My Memories of Jan. 13, 1991

U.S. forces (3,500 soldiers with armor) just arrived in Poland to help deter Russian aggression against Lithuania, Poland, and the other Baltic countries. Coincidentally, yesterday, Jan. 13, also marked the 26th anniversary of the day 14 Lithuanians were killed and hundreds injured peacefully protecting their country from Soviet tanks and bullets. To commemorate these events, let me share a story from my personal patriotic life that I wrote for sbaksys-09-15-ileshousethe January 2016 issue of Draugas News: 

Remembering January 1991

Fearing How Far the Soviets Might Go, I Rose up to Become the Face of Lithuania in Lexington, Kentucky

 I didn’t sleep much on January 13, 1991, after the 1 a.m. phone call to my home in Lexington from my sister Terry in Richmond, Va. Between worry and tears, it was one of the worst nights of my life.

So when the U.S. launched its Desert Storm assault on Iraq just a few days later, on Jan. 17, 1991, I took the microphone at a war-related rally at the University of Kentucky to remind people about what had just happened in Lithuania.

It was the biggest crowd I had ever spoken to. Yet I managed to overcome my life-long fear of public speaking because it was eclipsed by an even greater fear. What if the new U.S. war, visible 24/7 on CNN, stole critical international media attention from Lithuania just as it was most endangered—right after unarmed civilians were killed by Soviet troops and tanks? What if the Soviets launched more such attacks when the world was no longer watching?

The fate of an entire mass movement hung in the balance. And though safe on American soil, after Jan. 13–the date that changed everything–I was haunted by the fear of how far the Soviets might go and what might become of Lithuanian family I had recently met for the first time in my life.

A Family’s Past Blends with the Present

In 1989, my “DP” father Vince and his long-lost sister from Lithuania had been reunited after a separation of 45 years. This, along with the visit of my first cousin, had quickly unpacked decades of repressed World War II family history that suddenly appeared in danger of being repeated.

In summer 1989, as I began to take account of the full scope of the trauma inflicted on my family, as well as the scope of the “Singing Revolution” that was building in Lithuania, action seemed required to help Lithuanians restore what Russian had so brutally taken. And after January 13, 1991, action seemed desperately required to keep Russia from brutalizing Lithuania again.

It was a time unlike any other. Past was present and present, past. Pain and love, anger, fear, and hope all flowed in the same strong current. I grasped for any way I could help. I reached out to other Baltic-Americans and to anyone who would listen and act.

Becoming the Face of Lithuania

I stood up to be the public face of Lithuania in the Lexington, Ky., Herald-Leader newspaper, and on local public TV and the NBC affiliate.  At least four or five times during the spring and summer of 1991, thanks to a TV satellite truck, local news would cut from Gorbachev directly to my talking head, or to Baltic-Americans gathered in my back yard.

Two of the larger events that I organized (with the help of my Iranian-American husband of the time) were a February 16 Lithuanian independence dinner, complete with folk dancing, and a summer 1991 “Baltic Bash,” where I showed invited media video footage from the January 13 attacks.

Along the way, I addressed university classes and I almost constantly called and wrote the White House and Congress. I published two local op-ed features, and at least one letter in the Christian Science Monitor. I became volunteer Kentucky coordinator for the Lithuanian Communications Center in Philadelphia—my first and only service with the Lithuanian-American Community (LAC), and my first taste of a future career in PR.

Maybe most of all, I worried. I thought constantly of the relatives in Lithuania and mailed packages and letters to my first cousin. Like so many others at that time, I struggled to read the meaning of weeks-long postal delays, overhung with the gnawing fears that were never far off, just like the colds and flus that beset me that entire year as a result of so much stress and worry.

A Victory that was Personal  

When it was all over and we had won, victory couldn’t have felt more personal. It was like we had won vindication for our dad, for our family—for the past. I never felt closer to my father and his story, and I never saw him more appreciative of his daughters who had worked so hard to help Lithuania.

I realized how difficult it must have been for Dad to repress his story within the heart of his own family for decades, when his story must have seemed only a private misery in the midst of his wife and daughters’ American obliviousness.  But how to talk to the unfamiliar and the inexperienced about a place that had disappeared from every globe and map?

I’m sure Dad never expected to see his homeland go free in his lifetime. And yet we had done it, all of us working together–over there, mainly, but also over here.

I Did ‘Nothing?’

My father’s youngest sister was so unprepared for my sudden, sustained two years of “Singing Revolution” activism that she couldn’t share victory. “You did nothing,” was my late aunt’s only remark on the subject in a letter that ended up forever estranging us.

Being a Lithuanian patriot from her youth, then a “DP,” and having given everything she had to “the cause” all her life, she surely saw my work as insignificant by comparison.  But I will always know what I felt and did and all that I gave from my heart.

