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STEFANSKI, BEN S.

STEFANSKI, BEN S. (26 Jan. 1902-8 Oct. 1991) was the founder and long-time leader of THIRD FEDERAL SAVINGS AND LOAN ASSOC. OF CLEVELAND, one of Cleveland's most successful savings institutions. Born in the Broadway neighborhood of Cleveland, to William and Anna (Czarniak) Stefanski, his early life was rooted in the Polish-American traditions which characterized the area. He attended Fullerton School and South and East Technical high schools. Later he attended Cleveland Business College and took additional coursework from the American Savings and Loan Institute.

On 24 Aug. 1937 he married Gerome Rita Rutkowski. The couple honeymooned in Washington, DC, where they applied for a federal charter for a new savings and loan company. Third Federal Savings and Loan came into existence on 3 May 1938. Stefanski's aim for the fledgling organization was straightforward: " helping the working man attain a home of his own." Third Federal prospered, always adhering to its original purposes. In the 1980s some other Cleveland savings and loan officials remarked that Stefanski's approach had become old-fashioned. He was not deterred, however, and Third Federal emerged from the decade stronger than ever, while his critics' institutions foundered. In 1995, Third Federal had 21 offices, and assets topping $4.5 billion. Stefanski served as Third Federal president and then chairman until his retirement in 1987.

Active in the Polish-American community, he was honored by the Polish American Congress and the Polish Legion. Devoted to the Catholic Church, in 1965 he pledged $1 million dollars to its high school building fund.

Stefanski was father to five children: Ben S. II, Hermine, Abigail, Floyd, and Marc, who succeeded his father as Third Federal chairman. Stefanski is buried in Cleveland's CALVARY CEMETERY.