|Webster Credit Union 75th Anniversary|
Thursday, July 24, 2003
THURSDAY, JULY 24 TELEGRAM & GAZETTE
So I've Heard Column
The 75th anniversary of the Webster First Federal Credit Union was the topic on a recent morning and Francis J. Kubicki, Chairman of the Board, sort-of confirmed my suspicions.
I've long heard the credit union was conceived because some Polish speaking immigrants weren't treated too kindly by some of the town's long ago bankers.
It's true that 20 Polish speaking men got together in 1927, pooled their resources--$350--and petitioned for a state credit union, Mr. Kubicki said.
Some of them had been rebuffed at traditional banking outlets, he acknowledged, but language differences could have been a factor. Mr. Kubicki, a long time national guard commander, and once Webster postmaster, prefers an historical key to Jan. 20, 1928, when the state issued a charter to incorporators. "What led to the union is pretty much understood," he said.
Self-help financing became a matter of pride for credit union founders, according to Mr. Kubicki. "They didn't even have community standing, just a right to work amongst themselves. They weren't even noticed by the banking community but they developed a sturdy financial infant."
This is the bequest of founders, he said. The 20 included charter officers Victor E. Dziembowski, president; Dr. John F. Zurawka, vice-president; Frank P. Brezniak, treasurer; and Aloyius N. Groth, clerk. I go back to a time when the WCU shared a Mechanic Street storefront with Mr. Brezniak's funeral parlor, and remember Dr. Zurawka because he was my first dentist. The late Mr. Dziembowski was Robert K. Christman's grandfather. A long time banker in Southbridge, Mr. Christman now makes his home in Florida.
The fledging credit union functioned through the Great Depression of the 30s, when thousands of banks failed and a great number of national institutions were temporarily shuttered.
The Webster Credit Union wasn't a bank, not even a full-fledged community group, so it continued, injecting its meager resources into the community. "Those old timers used to say they saved some homes," says Mr. Kubicki. In any event, this bit of history inspired confidence in the Polish led institution, he said. Growth was slow but steady.
As with anything, the credit union's base expanded with societal changes, and the founders, or their first generation progeny, moved the WCU into full-fledged community banking. "In a way, this was a celebration of what our founders accomplished," says Mr. Kubicki. "They opened access, once denied to some of them elsewhere, to everyone."
A federal charter came with this, and growth unimagined when Victor Dziembowski brought the credit union's first meeting to order. Michael Lussiere of Spencer is now the president and chief executive officer. Directors include Mr. Kubicki, Albert Chlapowski, Edwin Stochaj, Gary Luksha, Dr. Zenon Szlyk, Joseph Piniarski, Louis Sroczenski, Charles Daoust, Charles Recko and John Zmetra. "They represent pretty much every national group in our region," Mr. Kubicki said, smiling.
Annual meetings, once measured in hundreds and thousands of dollars, are now recorded in millions, according to Mr. Kubicki. "We're almost at $400 million," he said. "We're poised to do that within months, maybe before our 75th anniversary year ends."
Headquarters remain in Webster but the Webster First Federal Credit Union also has branches in East Douglas, Dudley, Whitinsville, Worcester, Charlton, Spencer, Auburn, and West Boylston. "There's 154 employees," said Mr. Kubicki. "That's a lot of people."
I've known Webster's Mark A. Fallon for decades, starting from his association with the Webster Lodge of Elks. We generally exchange greetings in passing, but his heritage was a topic only recently.
Mr. Fallon's knowledge of Webster history has always impressed me. It stems from his teen years, when he'd sit and listen to a great au
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