The Croatian Fraternal Union, a mutual benefit society inaugurated on September 2, 1894 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has grown into an organization with 100,000 members. The Home Office in Pittsburgh, P.A houses a valuable Croatian Cultural Room and Museum and promotes cultural and social activities for Croatians.
The CFU has been serving its Croatian brothers and sisters for over 110 years. It has provided and continues to provide services such as insurance, scholarships and humanitarian aid to the people of the United States, Canada, the homeland and throughout the world. It is the largest and the only Croatian organization of its kind outside of Croatia. The CFU membership has always responded generously whenever and wherever Croatians have been in need.
In late 1949, Frank and Fanika Znidarec opened their home to a handful of energetic, sports-minded young men to meet and discuss the possibility of opening an English speaking CFU Lodge in Toronto. The Canucks CFU Lodge 975 received its Charter on February 13, 1950.
The Lodge’s first meeting was held on March 5, 1950. Nominations and election of officers took place and the following are on record as the first Officers of the newly formed Lodge 975: President Joe Simac; Vice President Mike Segina; Secretary Peter Grbelja (Peter Garbel); Recording Secretary Josephine Klemencic; Treasurer Stanley Znidarec (Michael J. Stanley); Sick Committee Kay Bolk; Board of Trustees, Mike Pezell, Doreena Kristich, Jerry Derich with Mike Pezell as President of the Board; Sports Director John Anzin; and Social Activities Joyce Lukachev, John Znidarec, Bill Krajacic, Lucy Derich and Caroline Bolf.
LODGE #975 was founded !
LODGE #975 Meeting held in 1950 at the home of late Mr. and Mrs. Frank Znidarec, from left: Mr. and Mrs. Brajdic,CFU Sport Director, visiting from the CFU Home Office in Pennsylvania .
Front row sitting, from left: Peter Garbel, Matt Turina, Mike Segina and Margie Znidarec Ringer. Back row from left: Frank Braidic, Mike Predovich, Mrs F. Braidic, Joe Simac, Mike Stanley, John Znidar and
Frank Znidarec Sr.
The very first social event was a dance held on April 1, 1950 and soon thereafter the lodge joined the CFU Baseball League.
The records reveal enthusiastic participation of lodge members over the ensuing months and years. Picnics, moonlight picnics, dances, dinners, bowling and baseball tournaments took place at regular intervals. Membership increased with many people still active in lodge duties on a sustained basis.
In the late 1950’s, interlodge meetings were held to discuss the building of a CFU Home in Toronto but the construction of a CFU building never materialized.
Lodge records for the 1960’s are unavailable. Lodge officers would welcome any information that could be forthcoming in this connection.
The Lodge had about 250 members by 1969.
On many pages of the Records Books, Lodge articles published in the Zajednicar are affixed. One of the “page-fillers” appearing occasionally at that time was – C – Cooperation, F – Fosters, U – Unity. Perhaps this is one filler that should re-appear.
The perusal of Lodge notes across the years yields some interesting observations. The expenses involved in hosting functions, for example, changed radically. One outstanding item was the Maternity Benefit of $10. The caring that members had and have for each other comes across as a significant feature of their bonding. Our pioneers were steadfast in their commitment to the lodge and provided many services to promote its welfare. These included providing their homes and halls for lodge meetings.
Activities throughout the 1970s continued in the form of picnics, banquets, etc. and contributions were made regularly in response to various requests to assist our needy
The 1980s were years of a formidable expansion. In April, 1982, a successful fundraising banquet got the junior tamburitza ensemble underway. Picnics and concerts of CFU celebrity guests from Croatia took place and by September the first lesson of the Canadian Croatian Tamburitzans of Toronto was in session. The Lodge owes a great debt of thanks to Michael Loncarich and the late Drago Mavrin for their undying efforts in those early months.
The Lodge and the Canadian Croatian Tamburitzans had their greatest moments when they hosted the Junior Tamburitza Festival in the City of Toronto in 1984 (still the greatest number of participating groups at 33), and then when they participated in the 1986 Festival in Zagreb.
Lodge 975 was and continues to be an active participant in the Ontario Federation of CFU Lodges founded 30 years ago. For that one day each year, the day of the Fraternal Picnic, we are all fraternal members of the Croatian Fraternal Union regardless of individual lodges. The Ontario Federation is living proof that C-Cooperation, F-Fosters,U-Unity.
During the 1990s, the Lodge became involved in fundraising for victims of the war in Croatia.
Since September 1992, our Lodge has sponsored, and continues to sponsor, many children through the CFU’s DORA Foundation. In 1991 we donated $1,500 to Caritas Zagreb for the Zagreb orphanage; in 1991 a donation of $500 was made to the CFU Humanitarian Aid Fund; in May, 1992 a bake sale allowed us to send $416 to Caritas for Jastrebarsko in fond memory of an unforgettable day spent in Sv. Jana in July of 1986; In September , 1992 a donation of $100 was made to the Damir Tkalcevic Fund; in October, 1992 $400 to CRO-MED; In May, 1993 a donation of $150 was made to the CFU Humanitarian Aid, in September, 1993 a donation of $100 was made to the CFU Humanitarian Aid in memory of our Late Brother John P. Plesh, National Secretary/Treasurer of the CFU; and the Lodge was proud to contribute $1,000 to the Project Croatian Embassy – Canada; a recent donation of $100 was made to the Croatian Canadian Library and $100 to support Croatian language studies at the University of Toronto.
In 1992 Canucks CFU Lodge 975 merged with Jadran CFU Lodge 832. This fusion bears the name “Canucks-Jadran” and retains the Canucks original numerical designation.
In 1999 the Lodge named Michael J. Stanley as “Man of the Year” with a testimonial banquet held in his honour. This testimonial dinner led the way for the Ontario Federation of CFU Lodges to take suit. Lodge 975 member Marijan Kruzic was honoured as Man of the year 2000 and then Linda Pecanic Battiston as Woman of the Year 2001.
The Lodge Officers for 2005 are President Steve Vrkljan, Vice President Michael J. Stanley, Secretary/Treasurer Linda Pecanic Battiston, Recording Secretary Carol Vrkljan, and President of the Board of Trustees Dominique Stanley. The Lodge membership stands at approximately 400 members.
The Croatian Fraternal Union takes pride in promoting the culture, the music, the customs, the language, the ambiance and the heritage of Croatia. Its archives make it possible for current members to trace their ancestry.
Lodge 975 works through its Executive Committee and through is members in monthly meetings.
Gracious thanks are due to all members responsible for promoting the success of CFU Lodge 975. A special heartfelt thank you goes out to our CFU pioneers who had the foresight which enables us today to say with pride that we are members of the Croatian Fraternal Union of America !
Submitted by: Linda Pecanic Battiston
For the history of the CFU of America founder: Click Here