National Slovak Society

50th Anniversary
of the 19th Regular Convention
Youngstown, Mahoning County, Ohio
August 5-10, 1946
WENDELL S. PLATEK

The President of the National Slovak Society is invariably one of America's outstanding Slovaks, a prolific writer, a persuasive orator, a true humanitarian, a dynamic personality, a practical dreamer, and a tireless organizer and builder. That was true of Rovnianek, Ambrose and Mamatey. That is true of Wendell S. Platek, who was elected president at the Hazelton Convention in 1937, re-elected at the Ncw York Convention in 1941, and re-elected, by acclamation, at the Youngstown Convention in 1946.

He was born on October 6, 1897 at Horny Hricov, province of Trencin in Slovakia (then Hungary) the son of Joseph and Anna (Kostek) Platek. His father was an outspoken Slovak nationalist even when the outlook for a future Slovakia was darkest. His father spent several years in America in the early 80's and upon his return to the homeland was made a town trustee.

His father also served as representative of StĚ Vojtech's Society, an organization which fostered and promoted Slovak literary works at home and abroad.

Wendell obtained his primary education at Hricov. He graduated from the grammar school in 1909. His secondary studies were had at the high school in Zilina. Upon arriving in the United States in 1914, he worked for a time in and about Baltimore. During World War I, he was employed by the United States Emergency Fleet Corporation.

Ambitious as he was and yearning for a full and rounded education, his free time was spent at business college. He too, was and is, a Slovak nationalist. He was one of the founders of the Baltimore Assembly of the Slovak League of America, and its secretary for years. This assembly delegated him as its spokesman to their National Congresses in New York in 1916 and in Scranton in 1919.

It was his privilege and honor to become personally acqualnted with Dr. Thomas G. Masaryk and also with Gen. Milan R. Stefanik, while they were doing missionary work in America during the hectic days of World War I. During Stefanik's convalescence at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, he visited him frequently.

In the early 20's, he was employed at the Union Savings Bank in Pittsburgh. Again, he spent his free time furthering his education by attending the University of Pittsburgh for four years -- he specialized in business administration and finance.

Shortly after his arrival in America, he became a member of the National Slovak Society and also of the Slovak Gymnastic Union Sokol. While living in Pittsburgh, he served as secretary and later as president of the Western Pennsylvania District of the Sokol.

In 1925, he accepted the offer of the Roseland National Bank, near the outskirts of Chicago, to become assistant cashier. He remained with that institution till 1933. After that, he engaged in the business of general insurance in Chicago, for several years.

At the Bridgeport Convention in 1926, he was elected chairman of the Finance Committee of the Sokol, re-elected at the Binghamton Convention in 1930, and re-elected at the Philadelphia Convention in 1934. As such officer, accompanied by his wife, he visited Slovakia in 1932 and was received at Hradcany Castle by President Masaryk.

While in Slovakia, he became acquainted with Dr. Milan Hodza, who later became Premier of the Republic of Czecho-Slovakia.

While living in the middle west, he was honored with the presidency of the Western District of the Sokol. In 1933, he was honored with the secretaryship of the Czecho-Slovak group co-sponsoring the World's Fair at Chicago -- the honorary chairman was the late Anton Cermak, Mayor of Chicago.

Under his presidency, the National Slovak Society was rejuvenated and revitalized; district assemblies were established in the 26 states of the Union and the several provinces of Canada where the society has lodges; the quality of the society's investment portfolio was substantially improved; the society's solvency was greatly increased; the society again led triumphant -- as it had done in the years gone by, under Rovnianek, Ambrose and Malnatey -- the march of fraternalism on the North American continent.

The preservation and perpetuation of the National Slovak Society as the foremost fraternal beneficial society of the Slovaks in America ever was and is -- his goal.

He was one of the founders of the American Slav Congress -- chairman of the Slovak panel. During World War II, the mayor of Pittsburgh honored him with membership on the Civilian Defense Council. He was a member of and an energetic worker for lnany wartime committees, such as War Finances, American Red Cross and United Service Organization. He received several government awards for meritorious war work. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the Russian War Relief and President of the National Committee to aid Slovakia.

He was always active in almost every Slovak and Slavonic charitable enterprise.

In the early 40's, while Dr. Eduard Benes was occupying a professor's chair at the University of Chicago, he -- as the delegated representative of the Slovaks in America -- joined Msgr. Oldrich Zlamal of Cleveland and J. A. Cervenka, former city treasurer,of Chicago -- as the delegated representatives of the Czechs in America -- in a meeting with Dr. Benes, where the groundwork was laid and action inaugurated for the re-birth of the Republic of Czecho-Slovakia.

Government officials of high rank consulted with him constantly during thc war about Slovak and Slavonic problelns on this and the other side of the Atlantic. It was his proposal that brought about the war conference held on Septcmber 14, 1942, at Pittsburgh, of Slovak fraternals, newspapers and cultural organizations, under the auspices of the Office of War Tnformation.

The resolutions adopted at that conference by the 50 or more leading Americans of Slovak ancestry, calling for a united front in the war effort and for the re-creation of the Republic of Czecho-Slovakia are historic documents -- among the greatest contributions of the Slovaks in America to the war effort and to the preservation of the Slovak nation according to the letter and the spirit of the Atlantic Charter and the Four Freedoms.

Naturally, as the President of the National Slovak Society, he has played a prominent role in the fraternal life of Pennsylvania, as well as America and Canada. He is a member of the Executive Committee of the Pennsylvania Fraternal Congress. He is, and for years has been, chairman of important Standing Committees in the National Fraternal Congress of America.

During former Premier Milan Hodza's stay in America, he collaborated with him for the perpetuation of the Slovak nation within the framework of the Czecho-Slovak Republic on the basis of "ja pan, ly pan".

He is held in high regard by the Slovak National Council, the governing body of Slovakia since the re-birth of Czecho-Slovakia. Just recently, he was honored with the chairmanship of the National Committee-on-Arrangements for the speaking tour in America shortly to be made by the Council's Delegation, consisting of Dr. Jozef Lettrich, Ladislav Novomesky and Rt. Rev. Msgr. Paldan.

He has done much writing under the pen name of "Slavomil". There is scarcely a Slovak newspaper in America in which his writings have not appeared. In 1918, the short story "Tabatierka" won for him a coveted literary prize.

On February 12, 1927, in Chicago, he was married to Marie Alma, the daughter of Andrew and Mary Hrometz -- a lifetime Narodniar. A son, christened Jerome, was born of this marriage, 12 years ago.

It is the hope and the prayer of the membership, that he will long continue as president, for in his wise and strong hands, the National Slovak Society is bound to move onward and upward for God, for country, for humanity.

John A. Willo

The National Slovak Society is very active in America today. For the latest information on the National Slovak Society visit the official National Slovak Society Web Site "Where Fraternal Benefits And Financial Security Have Met Since 1890".

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