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Grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-grandchildren pose at the house Mateusz 'Matthew' Kolis built in 1923-24.
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Arriving relatives add their names to the reunion poster.
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The wedding photo of Blanche Kolis, one of Matthew and Catherine's 13 children.
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The house boasts a 1923 sign to indicate when construction started.
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Kolis Family Celebrates 100 Years in Homestead Grandfather Built

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Grandson William Kolis, who grew up across the street, recounts some of the family's story at Saturday's reunion.  Behind him is his grandmother's 90th birthday proclamation signed in 1985. 
ADAMS, Mass. — More than three dozen members of the Kolis family stretching across at least three generations on Saturday celebrated 100 years in the home their dziadziu and babci built. 
 
Mateusz (Matthew) Kolis and Katarzyna (Catherine) Strzepek sought their futures in America in the early 1900s and found work in the mills. The big house near the top of steep Haggerty Street was built by Matthew Kolis as a home for their 13 children. Eleven of their children would give them 36 grandchildren and 57 great-grandchildren and numerous great-great-grandchildren.
 
"We lived across the street and my dad, like dziadziu, built the house we lived in," said William "Bill" Kolis. "For me crossing that street was like going to Poland. It was language I didn't speak, with people I didn't really understand."
 
Kolis said he's been looking into the history of the family as his sister, Gail Kolis Sellers, has been documenting the genealogy.
 
"In my mind, genealogy is the skeleton. We know where everybody is. History is the story and the story of this family is fantastic," he said. 
 
Matthew Kolis' shares a birthday with the nation he came to call home, though the July 4 date is a little iffy as its listed as his baptismal date. Bill Kolis, who was recorded as he shared the family story, said babies were usually baptized the day they were born because the death rate for infants in Poland was so high at the time. 
 
The family patriarch was 14 when he arrived in America in 1906, following his older sister, Zofia Kolis Les, who arrived five years earlier. The Kolises lived in a poverty-stricken region of Poland then under Austrian rule, and the massive textile mills here were recruiting thousands of workers overseas. 
 
Millions of Poles came to the United States during a great wave of immigration between 1870 and 1914. This would be stemmed after World War I as America sought to limit immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe. 
 
"There was a strong movement from Congress when they passed legislation restricting the number of people who come from Poland, because those who lived here believe that the Polish people were polluting and diluting the bloodline of the country," said Bill Kolis, commenting that history doesn't repeat "but it rhymes."
 
"I hope we have just as much respect for the immigrants that are coming in today," said another family member. "You know, it was tough back then. It's tough now. Well, you gotta give them a break."
 
America represented opportunity, said Kolis. "It was the young, the brave, and it's really interesting in our family, in light of some of the discussions, it was the women who came first. ...  he came here but there was already a Kolis woman here. There's strength in our women and I think I've heard that all through this day."
 
Matthew Kolis would marry Katherine and become a loom fixer in the Berkshire Hathaway mills.
 
The family didn't know much about their Polish relatives or how their grandparents had lived in the old country. Bill Kolis thinks it was because of the way Poland was treated in the history of the word: "the invasions, the borders changing, and when people came over, they were afraid to talk about their country. They were afraid they would be picked up and sent back."
 
Matthew never went back but Catherine Kolis did, twice, after his death in 1957. Her family had survived World War II but was still destitute. A photo she brought back of one her relatives barefoot in a sack dress with a young child had written on the back in Polish, "do you have any clothes or shoes?"
 
Saturday's reunion was the first major one since Catherine's 90th birthday in 1985, not long before her passing, said Gail Sellers. A birthday proclamation poster for that reunion was filled with signatures of the family members who had attended and Sellers had a new poster for everyone to sign this time.  
 
The house has been owned since 2004 by grandson Daniel Kolis, whose father, Francis, had previously been the owner. The home had been separated into two apartments but he has since returned it to a single-family home. 
 
"I'm not sure what's going happen after this. My two daughters, one lives in New York, in Albany, and the other's down in West Haven, Conn.," he said. "There's a lot of Kolises here. Might have to find one to buy it."
 

Tags: genealogy,   local history,   

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Catering Company Selected as Greylock Glen Food Vendor

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
ADAMS, Mass. — The Selectmen on Wednesday voted to enter negotiations with an Agawam catering company to operate food service at the Greylock Glen's outdoor center. 
 
Chez Hospitality Group LLC submitted the only proposal to run the center's cafe and provisions offerings. 
 
"We are a hospitality group that is rooted in management agreements chiefly with municipalities throughout Connecticut and Massachusetts," said Mark Sparks, general manager and principal. "We've had a lot of enjoyment in working and partnering with municipalities. ...
 
"We're excited to potentially partner and think this is a great opportunity to join in the ground floor, to kind of have a white canvas and see what we can make this."
 
The company's portfolio includes concessionaire work with golf courses and beaches, catering for organizations such as the University of Connecticut and Amazon, and social catering for weddings and corporate events. CHG has catered a number of events in the Berkshires, including at Ski Butternut.
 
Sparks is initially proposing a slow ramp up with grab 'n' go sandwiches, salads, snacks and protein packs and shakes; made-to-order counter items; and preordered packages such as picnics and boxed lunches. There are some future ideas such as theme nights, tastings, catering and specialty events. 
 
CHG would also seek a beer and wine license and, according to its proposal, is willing to discuss the advantage and disadvantages of a full liquor license with the town. 
 
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