Czech Center Museum Houston Founder Effie Rosene Passes Away
Effie Marie Sojak Rosene passed away early Mother's Day morning, May 12, 2019. She was born November 10, 1932 to Frank Sojak and Christine Lezak Sojak, Czech immigrant farmers, in the Frydek/Simonton area of Texas. She grew up in the Rio Grande Valley with 15 brothers and sisters and graduated from Rio Hondo High School. She attended St. Joseph Hospital School of Nursing in Houston. She was working as a nurse at St. Joseph Hospital when she met the love of her life, Willard George (Bill) Rosene.
They married in 1953, and they raised 3 daughters while she worked in both hospital and school settings. Deciding that she wanted to continue her education, she earned a Bachelors Degree in Nursing from St. Joseph College in Maine and a Masters in Health Care Administration from Texas Woman's University in Houston. She eventually became Assistant Administrator of the Northwest unit of the Memorial Healthcare System in Houston.
When Bill retired, Effie decided to join him in pursuing their travels, something they both enjoyed immensely. Trips to Europe inspired them both to learn about their heritage, especially as the former communist Czechoslovakia became more accessible to visitors. Hence, they built a vacation home in the wine village of Hlohovec, South Moravia in the Czech Republic, giving them a base for exploring the region, as well as a comfortable place for extended family to visit.
They had the idea to create an organization to showcase not only the historical achievements and heritage of Americans of Czech descent, but also offer and present the European culture of past and contemporary Czechs and Slovaks that is so rich in artistic accomplishments.
The Czech Center Museum Houston was incorporated on March 8, 1996 as a non-profit educational and cultural organization, made up entirely of volunteers. Initial office and retail space were established in the Northwest Mall. Over the subsequent years, Effie worked tirelessly to help bring forth a permanent home to showcase the best of her heritage.
Monetary support from over 6000 individuals, with assistance from local as well as national and international source eventually culminated in the current Czech Center Museum Houston, which was completed in September 2004 in Houston's Museum District. The outpouring of support for the center has enabled Czech language classes, scholarship awards, dinners, programs and events to take place in the Czech Center.
Effie worked tirelessly in all facets of the organization, from sales in the all-volunteer gift ship to the administrative head of the organization. Her devotion and perseverance in the mission of the Czech Center were well known. She served on the boards of American Friends of the Czech Republic and the Texas Czech Physicians Exchange Program and advocated for many other Czech and Slovak organizations locally and abroad.
Her organization was recognized by the Czech government's Ministry of Foreign Affairs with a prestigious Gratia Agit award for its work in the furthering of and advocacy of a Civil Society in the Czech Republic and for increasing knowledge of the impact those of Czech heritage have made here in their new homeland.
She and Bill were also presented an award by Houston Business Alliance for a significant asset to the City of Houston in building the unique Baroque architecture building in the Museum District. She was honored with a Mayor's Volunteer Houston Award in 2010 and will be honored with the 2019 Civil Society Vision Award by American Friends of the Czech Republic.
Effie is survived by her husband of over 65 years, Bill, daughters Sherry Pierce and husband Lindsey, Cathy Anderson and husband Larry, and Christie Johnson and husband Eric, grandchildren Sarah Pierce, Matthew Anderson, Christopher Anderson and wife Mary, Rory Johnson and wife Alexis, and Eric Johnson, Jr., brothers Clem Sojak and wife Miki and Jim Sojak, sister Mary Gray, sister-in law Dorothy Moore, cousins, nieces and nephews and numerous friends both in the U.S. and in the Czech Republic, all of whom she thought of as family.
Effie always lived by and was inspired by the words of John Ruskin who said, "When we build let us think that we build forever. Let it not be such for present delight nor for present use alone.Let it be such work, as our descendants will think of us for. And let us think, as we lay stone upon stone, that a time is to come when these stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them and that men will say as they look upon the labor and wrought substance of them,'See this our father did for us.' "
Funeral service and burial will be held at St. Mary's Catholic Church, Frydek, Texas on Thursday, May 16, 2019 at 11 a.m. A celebration of her life will be held at the Czech Center Museum Houston on Friday, May 17, at 3PM. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Czech Center Museum Houston in Effie's name