Henry J. Dende, founder of the Polish American Journal and president of the Polish Union of the United States of North America, died Monday, January 29, 2001.
Henry Dende was born October 21, 1918 in Scranton, Pa, to John and Mary Dende. In 1936 Dende attended Alliance College, a predominantly Polish junior college in Cambridge Springs, Pa. While attending
Alliance he became the editor of the school newspaper, Glos Studencki. Upon graduating in 1938 with an associate degree, Dende received a grant from the Polish embassy to attend the University of Poland in Warsaw
where he studied journalism. Unfortunately, his visit was cut short, as the German army advanced toward Warsaw in September of 1939. Dende continued his education at the University of Scranton, where in 1941 he
earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and publishing.
Dende served in the United States Army during War World II from 1942 to 1945. In 1944, upon the death of his father, John, Henry Dende became the editor and publisher of Republica Gornik. Four years
later, in 1948, Dende reorganized the paper, renaming it the Polish-American Journal, and substituting English for the Polish language. Dende’s decision was based on a number of demographic trends which began
to emerge in the mid 1940s: of the more than six million Americans who claimed Polish ancestry, only 900,000 were fluent in the Polish language. By changing language formats, Dende was able to widen his circulation
to a larger and more diverse audience, insuring the survival of his publication at a time when many ethnic newspapers were dying off. In the 1960s Dende made another major change to maintain and expand circulation.
He began publishing Polish fraternal organization editions under the Polish American Journal’s masthead, often replacing the organizations’ own newspapers. By the early 1980s Dende published six regional
and fraternal editions of the Journal.
When he retired in 1983, the Polish American Journal was sold to Panagraphics Incorporated of Buffalo, New York. However, Dende remained a contributing editor and the fraternal organization editor.
Henry Dende was active in a wide variety of local and national Polish fraternal groups and community organizations, including the Polish Union of the United States of North America and the
Polish-American Society of Lackawanna County.
He was a member of the Scranton school board from 1951 to 1969.
Beginning in the 1950s Dende became active in the Polish Union of the United States of North America, serving on the board of directors and later as president of the organization. The Polish Union is
an ethnic, fraternal benefit society, providing its members with life insurance at a relatively low cost. Under Dende’s leadership the organization has remained financially solvent at a time when many ethnic
fraternal organizations are on the decline.
In 1962, Dende become the first Polish American newspaper editor to travel behind the Iron Curtain. He documents his trip on over 3,000 feet of film and discusses his findings at 125 public events
over the next several years.
As a civic leader Dende has fulfilled many functions, primarily with the Scranton School Board, serving as a member and president of the board from 1951 to 1969. His major achievement while with the
school board was establishing a sound vocational-technical education program in the Scranton area. Dende maintained that a vocational-technical school would not only provide career training for the young people of
Scranton but would also create a pool of skilled workers which could be utilized as an incentive to attract industry to the Scranton area.
A vocational-technical school opened in Scranton in 1958, but Dende continued to lobby for a district wide vocational-technical curriculum. After losing his bid for re-election to the school board in
1970, Dende became the chairman of the citizen’s advisory board. In recognition of Dende’s steadfast efforts to establish a vocational-technical education program in Scranton, the new
vocational-technical center was named in his honor in 1984.
Dende did not limit his services to the school board but was also involved in a number of other local and national organizations. He was president of the Scranton Philharmonic Orchestra for four
terms, from 1957 to 1961, and helped save the ailing organization from bankruptcy. In politics, Dende Was active in the Democratic party both locally and nationally. In 1952, 1956, 1960 and 1964 Dende was elected as
an alternative delegate to the national Democratic party conventions. He also served in the Nationalities Division of the Democratic party, where he worked to enhance the Polish American voice within the party.
Dende was also very active in anti-defamation activities during the 1970s, using his position as editor of the Polish American Journal to speak out against the then popular Polish joke and on other issues which he
saw as denigrating to the Polish people and culture.
At the time of his death he was very active in the operations of the Polish Union of USA. He served as editor of the fraternal’s organ, and often was called upon for assistance from fellow
fraternalists, both Polish American and other.
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