Ethnic Heritage Museum honors ‘Father or Man of the Year’ recipients

Staff Report

Every summer, Rockford’s Ethnic Heritage Museum honors some of the men in the community as “Father or Man of the Year” award recipients. These men are being recognized not only for being great fathers and mentors, but also for their many accomplishments and contributions to life in the Rockford area.

Throughout the month of July, the museum will honor Sam Oliveri (Italian Gallery), Tomasz Sas (Polish Gallery) and Ricardo Oceguera (Hispanic Galley) with the “Father or Man of the Year” distinction. 

Sam Oliveri

Sam Oliveri
Sam Oliveri

Sam Oliveri’s father was a second-generation Italian born in Chicago. His grandfather, Sam Oliveri Sr., came to New York via Sicily.  Sam graduated from Rockford Boylan Catholic High School, where he enjoyed playing major sports.  He placed seventh in the state in track for discus, and held the school record in that category for 15 years. 

With his eyes set on the family business, Sam went on to mortuary school in Chicago.  After graduating, he returned home and started Gasparini & Oliveri Funeral Home. He is now in his 40th year serving area families in that role.  

Sam enjoys being a member of the Fraternal Order of the Sons of Italy, the St. Ambrosio Society, South West Ideas For Today and Tomorrow (SWIFTT), the Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum and Gardens (of which he is the president of the board of directors) and a member of the Ethnic Heritage Museum.

He and his wife, Patty, are members of Severson Dells Nature Center, Klehm Arboretum& Botanic Garden, the Illinois Ornithological Society, the Natural Land Institute and the National Audubon Society.

The Italian Gallery will honor Sam with a special presentation from 2 to 4 p.m., Sunday, July 13.

Tomasz Sas

Tomasz Sas
Tomasz Sas

Tomasz Sas was born in Zabrze, Poland. He attended school there, and in 1980 he passed his matura, final exams, making him an electrician. His career never took off, so in November 1980, he immigrated to the United States. In the U.S., Sas found his true loves — one being his wife, Bogusia, and the second being carpentry. He is the father of four children — Madzia, Anna, Tosia and Tomus. He is also the proud grandfather of three — Olivia, Zosia and Antos.

Sas has many interests. He spends his days working in the field of carpentry. He is very passionate about photography, reading and loves the arts. He has played various roles in productions by the theater group Korab, attached to St. Stanislaus Church.

When he retires, Sas plans to spend time working on his garden and playing with his grandchildren.

The Polish Gallery “Father of the Year” will be honored from 2 to 4 p.m., Sunday, July 20. This event will include an artistic program presented by St. Stanislaus Church of Rockford.

Ricardo Oceguera

Ricardo Oceguera
Ricardo Oceguera

Ricardo Oceguera’s journey started when he won the Swimming Nationals in Mexico in 1976. He then fell in love with America in 1977 after his first competition in Dallas.

Ricardo graduated from medical school in 1992 from la Escuela Superior de Medicina, IPN, and practiced internal medicine, weight reduction control and thyroid hormone research for three years.

After venturing in the science field for many years, Ricardo became involved with the Latino community in May 2006. He started as a copy editor for a local newspaper. He has served as the editor of El Sol de Rockford since August 2012.

Since then, the need for a mass media communication targeting Latinos has become his passion. He is a member of many small minority and business organizations and advisory committees. He believes the only way for minorities to succeed is through education and political involvement. He has written a book of poetry, memoirs and local political analysis, soon to be published.

He is the father of two teen-agers and is married to a nurse.

From 2 to 4 p.m., Sunday, July 27, the Hispanic Gallery invites you to join them in celebrating the accomplishments of Ricardo.

The Ethnic Heritage Museum, at 1129 S. Main St., Rockford, is unique in its blend of ethnic groups: African-American, Hispanic, Irish, Italian, Lithuanian and Polish. These family friendly exhibits will enlighten visitors of their cultural history and their contributions to life in Rockford.

The Ethnic Heritage Museum is open every Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. Admission to these special events is free to the public, but donations are accepted. For more information, visit or e-mail The museum is handicap accessible, and special tours can be arranged.

From the July 9-15, 2014, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!