Ethnic Heritage Museum honors six Fathers of the Year

From press release

Sunday, June 6, from noon to 4 p.m., the Ethnic Heritage Museum (EHM) will host its 20th International Music Festival at the Lithuanian Club, 716 Indiana Ave.

The International Music Festival is an afternoon of unique musical entertainment representing six ethnic groups. Performing at this year’s music festival, Odessa Barmore, also known as “Miss Diamond,” will showcase her vocal talents for the African-American Gallery. Sergio Ortiz, guitarist, and St. Edward Youth Group will perform traditional Hispanic music. Representing the Irish Gallery are Highland Bagpipes featuring Luke Greenlee. Amici Italiani Adult Dancers will perform traditional Italian dances. The Zaibas Lithuanian Dancers of Madison, Wis., will give the audience the opportunity to learn and participate in Lithuanian dance steps. Polish Mihow McKenny, a student at Rock Valley College, will entertain with his violin.

Katie Nilsson, local TV news personality, will act as Mistress of Ceremony.

In addition to this fine entertainment, EHM will award six local fathers with the distinction of being Father of the Year 2010. They will be honored for their many contributions to life in Rockford.

Pastor Perry Bennett,
African-American Gallery

Pastor Perry Bennett, born in Winner, La., has studied at the following schools: Wheaton College, Wheaton, Ill.; Moody Bible College and Chicago Baptist Institute, Chicago; and Lincoln College, Lincoln, Ill. In 1980, he graduated from the American Baptist Theological Seminary—Rockford Extension.

Pastor Bennett has served as past president of the Rockford Ministers’ Fellowship, board chairman of Rockford and Vicinity Baptist District Association, dean and instructor of the Rockford Ministers Fellowship School of Religion, adviser for the Health Unit of the Baptist General State Convention of Illinois, and instructor of the Baptist General State Congress of Christian Education of Illinois. He serves as a Rockford Police chaplain and on many other boards throughout the city.

Pastor Bennett has preached in the Holy Land and in Korea. He is the pastor of the Macedonia Baptist Church. Under his leadership, a new edifice was built, which is a multi-purpose center with gym and educational facilities.

He is married to the former Shirley T. Brass, and they have three daughters: Betty (deceased), Shirley Marie Graham and Lula Ann Nesby-Lee; six grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren.

Rodolfo Valdez,
Hispanic Gallery

Rodolfo (Rudy) was born in Chicago and was the fourth child in the family. Rudy would eventually earn a doctor of management degree in organizational leadership, and an MBA in chemical engineering.

Rudy is the Hamilton Sundstrand Airframe Products general manager for Asia programs. For 10 years, he was also the program manager for space shuttle products.

His community involvement includes speaking to more than 7,000 students about a variety of topics including engineering, science and space. He is a board member for La Voz Latina, and also a mentor for the Raising and Inspiring Students for Education (RAISE) program at Jefferson High School. March 4, he accepted the mayor’s invitation to take on another voluntary position—the mayor’s education liaison.

Rudy and his wife, the former Julia Scott, have three daughters: Christina, Laura and Catherine.

Joseph Bruscato,
Italian Gallery

Joe Bruscato was raised in Rockford and attended Rockford public schools through the eighth grade and graduated from Boylan High School in 1980. After high school, Joe attended Marquette University and graduated in 1984 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and history. Joe then attended Marquette University Law School and graduated in 1987 with a juris doctor degree.

Since obtaining his law degree, Joe has held positions as an assistant district attorney of Brown County, Wisconsin; assistant city attorney in Green Bay, Wis.; director, Rockford Regional Office—Illinois Attorney General; city attorney in Rockford; and private practice counsel in Rockford.

Nov. 4, 2008, Joe was elected state’s attorney of Winnebago County.

Joe is the father of three children.

Thomas Grady,
Irish Gallery

Tom was born and raised on a farm in Fall River, Wis., one of four children in the family.

He graduated with a degree in agriculture from University of Wisconsin-Platteville and later received a master’s degree in administration from Northern Illinois University. He moved to Rockford to begin his career as an elementary teacher at Guilford Center and Bloom School, retiring after 36 years.

Tom belongs to several organizations and committees including the Knights of Columbus, Pheasants Forever and the Roscoe Sportsmen Club.

He is the father of five children and five grandchildren.

Claude C. Zuba,
Lithuanian Gallery

Born in New York, raised in Chicago, and moved to Rockford in 1960. Claude graduated from Notre Dame University cum laude with a bachelor of science degree with a major in accounting.

Claude has served 45 years in the practice of public accounting in Chicago and then Rockford. He started his career as a self-employed CPA, then incorporated as Zuba & Rodhe, Ltd., and as Zuba and Associates, and finally as Weinberg, Pringey, Zuba and Co.

His community involvement includes: Rockford Area Chamber of Commerce—councils, chairman and member of the Winnebago County Opportunities and Industrialization Center; director and treasurer for Junior Achievement; past director of Rockford Community Action Program; past director of Christ the Carpenter Day Care Center; past director of Rockford Catholic Board of Education—Ad Hoc Committee; past director and finance chairman of St. James Parish Council—Ad Hoc Committee; past president of St. James Board of Education—Ad Hoc Committee and past finance chairman; American Institute of CPA’s & ISCPA NICIS of Certified Public Accountants—past president; and National Association of Accountants—past director.

Zuba has held various leadership roles in Catholic Social Services, United Way, Hunger Connection, Youth for Christ, and leadership roles in Catholic movements. He was recently featured on WTVO Channel 17.

Claude will be married to Ange for 56 years this September. They have eight children, 21 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Stephen Ostrowski,
Polish Gallery

Stephen was born in Pittsburgh, but has been a member of St. Stanislaus Church since 1959. For more than 25 years, he has either served as chairman or co-chairman for the Polish Festival each summer at St. Stanislaus Church.

Stephen worked for Camcar Corp. for 32 years in various jobs: shop, sales and pricing. The last nine years, he was a buyer for Camcar Corp. before his retirement.

His community involvement includes a member of the Council for Holy Name Society for St. Stanislaus. He has served in various positions including Finance Committee for church. He is ombudsman Catholic Charities Knights of Columbus member. Steve’s favorite hobbies are fishing, fishing and more fishing.

Steve and his wife Pat have three children and five grandchildren.

Ethnic Heritage Museum

EHM, 1129 S. Main St., is unique in its blend of ethnic groups: African-American, Polish, Italian, Lithuanian, Irish and Hispanic. A visit to each gallery will enlighten visitors of the cultural traditions of these groups.

International Music Festival

Join in honoring the six Fathers of the Year and listen to quality ethnic entertainment by purchasing an $8 ticket by contacting the museum at (815) 962-7402.

The ticket also includes a choice of a delicious festive lunch, an opportunity to win wonderful door prizes and a free pass to visit the museum. Tickets may also be purchased at the door.

For more about the Ethnic Heritage Museum and the International Music Festival, visit or e-mail

From the June 2-8, 2010 issue

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