I also remember how the Herculean task at hand, and the odds stacked against our movement, sometimes also drove me to disappointment over what my friends at the time were able or willing to give. As a result, it seems to me now that giving of oneself in desperation, or without limits, naturally leads to disappointment in the level of support from others. So I have no doubt that my aunt’s dismissive statement reflected the entrenched disappointment of years.

Yet I am equally sure that I was far from the only Lithuanian-American who had never been active before, who rose up for family reasons when everything seemed to hang in the balance, and the impossible suddenly seemed possible. For that reason, I congratulate and applaud anyone, anywhere, who joined in the “Singing Revolution” by doing what they could do when it seemed to count so very much.

At the bottom line, not to act while all of Lithuania was mobilized, while members of my own family were on the line, would have been unthinkable. I’m sure the same logic applied to tens of thousands in Lithuania, as well, resulting in the unstoppable momentum of a mass movement that ultimately achieved one of the most improbable peaceful political triumphs of the twentieth century.

Update: The Fairview Restaurant Family

A few weeks ago, the State Journal-Register carried the obituary of Raymond K. Stockus, the last surviving member of the Lithuanian immigrant family that founded The Fairview Restaurant at 16th and Sangamon Avenue. Raymond’s father, Kaston Stockus, immigrated to the U.S. in 1899 from Šiauliai County, Lithuania, and became a U.S. citizen in 1904.


Raymond Stockus


While working as a coal miner and butcher, Kaston boarded in the building that by 1913, he would buy, converting the first floor into a grocery that was subsequently licensed to sell alcohol.  After becoming “Al & Joe’s” and later, the “Jolly End” taverns, by the 1960s, the business was converted into The Fairview Restaurant by Kaston’s daughter and Raymond’s sister, Ella Palusinki and her husband Alex.

Fairview, c. 1967

The Fairview, 16th & Sangamon, circa 1967.

According to his obituary, Raymond Stockus was born to Kaston and Caroline (Compardo) Stockus in 1935, was a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and worked as a radar technician at Garrett Aviation for 40 years. He leaves behind a wife, Joyce, and children Greg Stockus, Gail Walter and Julie Bates, as well as three grandchildren.

You can read more of the colorful history of the Stockus immigrant family and more backstory on The Fairview restaurant in this post written by William Cellini, Jr., and published several months ago:

‘Doc’ Adams & the Lincoln Center


The Lincoln Center, undated.

A few years ago, I penned a piece about Don “Doc” Adams, the longest-serving Illinois Republican Party Chair who also was a force on the national Republican stage. That piece focused on Doc’s Adomaitis-Adams and Yacubasky-Yates Lithuanian immigrant ancestors–and the 1930s rise of their first American-born generation from coal-mining and bootlegging to political power in the Republican Party.

The intermingling of the two political families in the 1932 marriage of Bertha Yacubasky and John Joseph Adomaitis (Adams) ended prematurely in divorce. But not before producing son Don “Doc” Adams, whose political and business gifts became legendary in the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s.


Remember this menu?

Outside of politics and patronage, “Doc’s” biggest impact on Springfield was probably through the hospitality strip mall the Lincoln Center, located on North Grand Avenue near the Monument Avenue entrance to Oak Ridge Cemetery and Lincoln’ Tomb. The center included a Lincoln souvenir shop and the exquisite Ann Rutledge Pancake House, where in the late 1960s, my Lithuanian great aunt, Teta Mary Yamont (Marija Jomantiene) introduced my sisters and me to our first deluxe strawberry-covered pancakes topped with whipped cream.

Although I loved that pancake house, back then I knew little, and thought less, of its place in our local Lithuanian-American community.

‘Getty’s Burger’

Doc’s son Don Adams, Jr., remembers being a short-order cook at the pancake house when he was home from college for the summers. The younger Adams remembers that the Lincoln-themed descriptions of the food on the menu were often as memorable as the food, itself. For example, there was “The Getty’s Burger” and “General Sherman’s Baked Ham: Sherman would have stopped on his march to the sea for this one.” In addition to pancakes topped or made with blueberries, strawberries, peaches, and even coconut, the menu also included mouth-watering  “Manhattan Blintzes” and “French Suzette.”


Inside the menu

“Doc” spent most of his working hours in an office behind the souvenir shop, when he was not in his office at Republican headquarters. Don, Jr., also recalls that on most Saturdays, local power-brokers like Bob Cohen, John Short, and Bill Cellini would meet for brunch or lunch with “Doc” at the pancake house.

Don, Jr., doesn’t recall how or when his dad became a fan of Abraham Lincoln—perhaps when he was introduced to the Republican Party by his maternal uncles, the Yates-Yacubaskies, who had been influential in the party locally since the 1930s. “Dad was definitely a big fan of Lincoln; there was a lot of Lincoln memorabilia at home and in his office in the Lincoln Center,” Don, Jr., says. In addition, the pancake house, named for Lincoln’s first, ill-fated love, had a wall-sized mural with events and themes from Lincoln’s life.

