Vincent Pisek

Vincent Pisek

Czech Republic
Death 6 Feb 1930 (aged 70)
Manhattan, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Burial Flushing, Queens County, New York, USA
Plot Block FCIR,LOTS 52 & 140, Grave 7a
Memorial ID 113859919 · View Source
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When Pastor Alexy, Pastor of Jan Hus Presbyterian Church, New York, NY died in 1880, the newly official Presbyterian Church asked 21-year-old Pisek to take over as leader. By day he taught Sunday School downtown and in the second Sunday School in the Morrisania section of the Bronx, preached, pastored, and studied at New York University and Union Theological Seminary. At night he taught English as a second language to other new immigrants. From the beginning, gratitude and joy were themes in the life of Jan Hus Church - indeed, Pisek closed his first session meeting with the spontaneous singing of the doxology.

After spending five years raising funds, Jan Hus Church moved uptown to Yorkville (where the Czech community had been settling). After the move, Pisek took a leave to visit Bohemia, and when he returned he brought 3 Czech seminary students with him to enroll at Union and to lead Czech churches out west.

The 1895 Morning Journal reported that in 1894 Pisek had been visiting Nebraska when a hunter killed a mother wolf and presented the new-born cub to Pisek who took it back to Jan Hus Church and raised it on a bottle. The wolf wandered freely around the church and was especially protective of children, who also appear to have had free reign of the place. All day in the pastor's study the wolf would sit at Pisek's feet. One day the wolf was missing and they searched everywhere until they found it curled up sound asleep inside the pulpit. Neighbors complained that the church was terrorizing the block with a wolf howling from the attic. Jan Hus Church comes by its present nature from way back!

At the turn of the century, the church continued to grow, as Czech families immigrated in large numbers. You have to remember that religion was not popular among the Czechs. The followers of Jan Hus had been persecuted or forced out of Bohemia and Catholicism was an imposed religion. By the time they got to New York, many wanted nothing to do with any church and were called"Free-thinkers." Others were former Catholics who did not trust priests. But Pisek was free-thinking in his own ways, and performed marriages between men and women from different ethnic groups, which was something like performing interracial marriages in the 1960's. And his enthusiasm to help make these marriages was a part of what helped to build his church.

Around 1903, Pastor Pisek was out in the Midwest and came into a hotel bar where a man was playing the piano. The man was tall, athletic and friendly, and by the end of the conversation, Pisek h ad invited Mr. Charles M.H. Atherton to come to Jan Hus Church as Music Director. Atherton, an American born in 1873, had been a professional baseball player. He came to Jan Hus and became Pisek's companion and colleague here at the church for the rest of Pisek's life. (In his will, Pisek referred to Atherton as his "bosom friend.")

Pisek was always devoted to the Czech communities in the United States and abroad. In the late 1800's, Pisek organized 30 Czech churches in Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, and other states. By 1893 he published "The Union," a national Czech newsletter. In 1919, at the age of 60, he and Atherton (who had learned Czech early-on) took a leave of absence to travel and encourage the Czecho-slovak troops in Siberia who were fighting in the first World War (their first hope for independence in centuries). When they returned to New York, Atherton published a songbook called "Favorite Songs of the Czech Slovak Army in Russia."

Pisek was a man full of energy, enthusiasm, and a great sense of drama. In 1914, Pisek, Atherton, and the Jan Hus community raised funds to open the Neighborhood House, the eastern-most portion of our building. The Neighborhood House was to be a cultural and social center for the Bohemian people, a place for art and music, job training, a dental clinic, clubs, athletics, language classes and more. As the clock struck twelve on December 31st, Pastor Pisek, with gavel in hand, knocked loudly on the inner door to the Jan Hus Neighborhood House and, in the name of God the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost, opened it and with a song of thanksgiving joined in by the congregation, ushered in the "Jan Hus Year" (the 500th anniversary of the death of Jan Hus).
Since that night, a lot has changed about Jan Hus Church. We are no longer a primarily Czech community. Our congregation is smaller, our ministries different, and we no longer have a church wolf. We still, however, try to remain (as the Jan Hus community wrote in 1977, in their centennial history of the church), "practical dreamers, ever seeking the good of all."


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  • Created by: Vincent Trinka
  • Added: 15 Jul 2013
  • Find A Grave Memorial 113859919
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Vincent Pisek (29 Mar 1859–6 Feb 1930), Find A Grave Memorial no. 113859919, citing Cedar Grove Cemetery, Flushing, Queens County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Vincent Trinka (contributor 47088077) .