'Polka Priest' Rev. Frank Perkovich Dies

July 18, 2018 11:00 AM

A past story from Duluth TV station WDIO on the Rev. Frank Perkovich


The Rev. Frank Perkovich, the Catholic priest who gained fame by popularizing the polka Mass, has died.

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According to his oral history, Perkovich was born on Dec. 24, 1928, in Chisholm and still resided there. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1954.

He celebrated his first polka Mass on May 5, 1973, at Resurrection Church in Eveleth, where he was pastor at the time, even though as he told KSTP this past spring, those closest to him were dubious about the idea.

RELATED: Flashback Friday: Polka Mass Priest Got the Music Started 45 Years Ago

"My mother begged me not to do it," Perkovich recalled with a chuckle.

"She said, 'My son, what will the people say?'"

It wasn't the first fusion with the liturgy of the music Perkovich had grown up listening to. According to the National Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame, Father George Balasko had debuted the Polka Mass in Lowellville, Ohio, the year before.

But, Perkovich took it to a new level. He connected with a band led by fellow Iron Ranger Joe Cvek, and the group combined traditional melodies with religious lyrics, many of which were composed or adapted by Cvek's mother Mary.

It proved a popular combination, spawning an album "Songs and Hymns From the Polka Mass."

"That album has probably been the most-widely sold polka album of the last 50 years," said Joe Valencic, the president of the National Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame, to which Perkovich was inducted in 2012. "It's sold around 100,000 copies."

Valencic said Perkovich became a big part of the polka community. He even assisted at the funeral of polka music icon Frank Yankovic after his death in 1998.

Perkovich, who was retired from the active priesthood, went on to author a book about his experiences entitled, "Dancing a Polka to Heaven."

Credits

Frank Rajkowski

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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