 Lincoln Center Draws ‘Doc’ Home from College

“Doc” first became involved with the Lincoln Center when he received a series of letters from his mother Bertha requesting that he come home from Northwestern University to help manage her Yates brothers’ family businesses. William Yates always included his brother Joe and two nephews, Eddie Balisky and “Doc” Adams, as partners in all his businesses. The period when “Doc” was called home, in the mid- or late-1950s, coincides with the period when the Lincoln Center was in development.


Inside the menu

In any event, “Doc” acceded to his mother’s requests, returning from his studies in Evanston without completing his degree. Soon, he was immersed in, and later, ensconced at, the Lincoln Center, as he simultaneously moved up the ladder of the local Republican Party. According to Don, Jr., “Doc” eventually bought out his uncle and cousin partners to wholly-own the two strip mall businesses, which he kept running until the early 1980s.

Like his uncles, the Yateses, “Doc” was always in business for himself outside (his work for) the Party, Don, Jr. says. “At one time, he also formed a corporation to buy and operate the Lincoln Depot as a museum. I have stationery from that dating to the early 1970s.”

 Keeping Business & Politics in the Family  

Young “Doc” naturally grew close to his Yates uncles, and had little influence from his father, after his mother Bertha divorced John Joseph Adomaitis (Adams) and took her two sons to live with her sister Anna Balisky in the Yates-Yacubasky immigrants’ original home at 1501 Pennsylvania Avenue. Many large Yates Thanksgivings that included the families of Bertha and Anna’s brothers Joe and William, Sr., were held there.

According to “Doc’s” first cousin, William Yates, Jr., his dad William, Sr., was the clan’s driving force in both business and politics–which were always conducted in tandem, and as a multi-generational family enterprise. Because William, Sr., made brother Joe and nephews “Doc” and Eddie Balisky part-owners of all his businesses, “Doc” ended up at least a passive partner in the downtown Governor Hotel (with Jack Weiner), as well as the Yates brothers’ Y-B Market, a grocery on the site of the future Lincoln Center at First Street and North Grand.

Origin of the Lincoln Center

In the mid- or late 1950s, in the heyday of Route 66 tourism, William, Sr., pushed to demolish and replace the Y-B Market with what he conceived as tourist retail/restaurant complex. “Dad and his brother Joe made sure that ‘Doc’ and Eddie were partners with them in the new center, like everything else,” Bill, Jr., recalls.

The establishment of this upscale tourist strip mall also benefited from the input of William, Joe, and Bertha Yates’ sister Belle Walons, who had left Springfield for Chicago years earlier with her IRS-agent husband, and who operated her own beauty shop in Chicago’s famous Drake Hotel. “Aunt Belle came down from Chicago and told her brothers William and Joe how to lay out and decorate the interior of the Lincoln Center–basically, how to make everything–and they listened,” Bill, Jr., recalls.

‘Doc’s’ Principle Mentor: William Yates, Sr.


Circa 1950, courtesy of Bill Yates, Jr.

He also described his father Bill, Sr., who by 1942 had risen to Sangamon County Republican Party Chair, as “Doc’s” principal business and political mentor. Though 12 years younger than his first cousin “Doc,” Bill, Jr., recalls that “Doc” and his brother Jack “would always sit close to Dad at our family gatherings and want to get Dad’s feedback.” According to the younger Yates, Bill, Sr., “was friends with Butch James, a man close to UMWA president John L. Lewis, another man named Lou Byrd—and Governor Stratton was also a very good friend.”

After years of family gatherings in the small house on Pennsylvania Avenue purchased by the Yates-Yacubasky Lithuanian immigrants, by the 1950s, family holiday gatherings had moved to the Sycamore Lane (Lake Springfield) home of successful businessman William Yates, Sr.  “And it wasn’t just on holidays—there would be a big picnic with 30-40 people at our lake house every Sunday during the spring and summer,” Bill, Jr., says.

‘Like the Pope, Himself, Coming to Visit’

“I remember Fr. (Stanley) Yunker (pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic church) coming to these big gatherings at the Pennsylvania Avenue house, and at our house on the lake,” Bill, Jr., recalls. I’d seen priests before, but it was nothing like this. Fr. Yunker would arrive in his full glory, in a white robe with his white miter, and it was like the Pope, himself, coming to visit.”

Could the exceptional dress and carriage of Fr. Yunker at those times have been related to the political power and status of the Yates family and their guests? In projecting the power of the church, it seems likely to me that Fr. Yunker was attempting to deal himself into the “earthly” political discussions and power-brokering that must inevitably have taken place at the home of this leading Republican family.


From left: William, Sr., William, Jr., and Joe Yates, circa 1953.

