Saying farewell to our founder….

Otto Friedrich

How do you say good-bye to someone who breathed life into a dream, and that dream became the Cleveland Hungarian Heritage Museum? How do we say “Isten Veled Ottó”, when what we really want to say is “wish you were still here”?  Our beloved founder, Otto Friedrich, passed away this year on February 13th, on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. He was 92 years old. It seems like only yesterday that Otto, along with a few other committed Hungarians, grabbed the opportunity to form the Cleveland Hungarian Heritage Society. That was in 1985. That was 39 years ago; today the Hungarian Museum is an ethnic gem in the heart of Downtown Cleveland, and we have Otto’s unbounded enthusiasm and energy to thank for these 39 successful years.

Everyone who worked with Otto could not help but being swept away by his relentless energy, positive outlook and practical sense. We shared his conviction that what this Hungarian community here in Northeast Ohio needed was a permanent Museum featuring our culture and immigrant history. To so many of us he was like an older brother who led the way, challenged us to do our best in this endeavor, and who supported us as we worked to grow this project into a lasting testimony to those hardworking immigrants who lived here and prospered. He understood that each successive generation stood on the shoulders of the previous generation, and he wanted this Museum to reflect the contributions of all the generations who identified with their Hungarian heritage.

Opening at St. Elizabeth 1986

Otto was the perfect Executive Director of the Museum. He was outgoing and friendly and treated  dignitaries as well as tourists and visitors who came to our Museum with courtesy and a hearty welcome. He loved socializing, meeting people, dancing and tasting wine with Museum supporters, but most of all, he enjoyed working with people. He was open to new ideas, and also welcomed projects and programs that required a lot of planning and organizing. He succeeded, because few could say no to Otto!

Our Board and officers, along with our members, will miss him. But we will keep his dream alive, and will work to maintain this Museum that serves as a reminder to every Clevelander, that there is a vibrant  Hungarian-American community living on the shores of Lake Erie.



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