Alex Olejko, 87, a former minor league baseball player and steelworker who became mayor of Lorain, Ohio, died Wednesday, September 9, 2009.
The son of Polish immigrants, who was elected Lorain City Council president in 1983, automatically became mayor when Lorain Mayor Joseph Zahorec died in an automobile accident Dec. 31, 1984.
Voters kept the fervent Democrat in office through 1995, when Olejko elected to retire.
"I never dreamed a Polish kid out of a poor immigrant family from Subway field would become the mayor of Lorain," he told the Cleveland Plain Dealer after announcing his decision to retire. "This is the American Dream."
Olejko, whom many knew as Kiki, worked at U.S. Steel Corp.'s Lorain steel mill and starred on baseball sandlots before he was elected to city council in 1957.
After 16 years as a councilman, Olejko was appointed to the Lorain County Regional Airport Authority. All the while, he kept his job at the mill. In 1983, he retired from U. S. Steel, resigned from the airport authority and ran for council president.
The Lorain native, who was one of 11 children, played baseball with and against professional baseball players in the military while serving in the Navy at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, during World War II.
After the war, he was a catcher in Lorain's Class A baseball league and a pitcher in fast-pitch softball leagues. While pitching for the Russo-Slav team in 1947, Olejko won 25 games, lost one and posted 15 shutouts.
He played with the Opelika Owls, an independent minor league team, in Alabama in 1948. (Team stats from Baseball-Reference.com has Olejko's named spelled phonetically as Olayko.) He dropped out of the professional ranks after a year because of the low pay.
According to Lorain lore, Olejko landed a job with the National Tube Co. (U.S. Steel) when he agreed to play for its baseball team. He played for several Lorain-area baseball and fast-pitch softball teams through 1954.
He was inducted into the Lorain Sports Hall of Fame in 2004 and was named Polish Man of the Year for 1991 by the Alliance of Poles. Olejko, who appointed many Hispanics during his tenure as mayor, received a Nuestra Familia (Our Family) award from the Ohio Commission on Spanish-Speaking Affairs in 1996 for his contributions to the Hispanic community.
Survivors include his wife of 59 years, Helen “Scooter” Olejko (nee Kocak); children, Monica Olejko of Berea, Ohio, William A. Olejko of Vermilion, Ohio, Patti Tyburski (Bill) of Parma, Ohio, Bonni Metelsky (Dan) of Amherst, Ohio, and Mary Alyce Woltman (Jim), Kat Varju (Julius, Jr.) and Christopher Olejko (Lynette), all of Lorain; 15 grandchildren; a great-granddaughter; sisters, Berniece Sadowski (Milton), Josephine Schneider (Elmer), Mary Poprock (Edward) and Stella James (Walter), all of Lorain, and Helen Chmielewski of Parma.
Family will receive friends from 1-8 p.m. Friday, September 11, 2009, at Gluvna-Shimo-Hromada Funeral Chapel, 3224 Broadway Ave., Lorain. The Lorain Sports Hall of Fame will conduct a memorial service at 6:30 p.m., and the St. Stanislaus Holy Name Society will recite the rosary at 7 p.m.
Funeral services will begin at the funeral chapel at 9:15 a.m. Saturday, September 12, 2009, followed by 10 a.m. Mass of Christian Burial at St. Stanislaus Catholic Church, 2702 Elyria Ave., Lorain.
Condolences and more: www.gluvna.net.
This obituary was originally posted on ObitsOhio.com on Sept. 10, 2009.