As for the food at the Yates family gatherings, Bill remembers kielbasa and potato pancakes made at home by his aunt, Anna (Yates) Balisky.  The table was also laid heavy with turkey, ham, Lithuanian kugelis, and “pies galore,” Bill recalls.

Passing the Torch

Doc’s uncle and mentor William Yates, Sr., died in 1974. But not before expanding into business well beyond Springfield, starting in 1948.  According to Bill, Jr., in the 1950s, his dad operated the largest Oldsmobile dealership in Missouri (in St. Louis), as well as an Oldsmobile dealership in Litchfield.

“My dad was very, very involved in politics, and if Harry Truman had been beaten by Dewey in 1948, we heard that Dad would have been appointed Postmaster General. But Dewey’s loss ended Dad’s aspirations in politics.”

It fell to “Doc,” in the next generation of the Yates-Yacubaskies, to pick up the torch. Don, Jr., remembers how his dad was “a great public speaker. That certainly helped him get to the state chairman position and stay there a long time. In fact, Dad held the national record for longest-serving Republican Party state chairman,” Don, Jr., recalls.

Don also recalls that his father’s leadership style was more behind the scenes. Rather than chase glory for himself, Don says, his dad “preferred to help good people get elected.”

On Ronald Reagan’s Transition Team

“He (‘Doc’) did this on behalf of Ronald Reagan, supporting his presidential campaign from the beginning, almost before anyone else did. And for that reason, when Reagan won the election, he became part of his transition team. For some time, Dad was spending more time in Washington than in Springfield,” Don recalls.

(Doc’s family included three sons and a daughter, and lived first in Sherwood, then on Noble south of Outer Park Drive.)

In this day and age, it’s hard to imagine an immigrant’s grandson, who was known for serving his personal recipe chili at the Ann Rutledge Pancake House, as a D.C. power-broker. But it seems “Doc” and his Yates uncles, like the offspring of so many immigrants, straddled more than one world with their political and business ambitions. Moreover, their politics based on family and ethnic alliances served as a bridge to the kind of politics we have today.

Although Don, Jr., couldn’t recall anything specific, he confirms that “Doc” felt “a pretty strong connection, something of an obligation, too, to his fellow Lithuanian-Americans, and tried to help them when he could.” Don says his father also eventually “received three or four awards from Lithuanian-American groups.”

All family photos courtesy of William Yates, Jr.

A Book for Christmas?

Happy holidays! If you’re looking for a Lithuanian-themed gift, Noonan’s Hardware on North Grand Avenue is selling the updated, final edition of my book, “A Century of Lithuanians in Springfield, Illinois.” This will probably be the last Christmas when the book is in stock at Noonan’s and so conveniently available for Springfield readers–and for just $20 a copy.  If you’re not in Central Illinois, you can find it on for $21.95.



$2,300 Donated for Meals in Lithuania


Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus in Knights of Malta Soup Kitchen, Lithuania, 2015

How’s this for 2016 #GivingTuesday? The Lithuanian-American Club of Springfield, Ill., just donated $2,300 USD to the Knights of Malta Relief Organization in Lithuania (Maltos Ordino Pagalbos Tarnyba) in partnership with Mr. Robert Narmont, CEO of United Community Bank. The Club and 24 of its members donated $1,150.00, which was generously matched 100 percent by Mr. Narmont, a third-generation Lithuanian-American also proudly known as “Robertas Narmontas.”

On Nov. 23, the day before Thanksgiving, Bob and UCB also provided a free international wire. That enabled the entire sum of $2,300 USD (minus $15 for the incoming bank wire fee) to be received right on Thanksgiving Day to coincide with an official visit to the charity and some of its elderly beneficiaries in Vilnius, Lithuania, by our Club officer Viktorija Bieliauskaite Legge.

Mr. Eitvydas Bingelis, the Knights’ General Secretary in Vilnius, reports that our donation will provide approx. 1,500 hot meals delivered to impoverished, homebound elderly through the group’s “Meals on Wheels” program. He invites us to follow the Maltieciai’s daily works on the following social media channels:

In September 2016, the Knights of Malta received special recognition and thanks from the government of Lithuania for their 25 years of charitable work in the country–especially for their success in reviving the spirit of volunteerism and fighting poverty with volunteer “boots on the ground” in towns and villages across the country.

Lithuanian Prime Minister thanks the Order of Malta for 25 years of service


Here’s more from the Knights’ Maltiečiai website: 

“Today, the Lithuanian Relief Organisation of the Order of Malta has 1,200 volunteers in 40 towns in Lithuania who help the poor, the old, people with disabilities, and children from disadvantaged families…

“…It is important to note that the Maltesers remember elders not only on the day of the Seniors, but assist them all the year, every year expanding our projects. At present, our “Meals on Wheels” are delivered in 18 cities. More than 116,000 hot meals were brought to lonely elderly people; additionally, seniors were visited more than 61,000 times in 2015.

