O’Kowalski Family History

Eight things you probably didn’t know about Cleveland’s premier heat treating family.

corned beef cabbage BLOG
St. Patrick’s Day will be celebrated next Tuesday around the world. Here in Cleveland, we too celebrate our Irish heritage and culture and the oft forgotten legends of the O’Kowalski’s and the role we’ve played throughout the centuries.

The Earls of Rosse, in Ireland were great inventors and studied things such as photography, engineering and other marvels. Most famous, however, is the Rosse Telescope, which was built in the 1800s by one of the Earls and held the record for largest telescope in the entire world for the better part of a century. The telescope had a reflector that was 72 inches in diameter, supported by tempered metal framing heat treated by Shamus O’Kowalski. Said Shamus, ‘ey – it was a real PIA (pain in the %@$) job, and we were glad we could help.”

Feast Day – St. Patrick’s Day is much more solemn in Ireland thanks to Uncle Murphy O’Kowalski. A heat treater by trade, Murphy skipped all the frivolity at the local pubs, and concentrated on his favorite hobby – cooking, where he taught the locals how to heat salted water and boil their food. “put it all in at once,” cried Murphy, “she’ll cook down nice for supper.” To this day, the O’Kowalski family gets together on holidays and reminisces about Uncle Murphy and cookin’ ‘em potatoes.

An Irishman designed the White House – In 1792 George Washington and Thomas Jefferson organized a competition to decide who would build the domicile of the President, and the man who won was an Irishman named James Hoban, not only born in Ireland, but he also studied architecture in his homeland as well. Not only did he design it, but he also built it, with the help of his best friend and fellow architect Kathleen O’Malley O’Kowalski – and more than once. After the White House was destroyed in 1814, Hoban, tired of the project asked dear Kathleen to build it all over again. Famous for her favorite sayin’ – “come on boys, let’s git ‘er done” she helped build what we enjoy today.

St. Patrick’s clearing of the Emerald Isle of snakes isn’t true – The legend says that St. Patrick cleared the Emerald isle of snakes; this has become such a widely popularized myth that it is believed by nearly everyone. It is also, completely untrue. The truth is the snakes were cleared decades before St. Patrick by the O’Kowalski’s. “It took some doin’, said Micheal O’Kowalski, but we finished the job, just like we always do.”

The Irish may have discovered America first – Some say Christopher Columbus was the first to discover America, as the poem goes “in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”. Some suggest that the first to discover America were the Vikings, or even the Chinese. According to legend, an Irish monk called St. Brendan O’Kowalski set out on an expedition to find paradise and after seven years discovered an island that was so large that even after forty days they could not reach the far shore. The monks returned home with the news much earlier than many of the other first discoveries of America.

St. Patrick was not actually Irish – St. Patrick, despite popular belief, was not actually Irish. St. Patrick was the son of Romans who were living in Britain, legend says he was kidnapped and taken as a slave to the Emerald Isle where he helped herd sheep. However, he actually went to Ireland of his own accord and sold heat treating so that he wouldn’t have to be drafted into a job as a tax collector.

The Reuben – nothing says Irish more than the sandwich Reuben, but where did it originate? History tells us of a small boy named Reuben O’Kowalski. Always up for mischief, he said to his Mum one day – “its kind of dry, can you put some cabbage on it.” She did, and slid it into the O’Kowalski Heat Treating oven, only to come out crispy and tasty. And the rest is history.

reuben sandwich BLOG

Kiss the Stone Instead – in 1314, Robert the Bruce held a ceremony at the Blarney Castle to honor Cormac O’McKowalski (the predecessors to the O’Kowaslki clan today) for his valor in support of the Battle of Bannockburn. During the ceremony, Robert the Bruce heated is sword in the fire, and asked Cormac to knee and kiss it for good luck. “it’s a wee bit hot, me lord,” said Cormac. Toeroarowalfi Not wanting to disrupt the ceremony, Cormac proclaimed – “how about I just kiss the stone instead,” launching a tradition that holds true today.

Call me on Monday and share YOUR Irish heritage stories – and be sure to walk in the Cleveland Irish Festival Parade and salute all of us Irish. 


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