Awards at ACPC Annual Convention, 2008

Pictured L-R: Dr. Charles F. Merbs receiving Distinguished Service Award from Pres. Ted Mirecki

Dr. Merbs’ doctoral major at the University of Wisconsin was anthropology and medical genetics.  He taught at the University of Chicago for 10 years before moving to Arizona State University, where he currently is Professor Emeritus.  Dr. Merbs specializes in studies of the human skeleton, especially the areas of pathology and trauma.  He has worked more with ancient skeletons than modern, but as a forensic anthropologist he has aided medical examiners on cases involving personal identification and homicide.  His recent extensive studies of the remains of Gen. Casimir Pulaski established that the remains found in the Pulaski Monument at Savannah, Georgia are, indeed, those of Gen. Pulaski, despite a lack of DNA evidence.  Dr. Merbs is proud of his Polish heritage.

The Cultural Achievement Award is given to a prominent American of Polish descent for outstanding achievements in the field of artistic or cultural endeavors.  The Cultural Achievement Award for 2008 was presented to Barbara Kathleen Herbich by 1st VP Bernadette Wiermanski. 

Pictured L-R: 1st VP Bernadette Wiermanski presenting Cultural Achievement Award to Barbara Kathleen Herbich.
Pictured L-R: 1st VP Bernadette Wiermanski presenting Cultural Achievement Award to Barbara Kathleen Herbich.

Ms. Herbich has been making documentary films for more than twenty years.  Since the Academy Award nomination for A Stitch for Time in 1987, she has gone on to direct and produce a number of acclaimed documentaries for Public Television and Discovery Channel. 

For the past ten years she has been working on a historical documentary Nazi Persecution of Polish Christians, which tells the forgotten story of persecution of Polish Christians by the Nazis during World War II. 

Ms. Herbich is a graduate of Columbia University, President’s Fellow, Master of arts.  She is a founder of Jadwiga Productions, Inc. whose many projects include, in addition to the work in progress Nazi Persecution of Polish Christians,  History of the Jews and Catholics in Poland (Jewish/Catholic co-existence through the centuries), and USSR Art (first ever Sotheby’s auction in the Soviet Union; recipient of a Cine Golden Eagle and a Rockefeller Grant).

The ACPC Founders Award is given to an ACPC member whose exceptional contributions to the growth of the organization on a national or local level has earned him/her the gratitude of the organization.  The ACPC Founders Award for 2008 were presented to Barbara Lemecha and Henrietta Nowakowski by 2nd VP Peter Obst.

Pictured L-R:  Pres. Ted Mirecki, Barbara Lemecha (award recipient), 2nd VP Peter Obst (presenter of Founders Award)
Pictured L-R: Pres. Ted Mirecki, Barbara Lemecha (award recipient), 2nd VP Peter Obst (presenter of Founders Award)

Barbara Lemecha was born in Poland and came to the U.S. at age 18 with her family. She married an immigrant from Poland and they settled in Michigan.  Until her two children finished high school, Barbara was very involved with their schools as a room mother, Girl Scout and Boy Scout leader, worked at the school library, and served for five years on the Parent Faculty Assoc. at the children’s high school.  Subsequently, she enrolled in college to study English, psychology and the humanities and also over the years she was an active participant in community affairs, taught Catechism at her parish and worked on fund raising projects with the Altar Society.  After the children were off to college, Barbara pursued other interests.  She completed Continuing Education Credit Hours through the Michigan Assoc. for Activity Professionals, and started a new career as an Activity Director in a Retirement Residence where she worked for many years.  Meanwhile, her daughter has taken a position as a physician at a hospital’s emergency ward and her son, who is the father of her only grandson, is employed as a telecommunications engineer.

Mrs. Lemecha joined the Friends of Polish Art in 2002 and took on the job of recording secretary.  The following year she attended the ACPC Convention and was elected to the Board.  That same year Barbara was assigned the Natl. Conf. for the Social Studies (NCSS) project for 2004, which she accepted with great enthusiasm and commitment.  Each year, under the auspices of ACPC Barbara, along with co-chair Henrietta Nowakowski, set up a booth at the annual NCSS conference, which is visited by a great many educators and curriculum decision makers from across the US. 