“…Another big Malteser project for seniors’ “Social care at home” is currently running in 10 cities. Maltesers supervise constantly at home 552 old, ill and disabled people. In another 19 areas Maltesers regularly attend more than 1,500 lonely elderly people, communicate with them, and help them at home. 80 years is the average age of elderly who are visited by Maltesers. Our volunteers visited their fostered elders at home more than 30,000 times in 2015.

“…Stronger seniors are invited to join Malteser clubs for seniors in 5 cities. The Malteser social service “Let’s go” helps the disabled and seniors. At present,  Maltesers constantly take care of more than 2 300 seniors in Lithuania.


“…Our projects for seniors are extremely important for our single seniors, who are often completely alone,”– shared his thoughts MOPT President R. Abunevičius. – “Visiting them, Maltesers become very close to them, helping them with managing their illnesses, disability, and loneliness.

“…Aid for disabled persons is one of the priority activities of the Order of Malta; every year they organize a pilgrimage to Lourdes, as well at least a few Lithuanians are transported to the International Youth camp for Disabled “Malta Camp”, more than a year ago we introduced the transportation service for the disabled. In particular, we want to help the individuals with experienced spinal injury; the support and sharing success stories are essential to cope with stress. This is precisely what we will seek in the special camp.

“…The camp uniqueness is the fact that people with disabilities are the mentors. They as well as disabled people live a full life. They will share their experience of a disabled person adaptability, e.g., about a disabled person’s ability to travel, drive, use public transport, dress up, take a shower, regulate the bladder operations, work and recreate. Mentors help the participants and inspire young people with disabilities to believe in life by their success stories.


“…Currently the Maltesers in Lithuania have 11 child day-care centers (including the new Malteser Tauragė Children’s Day Care Center) and our youth center in Aukštadvaris.

“Jau daug metų esu akcijos “Maltiečių sriuba” globėjas, kiek galiu, dalyvauju jos renginiuose. Nuoširdžiai kviečiu visus prisijungti prie maltiečių akcijos, parodyti širdies taurumą, auka prisidėti įgyvendinant kilnius pagalbos tikslus. Dėkoju visiems Lietuvos žmonėms už gerumą ir teikiamą viltį…“

Prezidentas Valdas Adamkus

All images courtesy of Knights of Malta international and Lithuanian websites

Springfield’s First Lithuanian-American Beer…?


Joe and Susan at their boiling kettle.

Well, not exactly…But our local Lithuanian American Club is blessed with craft “brew meisters” Susan and the Rev. Joe Eby.  Please join them at 2 p.m. (“Black Friday”) Nov. 25 at Obed & Isaac’s bar and restaurant downtown, where the Ebys’ special-recipe English spiced ale “£200 Windsor Ale” will be on tap.  

Each year the Prairie Schooners Home Brew Club, to which the Ebys belong, picks a beer to be brewed at Obed & Isaac’s. This year, the Schooners selected  the Ebys’ entry, and the brew-loving couple worked with Obed & Isaac’s Head Brewer Ryan Walker to make a six-barrel batch for sale to the public.  According to Susan, the member of this husband-wife team with a Lithuanian background, “Windsor £200” is “basically an English spiced pale ale based on a recipe from the late 1700’s – early 1800’s, to which we added caraway, coriander, ginger, grains of paradise, licorice root, and orange peel.”


Joe and Susan with Obed & Isaac’s Head Brewer Ryan Walker (center).

To learn more about the Ebys and their home brew hobby (that was something of a survival skill for many of our Lithuanian ancestors who did not brew beer, but operated whiskey stills during the Roaring ‘20s), please read on. Susan is the granddaughter of Lithuanian immigtantsJohn Matekaitis and  Bessie Tolisiasus (sp?).

QuestionHow did you get started brewing your own beer—was it always a couple’s thing, or did it precede you becoming a couple?

Answer: We have enjoyed crafts beers for several years, but Springfield has not always been very big into the craft beer scene. Then we ran into the Prairie Schooners Home Brew Club out at Friar Tuck (out by Target then) on National Home Brew Day in 2012. We joined the club and enjoyed tasting their home brews and sharing unique craft beers we found on our travels. Then we started brewing with friends from the club, at their houses, with their equipment. In 2014, a couple in the club was moving out of state and asked if we’d like to have their home brewing equipment. And so, we entered into the wonderful world of home brewing.


Joe Eby adding malted barley to crushing machine. The grain must be well-soaked so that it releases maximum sugars when crushed.

Q.What roles do each of you take in the brewing process—and who is the official “taster?”

