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A place full of culturally rich, remarkable people.

Toledo, Ohio is a place full of culturally rich, remarkable people of diverse heritages.  My brother Steve and I are two of the thousands of Toledoans who claim Polish heritage.  Our family, the Kaptur-Rogowski family, holds a deep appreciation of both Polish and American history. As a second generation American, I fully realize their intergenerational struggle, so exemplary of the struggle of millions upon millions of ‎Americans. Enormous and loving sacrifices over several generations were made for us by our heroic immigrant grandparents, our parents, family members and our teachers, most of whom were Roman Catholic sisters in the Franciscan and Ursuline Orders. Their selflessness allowed us to be housed, fed and educated. Their history and sacrifices in the heroic struggle for liberty, educational attainment, and full economic opportunity, deeply underlayed my own decision to seek election to serve our nation in liberty’s cause.  Where else in the world could a child with blue collar roots achieve educational advancement and the opportunity to serve our nation within just two generations?

Our effervescent father, Steve, was familiarly known as ‘Kappy’ as he always wore a cap. Happy-go-lucky, he was the youngest of 16 children. He was very enterprising, independent-minded and brave, honest in a then mob-riddled town.  He struck out on his own as an independent trucker and produce dealer during some of the most difficult economic times in our nation – The Great Depression of the 1930’s.  A self-starter, during the 1950’s, he and our mother Anastasia (nicknamed ‘Cherie’) opened a family grocery with Polish specialty items called Supreme Market in Rossford.  My brother Steve and I worked there as youngsters. We hold lasting memories of bouncing along in dad’s Dodge pickup, accompanying him to the wholesale houses to buy meats, produce and supplies.  Still today, people I meet ask me about that store.

Our mother Anastasia grew up during the Depression, utterly poor from a financial standpoint.  At age 13, mom was already working to support the family. Though highly gifted academically, she worked to help the struggling immigrant family.  Cherie Kaptur eventually landed a job at the Champion Spark Plug Company in Toledo where she had applied at the employment office every day for one year. She worked the production line at plug tamping where she was paid based on her output and she always did the maximum number each day. It was at Champion that she was elected to the Charter Committee at Local 12 United Auto Workers Trade Union that was forming.  Elected union Secretary, she gained respect from both company and union members.

At a young age, my brother Steve, an extraordinary mechanic and patented inventor, built his reputation as a race car builder, designer and driver.  He achieved the fastest time in the B-altered class of drag racing at Milan, Michigan at the time, after devoting years of painstaking effort to build the engine, components, car and even the large trailer that hauled it across the Midwest.  Hot Rod Magazine photographed his dogged, persevering achievements.

After fifteen years working as a city and regional planner, including a term as Urban Advisor to President Carter, I was honored to win election to the United States Congress and began serving as Toledo’s U.S. Representative in 1983. Though the 9th District’s boundaries have been altered over the years, Toledo has always been its western anchor city.  It has been my privilege to serve this unique city which is urban, rural and suburban, and is home to dozens of ethnic groups, diverse races, every variety of Christian faith, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and other religious traditions.  We humbly, yet proudly boast of our “emerald necklace” of greenspace along the river and lake, our world class museum and zoo, our parkland and our people.  Summers and Falls are host to any number of ethnic festivals and traditions celebrated by Toledoans whose heritage goes back generations, or more recently arrived.  Over generations, immigrants from every corner of our world have come to Toledo and have contributed to its character, have grown businesses to build our economy, have become community leaders, and have offered rich traditions and cultures which have been woven into the fabric of our city.

Toledo is a city which has been designated as America’s Glass Capitol, Cheerio Capitol, Auto Parts Capitol; a city inventing the future in new energy technologies like solar and wind, breakthrough advances in building systems, the food sector and the arts.  Toledo is a city of sports fans cheering on the Mud Hens, professional hockey and footballs teams, as well as college and school-age sports teams; a city vibrant in the arts; a city home to people and families who built its neighborhoods, businesses, schools, parks and cultural and community institutions and who look to a future of promise and opportunity.  I believe the Toledo City seal to be the most beautiful in our nation. Our motto “Work is to Pray” defines our value set that has carried us into the 21st century, one of new hope and new horizons.

Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, who represents Ohio’s Ninth Congressional District including Toledo and parts of Lucas County, is currently serving her seventeenth term in the U.S. House of Representatives. She is the senior-most woman in the House and the longest-serving woman from Ohio in history. Congresswoman Kaptur is also the grandchild of Polish immigrants. She grew up in Toledo and lives in her modest childhood home. Thank you, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, for celebrating Immigrant Heritage Month by writing a love letter to Toledo! 

The featured photographs are of The Kaptur Family (Stephen, Anastasia, Marcy, and younger brother Steve with her Aunt, Sister Cleopha of the Felician Order) at the top of the letter, and Marcy speaking at the dedication of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. below. 

Immigrant Heritage Month stories are in partnership with Welcome Toledo-Lucas County, a local initiative housed in the Board of Lucas County Commissioners in partnership with Toledo LISC to advance an inclusive and global community.

Marcy with her mother, brother, aunt and uncle.

Marcy with her mother, brother, aunt and uncle.

Marcy with a Toledo friend and WWII Polish cavalry veteran at Mokra, Poland, where Nazi tanks began WWII by invading southwest Poland. The wooden altar behind them is where the Polish Roman Catholic Church conducted Mass and blessed its troops.

Marcy with a Toledo friend and WWII Polish cavalry veteran at Mokra, Poland, where Nazi tanks began WWII by invading southwest Poland. The wooden altar behind them is where the Polish Roman Catholic Church conducted Mass and blessed its troops.

 

Marcy speaking at the dedication of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.