home & art/culture events organizations publications
Lithuanians in Arizona:
Lithuanian American Club

After a series of four get-acquainted Lithuanian picnics in Phoenix, starting in December, 1953, a meeting was held on May 10, 1955, at the Painters Union Hall, which launched the formation of the first Lithuanian organization in Arizona, later incorporated as Lithuanian American Club, Inc.
Original Club members:

Adason, Ana
Andrik, Anton
Baltronas, Joseph
Baranauski, Brone
Bartkus, Anton and Agnes
Bejmowicz, Ronald and Ada
Bell, Julius and Antoinette
Bellum, John
Bertasius, Fr. Anthony
Blazok, Thomas and Stella
Bonvie, Stephanie
Brazis, John and Constance
Buyvid, Margaret
Catomio, John and Bernice
Crochunas, F. J. and Margaret
Dambrauskas, George and Ada
Daniels, Dr. Jacob and Antoinette
Davidson, Julius
Dooley, Edward and Xavera
Duff, Lowell and Alice
Edwards, Catherine
Faber, William and Angeline
Green, Walter and Helen
Herbert, John and Helen
House, James and Mary
Juravich, Frank
Kelly, Albert and Eva
Kezes, Daniel and Felicia
Krukonis, Raymond and Eva
Malin, Vincenta
Mench, Peter
O'Neill, Albert and Josephine
Pepper, Barbara
Raudonis, Izadore and Anna
Runowicz, Vince
Sandarg, Beatrice
Sanders, Charles and Rose
Smith, Michael
Stackus, Anthony and Stella
Ataken, John
Stanevich, Teena
Stasiunas, Romoldas and Cecilia
Sutterlin, George and Helen
Svelnis, Frank and Bessie
Valantas, Alex
Valantas, John and Mary
Winkes, Joseph and Mary
Whyster, Stanley and Sophie

Club presidents:
1955-1956 Daniel T. Kezes
1957-1958 Peter Mench
1959 Frank Svelnis
1960 Tony Tabick
1961-1963 Daniel T. Kezes
1964-1967 Vytas Mozart
1968-1969 Tony Ignotas
1970-1971 Daniel T. Kezes
1972-1974 Tony Ignotas
1975 Bill Racine
1976-1977 Tony Ignotas
1978-1980 Stanley Pudinas
1981-1982 Sally Pudinas
1983 Anne Stedwell
1984-1985 Jean Pike
1986 Felicia Kezes
1987-1988 Richard Chernauskas
1989 Irene Ryder
1990-1991 Richard Dixon
1992 Mike Balchus
1993 Mike Balchus/Belle Crooker
1994 Hank Shudinis
1995 Irene Kuniski
1996-q998 Alex Kuratczyk
1999-2000Dr. Ophelia Baker
2003 Alex Kuratczyk
2004-2005 Jean Pike

Because not all Club members were fluent in Lithuanian, the official language for all Club activities was English.

By the will of the Club members, Club bylaws disallowed political and religious activity. Thus, Club activities were social in nature. There were monthly meetings to conduct the official Club business and to socialize. Official business was usualy followed by Lithuanian food, songs dancing, exhibits of interesting items related to Lithuanian culture, etc. The Club also made a point of commemorating important Lithuanian historical dates and organized picnics and other outings.

In September of 1961, classes were started to teach Lithuanian language and Lithuanian dances. The Club also helped its members to gain U.S. citizenship.

In the begining, members met in private homes and city parks, but soon it was decided to build a clubhouse. A building fund was established in May of 1956 and a search for a site, which would suit the building plans and the financial limitations of the fund, was begun. The search for the site took a long time. Finally, in November of 1965, a 5 acre parcel of land was purchased and construction started. Club members lent money to the building fund and donated their labor. The new clubhouse was opened with great ceremony on April 26, 1969.

In 1972 the city started demanding that a paved parking area be created on the property, that the property be fenced, and so on. It also became obvious that the profits from Club events were too small to repay member loans to the building fund. Not seeing another way out, the clubhouse was sold to the Postal Workers Social Club for $82,350.56 on February 1, 1973. The promissory notes were repaid, members were compensated for their labor, and some money was left for the operating costs of the Club.

In 1985 the Club celebrated its own 30-year anniversary. The same year restoration work began on the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor. The Club began to collect materials on Lithuanian immigration. In 1986 the Club invited the head of the Department of Lithuanian Studies of University of Illinois and collected donations for the department. Club members also donated money to Lithuanian orphans and the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture in Chicago.

In 2005 the Club celebrated its 50th anniversary. For the occasion a booklet about the Club (Lithuanian-American Club of Arizona, Fifty Years 1955-2005) was published and copies were distributed to all members. Soon after, unable to find a new Club president among its aging members, the Club voted itself out of existence.