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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

WESTERN FRATERNAL LIFE ASSN.

WESTERN FRATERNAL LIFE ASSN.

The WESTERN FRATERNAL LIFE ASSN. is a Czech-American fraternal-benefit society based in Cedar Rapids, IA. Known until 1971 as the Western Bohemian Fraternal Assn., the organization was founded in 1897 by lodges of the Czech-Slavonic Benevolent Society which left that organization to form a new association that admitted women as equal members and based insurance premiums on the age of the policyholder. Cleveland branches of the Czech fraternal group were organized in the 1920s and 1930s; Rad Cleveland, whose organizers included Joseph Marotta, was founded ca. 1924; Rad Husova Pravda was established ca. 1933. In 1971 these two lodges and a third Cleveland lodge, Rad Miroslav Tyrs, hosted the national organization's convention, which brought 325 delegates from 20 midwestern and western states to Cleveland. By 1971 the association had 60,000 members and was open to all people, regardless of ethnic heritage; to reflect its broader appeal, the Cleveland convention voted to change the name of the organization to the Western Fraternal Life Assn. The organization continued promoting Czech culture by sponsoring language programs at the university level and supporting other Czech institutions. Although the association had 2,000 members in the Cleveland area in the early 1970s, membership had declined to about 400 members by the mid-1990s. However, the association remained active in community services and insurance programs. Members regularly volunteered at local churches and social service organizations. In 1995 John Blazk served as president.