Barbara and Henrietta appreciate Polonia’s understanding that we need to preserve and stimulate interest, to engage students and to motivate them to explore history.  The information that they provide, with the help of other Polonia organizations and individuals, will hopefully cultivate students’ curiosity, which will put them on a journey of discovery.  Our hope is that this curiosity will lead them to learn about the contributions of Polish physicists, engineers, chemists, poets, composers, freedom fighters and others that made their mark in history.  This year they plan to continue focus on Jamestown’s 400th Anniversary among other notable historical facts.  The conference participants will be seeking materials for the following school terms and 2009 marks the 70th Anniversary of WWII.  Barbara’s and Henrietta’s plan is to present information about the Polish contributions to the Allied Victory.

Henrietta Nowakowski was born and raised in Detroit MI of Polish pre-WWI immigrants.  She is the product of 12 years of Felician Sisters’ tutelage, having been taught Polish for most of those years.  Henrietta received a BS degree from Wayne State University’s College of Pharmacy.  She is a member of several local and national professional organizations and has worked in hospital, clinic and community settings.  She has volunteered for World Medical Relief, a local charity of international scope, helping with their prescription program for seniors, and has traveled to Poland with Americares delivering medical supplies.

Pictured L-R:  Pres. Ted Mirecki, Henrietta Nowakowski (award recipient), 2nd VP Peter Obst (presenter of Founders Award)
Pictured L-R: Pres. Ted Mirecki, Henrietta Nowakowski (award recipient), 2nd VP Peter Obst (presenter of Founders Award)

Henrietta’s Polonian life started with membership in the Polish Falcons of America, where she has been a member since early childhood.  She has held various offices in the organization at local and state levels and has been awarded the Falcon’s Bronze, Silver and Gold Stars of Merit.  Currently, Henrietta is Vice-President for American Affairs of the Polish American Congress, Michigan Division.  She became involved with the Friends of Polish Arts in 1978, serving in various capacities.  Her involvement with ACPC began during the Council’s convention in Ypsilanti MI in 1987 where she and her husband, Stanley (deceased 1997) chaired the convention banquet.  Since then she has served ACPC as a board member in various capacities – director, member of several committees, auditor, Business Mgr of the Polish Heritage for 6 years and Financial Secretary for part of that, and lately co-chair of the Polish Exhibit at the Natl. Conf. for Social Studies.

ACPC is very grateful for Barbara Lemecha’s and Henrietta Nowakowski’s complete dedication to the Social Studies Polish Exhibit.  Their annual contributions of time and energy and paying their own way for travel across the country, hotels and meals is greatly appreciated. 

To the complete surprise and delight of the audience at the Awards Banquet, Counselor Mariusz M. Brymora, Head of Culture & Public Affairs Dept., acting on behalf of Hon. Robert Kupiecki, Ambassador of the Republic of Poland, summoned Marion V. Winters, ACPC Director/Past President, to the podium and presented him with the ­Amicus Poloniae Award.  The Amicus Poloniae is awarded by the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland for outstanding efforts to promote development and cooperation between the Republic of Poland and the United States of America.

Pictured L-R:  Marion Winters receives Amicus Poloniae award from Counselor Mariusz M. Brymora
Pictured L-R: Marion Winters receives Amicus Poloniae award from Counselor Mariusz M. Brymora

A graduate of Alliance Academy, Mr. Winters earned a degree in Bus. Admin. at Northwestern University and after retirement, both he and his wife Jo Louise, earned Masters degrees and continued on in advanced studies in Slavic Literature & Languages at the University of Illinois-Chicago.  His life-long career with the Social Security Administration (SSA) was a rapid rise, thanks to selection to an Executive Development Program, from clerical positions to Asst. Manager of the SSA office in Los Angeles, the largest district office in the US at the time.  Here he had the privilege of working for a man he regarded as a superior administrator in government service, a mentor to whom he ascribed his personal future successes.  At this large office he negotiated the SSA’s first labor union contract in the field, conducted public radio broadcasts and spoke to large audiences including an assembly once of over 200 ministers and their wives, then went on to open a new SSA District Office in California as manager, and finally served as a member of a planning team organized to establish the newly enacted federal Supplemental Security Insurance program at SSA headquarters.