A.We work together in the process from start to finish, from cleaning and sanitizing to brewing, transferring, and bottling. Often one of us is stirring while the other is measuring and/or weighing the next ingredient to be added. So, it’s a real team effort. When it comes to bottling, Susan is the filler and Joe is the capper. The brewing process steeps malted grain to extract the sugars from which the yeast makes alcohol. After the brewing has been done, Susan has enjoyed taking those “spent” grains, drying them and using them to make delicious breads, brownies, and cookies. As for tasting, we’re both into that. We usually taste our batch before the fermentation begins, after the fermentation ends, prior to bottling, and, of course, when we’re ready to open the first bottle of the beer.

Q. What is the home brewer’s most important goal, and what are the most important skills or talents required to succeed?

 A.The most important thing when home brewing beer is sanitation… sanitation… sanitation!  Making sure all your equipment is clean and sanitized is crucial to brewing good beer. Any bacteria that somehow gets into the system can spoil your whole batch. That being said, if you can boil water and follow a recipe, you can brew beer. Then as one gains more experience in the brewing process, it’s fun to imagine new beers with unique flavors and ingredients. For us, the most important goal is to brew a beer that tastes good to us and our friends.


Susan making sure the mash is well-soaked and evenly covered.

Q. What defines a distinct brew—and which do you consider your most successful, and why?

A. We think that a distinct brew is defined by its many layers of flavors. Brews that emphasize the malts are sweeter. Those that emphasize the hops are more bitter. We enjoy and have brewed a broad range of beer styles. To date, our most “successful” brews have been the Windsor Ale we brewed at Obed & Isaac’s (more about that below)–and Joe’s Breakfast Stout. Joe enjoys oatmeal for breakfast just about every morning. His favorite thing is to have it with maple syrup and red pepper flakes. So we thought, “How about making an oatmeal stout and adding maple syrup and red pepper flakes?” It turned out great!!

Q.How did you come up with this year’s selection for the Obed & Isaac’s brewing opportunity? Do you get a share of the sales—or just the glory of your beer’s sales on Black Friday?

A.The beer we brewed at Obed & Isaac’s was a Windsor Ale. It’s an English spiced ale based on a recipe from the late 1700’s – early 1800’s. It’s basically an English pale ale to which was added caraway, coriander, ginger, grains of paradise, licorice root, and orange peel. Our beer was selected by the Prairie Schooners Home Brew Club through a blind tasting process. The reward is being selected is to get to brew a 6-barrel batch, have it for sale on tap, and share it with our friends – which we hope will include many of the Lithuanian Club folks – starting November 25 at 2:00 PM.


Susan cleaning out the spent grain, some of which is used in her baking.

Q. Do you have any secret special ingredients—like maybe a special yeast that you nurture in some dark corner of the basement, like they do in Lithuania?

A. No special yeast strains, but lately we’ve been brewing some unique ales using various herbs, including mugwort, wormwood, rue, coriander, sage, juniper berries, and licorice root — but not all in the same beer!

Q. Do you have any interest in attempting an ethnic beer variety, like Lithuanian?  What do you know about Lithuanian beers, if anything?

A. Yes!  We hope to be brewing a Lithuanian-style or two (and sharing them with the Lithuanian-American Club) in the near future! We’ve enjoyed Lithuanian beers brewed by Svyturys, Utenos, and Rinkuškai. For reference, here are a couple links to good info on Lithuanian beers:


Joe driving the forklift to move grain at Obed & Isaac’s.

Dear Ebys, don’t forget your promise to brew for our Lithuanian-American Club! See you at Obed & Isaacs next Friday….

Oct. 23 St. Louis Lithuanian Festival

Friends, the Lithuanian-American Community of Greater St. Louis is having a fall festival this Sunday, Oct. 23, at the beautiful church built by Lithuanian immigrants in East St. Louis. I wonder if Senator Dick Durbin’s family (his mother came from Lithuania as a toddler) worshiped there when he was growing up…?

I know this is late notice–but I just learned of the event. The celebration starts with a genuine Lithuanian mass, followed by a luncheon, entertainment, and more. Should be nice to experience a community larger than our own, and still with a Lithuanian church. Check out the schedule below, and don’t worry about the RSVP deadline. The mass is certainly open, and you may still even be able to attend the dinner and entertainment afterwards. Contact the organizers through their FaceBook page.



The Yucus Family, the ‘Mecca,’ Snow White Laundry & Tapocik’s Grocery

By William Cellini, Jr.

(Editor’s Note: This is third and last in a series of Lithuanian grocery family profiles. All can be found in the expanded 2016 edition of my book, “A Century of Lithuanians in Springfield,” now for sale on and at Noonan’s Hardware on N. Grand Ave.)

Joseph Yucus, Sr., [Juozapas Jučas or Jocius] emigrated to the U.S. from Lithuania around 1898 and moved to Du Bois, Penn., where he found work as a coal miner. According to U.S. Census information, he lived in Sandy Township near the Eriton bituminous coalmine and by 1909, the mine loaded 2,600 tons of coal annually and employed about 526 men and boys. While in Sandy Township, he likely met fellow Lithuanian immigrant, Sara ‘Sadie’ Tomkevich [Tamkevičius]. They married and had three children live to adulthood; Anthony or Tony (1902-1941); Joseph, Jr., (1906-1973) and Mary (1909-1934).

