By Carol Mowdy Bond
Almost 30 descendants of Anton Blecha and his wife Katerina Novotny Blecha gathered for a family reunion. They arrived from Colorado, Texas, Arizona, Illinois, and Oklahoma including Yukon and El Reno. Some had not seen each other in many years. And others had never before met each other.
The Blecha Family has deep ties to Yukon, Yukon Czech Hall, and the Canadian County Czech population. Canadian County residents who attended the reunion included Betty Cernosek of Yukon, Betty Zoubek Sackett of Yukon, Marlene Salmons of Yukon, Jenny Horn Williams of Yukon, and Vera Mae Maly Morse of El Reno.
Originally planned for May 2020, the pandemic put the skids on the event for well over a year. But undaunted, the gathering took place this year on July 17 at a historically noteworthy place for the massive Czechoslovakian family. The group convened on the home of Katerina and Anton Blecha’s son William Penn “Bill” Blecha, now known as Castle Falls and located at 820 N. MacArthur Boulevard in Oklahoma City. The location is a massive, multi-level, 5,500 square feet castle, with 24″ thick concrete walls, and is now a restaurant and event venue.
The group ate dinner together at tables in two adjoining rooms, swapped stories, took photographs, and laughed boisterously.
In 1928, Bill Blecha married Winifred Opal Williams who was born in Missouri in 1904. Bill and Opal had one daughter, Willia Dee Blecha, who was born in Vinita in 1923. And Willia Dee Blecha Harris George’s son, Lt. Col. USAF (Retired) William Randel “Randy” George and his wife Tammy, of Norman, attended the reunion. Randy George is Opal and Bill Blecha’s grandson. Tammy and Randy George swapped remembrances with others, and enjoyed the evening.
Willia Dee Blecha was the first bride whose marriage took place in the castle. And the July 17 reunion took place on the floor of the castle where Willia Dee Blecha’s 1956 wedding ceremony was conducted.
Opal Blecha was a seamstress who specialized in wedding dresses. At the July 17 gathering, stories were told about family wedding dresses of the past that Opal Blecha made.
Robert “Bob” Cernosek of Sleepy Hollow, Illinois, is the unofficial Blecha family historian. He, and his wife Bonnie, brought his huge collection of vintage Blecha photographs and displayed them for everyone to enjoy.
Besides Bill Blecha, Katerina and Anton Blecha’s children included Helen Blecha who married Frank Blaha; Frank Blecha who married Mary Pesek; Anna Blecha who married Frank Cernosek; Joseph Blecha who married Albina Svejkovsky; Rosa Blecha who married Frank Zoubek; Anton Jacob Blecha also known as Tony and A.J., who married Tina Boevers; and Mary Blecha who died at nine months old in 1891.
By far, the largest group present at the reunion included the descendants of Rosa and Frank Zoubek, including Betty Zoubek Sackett of Yukon. Frank Zoubek was born in Bohemia in 1878. He met Rosa Blecha at Yukon Czech Hall, and they married in 1906. Rosa Zoubek is credited with modernizing Yukon Czech Hall with indoor restrooms. In 1948, the two retired from their farm, and moved to Yukon. In 1956 they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at Yukon Czech Hall.
Numerous descendants of Anna Blecha Cernosek and her husband Frank Cernosek were present at the reunion, including their daughter Betty Cernosek of Yukon. As a child, Betty Cernosek watched as Bill Blecha and his family constructed their castle in the 1940s. Frank Cernosek was born in 1879 in the Moravian region of today’s Czech Republic.
Of the descendants of Helen Blecha Blaha and her husband Frank Blaha, only Vera Mae Maly Morse attended the July 17 event. Morse, who lives in El Reno, is the granddaughter of Helen and Frank Blaha. Morse participated in Yukon’s first Czech Festival in 1966.
Descendants of Christina “Tina or Tena” and Tony Blecha were unable to attend the reunion. Tina and Tony Blecha married and established a Canadian County farm. Tony played the accordion in a band for the first polka dance the first night at the current Yukon Czech Hall’s opening. From an El Reno family, Tina was a pianist and her and Tony’s children formed a popular polka band that regularly played at Yukon Czech Hall.
The descendants of Joseph Blecha and Frank Blecha were unable to attend the reunion.
The catalyst for the reunion was a magazine story about Castle Falls that was published in the December 2019 issue of “Oklahoma: Magazine of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.” Built by the hands of Opal and Bill Blecha and their daughter, Willia Dee, the castle was completed by 1950, at which time the Bill Blecha family made the citadel their home. Bill Blecha named the castle “The Cedars of Normandy.” He was stationed in France during World War I at which time he became enamored by a medieval castle, vowing to build his own back home in Oklahoma.
The castle, which initially sat on the unpopulated prairie near Oklahoma City, was considered unusual and fascinating. Family members, who were alive when Bill Blecha was living, still have vivid memories of family reunions, and other family gatherings, at the castle. Oklahoma City now engulfs the castle.
Research for the magazine story included finding Bill Blecha’s relatives both past and present, and figuring out the where, when, and why of both the castle and Bill Blecha himself. In the process, Blecha relatives were linked, and some did not even know about each other. They began communicating by phone calls and emails. And the reunion idea was hatched.
Anton Blecha was born in 1856 in Bohemia, which later became Czechoslovakia. Katerina Novotny was born in Bohemia in 1858. They both ended up in Chicago, Illinois, and that’s where they met. They married in 1879 in Pawnee County, Nebraska. Shortly after Oklahoma Territory’s Land Run of 1889, the couple purchased a rural farm located southwest of Oklahoma City. The couple spoke the Czech language in their home, and they raised their children on their farm. Katerina Blecha never learned English. Part of their 160-acre farm, now enveloped by Oklahoma City, became the still-well-known Bohemian National Cemetery, also known as the Czechoslovakian Cemetery, located at 2437 S.W. 44th Street in Oklahoma City.
Anton Blecha died in 1933, and Katerina Blecha died in 1941. In 1988, Opal Blecha died, and Bill Blecha died in 1989 at age 94. In 1994, Hilda Vormann purchased the castle, turning the cellar into the German restaurant Keller in the Kastle. In 2004, Amy and Ralph Rollins, the third and current owners, purchased the castle and grounds and created Castle Falls.