grand Island. Our doors were opened and many stranded travelers were provided with food and lodging for the night in the council hall. Kindness and brotherhood were in evidence during this arduous time. In 1978, the Albert Schoenle Squire Circle was formed and Steve Forster was elected its first Chief Squire. The Circle participated in many Church, community and youth related activities. As our Squire Circle matured, Adam Peters became our first Squire to hold a State Office. He was Treasurer and then Deputy Chief Squire. Three of our Past Chief Squires then went on to become the State Chief Squire. They are Christopher E. Gworek, Joshua Liddell and John Szczepanski. These young men all did an outstanding job in running the 1,200 member State program.
On February 8, 1980, a fire caused $60,000 in damage to the Council building. Meetings had to be moved once again to St. Stephen old church hall. The Grand Island Fire Co. also helped by letting us use their hall for catering that had been previously booked. On May 1st the Bar Room was reopened for meetings and socializing. The hall was remodeled and a new heating / cooling unit installed on the roof, replacing what was called the Old Monster on the back wall of the hall. In late December, thanks to the efforts of many, the hall was reopened for bingo, catering and parties. We also managed to pay off the building mortgage by December 31. Now the hard-working Bingo and Catering Committees could go back to work as the primary means of financial support for the building.
In June of 1982, the kitchen was expanded and new equipment was purchased and installed. This helped the Catering Committee improve the service they provided. In 1987, the picnic shelter finally became a reality in our back grove area. The expansion of the building for equipment and miscellaneous storage was completed on June 12, 1989.
Mary Star of the Sea Council has earned the Star Council Award four times in our history. This award is the highest the State Council has to recognize the Knights and their Ladies in any council for all their hard work and participation in four key areas. The requirements in church, community, council and youth activities are many. The Star years are; 1959-1960 James Malaney GK; 1976-1977 Denis Dzielski GK; 1992-1993 William Gworek Sr. GK; and 1995-1996 Robert Liddell GK.
Members of this council have also been involved in many regional and state positions within the inner workings of the Knights of Columbus. Some of these include positions on the Indoctrination Committee, the Oratorical Committee, the Youth Committee and the State Squires program to name a few.
Not only has the Council allowed free use of its building to the Golden Agers on a weekly basis, but also for many years, to the Boy Scouts, Little League Football, Red Cross Blood Drives and many other Community, Fraternal, and Charitable Organizations. We have actively participated with the Neighbor's Foundation, in both representation and donations. During these past years, we had contributed funds from our Bingo Account to help with the charitable needs of our Community. Currently, the Charity Committee hosts soup nights and chicken and biscuit nights. The proceeds are donated to many needy organizations in Western New York.
For eleven years, starting in 1973, the Council hosted a satellite station for the Western New York Variety Club Telethon Program benefiting the Rehabilitation Center of Children's Hospital. Mike Kelly and Jerry Dubiel were long time co-chairmen of this event. Over 20 hours of live entertainment, raffles, auctions and games of chance kept guests busy during the weekend. The event typically raised at least $3,000 or more each year which was dedicated to help handicapped children. In 1977, a record of $8,000 was raised. Joe Osinski then started our involvement with the Kids' Day Newspaper program, which continues today.
During the mid 1990's, working with the SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving) Chapter at Grand Island High School, the Council sponsored three New Years Eve Teen Dances. These were Drug / Alcohol Free dances, which were huge successes.
These are but a few of the programs our Knights of Columbus Council has participated in over the past years. With the continued efforts and support of our members and the help of God, 'Mary Star of the Sea Council' #4752 will continue providing help and service to the Church, Community and its people for the next 50 years.