In 1910, the family moved from the Keystone State to the Land of Lincoln and by 1913, Joseph, Sr., was operating a tavern on Peoria Road near Elizabeth Street while Sadie’s brother-in-law, Charles Rumbutis (he married Sadie’s sister Helen), was operating a tavern in downtown Springfield, according to the Springfield City Directory of 1912. The Yucus family lived on Springfield’s North End in the Devereux Heights neighborhood with its mix of Italians, Spanish, Slovaks and fellow Lithuanians.

When Springfield citizens voted the town dry following a 1917 referendum, all tavern business was halted, although many owners re-applied for “soft drink licenses” to keep their establishments running. In certain cases, liquor sales still continued at great legal risk to the tavern owner and to the patron. There is no indication, however, that Joseph, Sr., covertly sold alcohol—to the contrary, he complied with an earlier ‘lid’ law, whereby taverns were ordered to close doors at midnight and cease operations on Sunday. In one instance, club-wielding Lithuanian miners became enraged after Yucus shut his doors at midnight. They attacked the tavern, wreaking havoc by breaking windows and hurling a brick through the front window that, “narrowly missed injuring Yucus’ wife [Sadie],” per the account in the Illinois State Journal.For Joseph, Sr., the attack was the last straw. He left the tavern business and went back to being a miner, finding work at the Devereux mine near his home.

Joe Yucus’ Son Tony: Grocer and Entrepreneur

Misfortune struck the family in 1920 when Joseph, Sr., died from heart failure–leaving behind his 37 year-old wife and three children. Sadie found support for herself and her family by re-marrying to Charles Cook (Kutkevicius), a Lithuanian immigrant who ran a grocery store on Springfield’s North End. Tony was the eldest Yucus son and he was still at home with his two siblings, but old enough to have a paying job as a deliveryman for an ice company. He also worked at the International Shoe Company on North 11th Street and with his brother Joe, Jr., at the Cook & Yucus grocery with their stepfather, Charles.

Tony realized if he wanted to avoid the coal mines, he needed to create his own business. By 1926, he was operating his own grocery at Sangamon Avenue and North 17th Street. According to public records, that North 17th Street store (built in 1913) and the attached family home had a history of Lithuanian ownership back to at least 1909. Joseph and Helen Mankevich (Mankevičius) owned the residence just prior to Tony–they also owned the grocery at 1700 Sangamon Ave. that Tony purchased.


Snow White Laundry opening, 1927, from left: Tony Yucus, Charles Stevens, and Eli Cellini.  Cellini Family Collection. Stevens ID by his daughter Anna (Stevens) Graichen.


Tony Yucus & The Snow White Laundry

Tony was a hard worker, as were all the Yucus clan, thanks to their determination to succeed. In 1927, according to the Journal, Tony incorporated the Snow White Laundry with Charles Stevens and Eli Cellini, an Italian who moved to Springfield in 1923 with his parents and siblings.*

They built a facility in the 1700 block of Peoria Road, and the business even had its own baseball team, “The Snow White Laundry Nine,” which competed against Paris Cleaners and other businesses in town. Into their 13th straight win, Snow White was pitted against the “Lithuanian Alliance Club” of Salisbury, Ill, according to the Aug. 18, 1929 Illinois State Journal. Newspaper reports also show Tony’s grocery had a team, “The Yucus Nine,” that played in the same league, termed “semipro” by Springfield newspapers.

Brother Joe Opens ‘The Mecca’

The Snow White Laundry was ultimately sold and it became “The New Snow White Laundry” under the management of Joe Yucus, Jr. In addition, Joe transformed an old garage next to the laundry into a “beer and lunch tavern” he called “The Mecca.” Joe, Jr., later sold the tavern to the Corcoran family, whose daughter Jean married Leonard Naumovich, another Lithuanian-American from the North End.


Interior, the new Snow White Laundry. Joe Yucus is probably the man standing, with tie. Glass plate collection, State Journal-Register.

Meanwhile, Tony Yucus continued with his grocery at 17th and Sangamon, and to make extra money, he rented a portion of his building to boarders. He married Margaret Catherine Yuronis, the daughter of Lithuanian immigrants Michael Yuronis (Juronis) and Katerine Kriscunas (Krisciunas). Tony and Margaret had two children, Kenny Joe and Patricia, and lived in a house next to the family grocery.

In the 1930s, Tony’s store became a “Clover Farm Grocery” via an out-of-state corporate franchise. Clover Farm had stores in the Northeast, South and Midwest. Under the franchise, local distributors supplied owners like Tony, selling them goods at lower prices compared to independent family groceries without access to bulk purchasing. Clover Farm corporate provided assistance with merchandising and record-keeping, too.