That career was interrupted for a time during WWII when Marion volunteered as an Aviation Cadet in the US Army Air Corps.  Following intensive training, he joined a Liberator B-24 bomber crew for combat duty in the European Theater of Operations at a base in England.  There he served as an officer bombardier and gunnery officer on 29 bombing missions over Germany and occupied France, was credited with destroying an enemy fighter plane, promoted to 1st Lt. as Asst. Group Bombardier and decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross and 3 Oak Leaf Clusters.  Several years in the Air Force Reserve earned him promotion to rank of Major.

Marion’s Polonia involvement intensified as the years went by.  A brief account of the major roles he has played follows:

Indiana: Asst. Scoutmaster, Harcerstwo; Adjutant, Pulaski Club, American Legion, East Chicago.

– Arizona: President, Chopin Choir, Phoenix; President, Polish American Congress, AZ Division; Interview with Voice of America reporter in Phoenix broadcast to Poland.

– Illinois: Member of Illinois Univ. team translating Cyprian Norwid’s poetry; Co- founder and 1st V.P. of Norwid Society at Univ. of IL-Chicago – 1980;  won IL state grant for first Intl. Norwid Conference in U.S., served as Master of Ceremonies and presented paper on Norwid’s visit to the U.S.; Newsletter Editor and President Polish Arts Club of Chicago where he won a state grant and led a project for a photo & paintings exhibit of Chicago’s Polish churches; co-founder and first president of Kosciuszko Fdn., Chicago Chapter; Master of Ceremonies, Chopin Concert, Anniversary of his death, Chicago Public Library Cultural Center – 1984.

– Nationally:

1) served in various capacities in ACPC from recording sec’y, director, vice-president and president;

2) initiated and directed ACPC’s Computers for Poland Project establishing the first community computer center in Eastern Europe fully equipped with all new electronic equipment, Siedlce, Poland, 1992;  

3) member of first delegation of a Polish American cultural organization (ACPC) to visit Poland after fall of Communism for purpose of cementing working relationships;

4) with his wife, Jo Louise, initiated, edited, published and sold a book “Honoring Our Polish Mothers: A Collection of Personal Memoirs” that netted approx. $3,000 for the Youth Leadership Conferences – 1998;

5) since 1999 and continuing, applying successfully to Combined Federal Campaign – United Way for funding that brings about $5,000 annually to ACPC; 6) in 2000, accepted the $500,000 challenge on behalf of ACPC from the Conrad R. Walas Family to establish a Gen. Casimir Pulaski Scholarships for Advanced Studies program.  Walas Family initially donated $250,000 and challenged ACPC to raise another $250,000. Has chaired this committee since its inception, which has awarded $5,000 annually to each of five students since 2001. Chaired national fund raising drives, with support of raffle drawings led by Carolyn Meleski; received very generous additional donations from the Walas Family and finally in 2007, ACPC received bequests from two past members, which resulted in meeting the $250,000 challenge;

6) won $15,000 challenge grant from Lynch Fdn for ACPC’s Youth Leadership Conferences and succeeded in exceeding the challenge – 2001;

7) won grant of $2,400 for the Youth Leadership Conference from Chicago Society –2001;

8) since 2003 has succeeded in obtaining grants of $2,000 to $3,000 annually from the Skalny Fdn for the Louis & Nellie Skalny Scholarships for Polish Studies, which is administered by the ACPC.

Winters’ Polonia Honors:  Order of Cavalier’s Cross from the President of the Republic of Poland – 2001; Kosciuszko Foundation Gold Medal ; ACPC Founders Award, 1989; Commitment Award from “Your Fellow ACPC Activists”, 2001; Brig. Gen. Count Casimir Pulaski/Capt. Alexander O’Neil Medal & Award of Merit from the Pulaski 2004-2005 Jubilee Committee, Affiliate of the Georgia Historical Society.