According to the 1931 Springfield City Directory, in addition to Tony’s store, three more Lithuanian-American owned groceries were Clover-branded: the Victor Bozis Grocery, the Peter Urbis Grocery and Cook & Yucus. With the end of federal alcohol Prohibition in 1933, Tony’s store re-introduced beer, as did many other stores and licensed “soft drink parlors.”


Mary (Yucus) Blazis, SJ-R, 1933.

Suing for Wages Lost to Family Business

It was in this euphoric post-Prohibition period that Mary Yucus wed John Blazis, the son of Kasia and Andrew “Matt” Blazis (Blažys or Blažaitis) in 1933. John Blazis had worked as a clerk and a manager Cook & Yucus grocery, so it is assumed Sadie’s daughter met John while he was working there. The marriage came to a tragic end when Mary died at the young age of twenty-five in 1934. Adding to the family’s pain, John Blazis then sued his former mother-in-law Sadie over the ownership rights to a property on Peoria Road titled in Mary’s name but purchased by Sadie.

The case went to the Illinois Supreme Court, which they ruled in Sadie’s favor. According to the April 9, 1937 Journal, Blazis also tried to sue Sadie for back-wages owed him from when he quit his job in a coal mine to go and work at the grocery. John Blazis’ lawsuits open a window into the opportunity costs of working in family businesses that often paid small salaries to family workers while pouring most of their gains back into the business or into real estate investments. It is plausible John found himself pushed out of the family business once his marriage connection to Mary was severed by her death. The outcome of Blazis’ back-pay suit was not published and his subsequent whereabouts are not known.

1700 Sangamon 1967 recorder of deeds

Tapocik’s grocery, Sangamon Recorder of Deeds, 1967.

Yucus Grocery Becomes Tapocik’s Market

In 1941 tragedy again struck the Yucus family when Tony died at the age of thirty-nine following a long illness. Tony’s wife Margaret continued the grocery, but in 1952 she sold it to Andrew Tapocik, a son of Slovak immigrants who lived in the neighborhood. He re-named the establishment “Tapocik’s Grocery,” and it became a fixture on Sangamon Avenue until its closure in the early 1970s.

In 1947, Sadie (Yucus) Cook, the matriarch of the Yucus family, passed away. Joe, Jr., closed his New Snow White Laundry shortly after WWII, likely due to labor shortages during the war, evidenced by staffing vacancies seen in Springfield newspapers of the era. Around the time of its closure, Joe, Jr., and his wife (the former Miss Ina Dalby) moved out of the North End to be closer to Lake Springfield. Joe was an avid fisherman, boater and a long-time member-officer of the Springfield Yacht Club. He died in 1973 at the age of 67.

*Eli Cellini was born in Scanno, Italy. Unable to work in the mines due to a paralyzing accident from his youth, he worked in Springfield as a barber. He was the author’s great-uncle.

Mystery Wedding Photo

Can anyone identify the people in this photo?  Brian Davis of Springfield, a descendant of the Urban/Shaudis/Petreikis clan, thinks it may be the 1914 wedding of William Shaudis & Anna Romance (Romanausky).

Several of the faces look a little familiar to me, especially the woman in the middle of the back row. The bride and groom are in the front row, third and fourth from the left. Does anyone out there know anyone in this photo?  Please let us know. Thanks!


Updated, Expanded ‘Lithuanians’ Book Now for Sale

Six new chapters  (50+pages, with photos) have been added to the expanded, final edition of my book just released on!!   This enlarged edition of “A Century of Lithuanians in Springfield, Illinois” is also newly available at Noonan’s Hardware at Eighth and North Grand in Springfield under the same title and at the same price as the original edition. (My new book was swapped in for the original title on Amazon, so the publication year for the title is given as 2015–but don’t worry, all you can buy right now is the new book! )


What do you get in the new edition?

You’ll find the history of The Fairview Tavern and Restaurant, the Snow White Laundry, The Mecca and the Jolly End Tavern. The story of immigrant Mary Ann (Yezdauski) Sitki, who lost five of her seven babies in childhood, and went on to love and keep other “little ones:” her songbirds.

Read the colorful saga of “alcohol outlaw” Joe Yucas, our own Lithuanian Capone–and learn about the Lithuanian saloons that got trashed along with “colored” businesses in the 1908 white race riot.

You can also read the in-depth story of the Stasukinas tavern-owning family (“Alby’s), its “bank of grandma” and how Alby made his living from alcohol while also trying to save the most abject alcoholics.

On the lighter side, you will see two 1930s Lithuanian-American “muscle men” showing their stuff at Memorial Pool.

The new edition is enhanced by an author’s Epilogue that attempts to fills in gap that no one still alive can fill. After some insightful analysis, our collective Lithuanian-American saga concludes with some of the author’s personal stories.