Jim Kozel

Part #1 (By Grant Segell, The Plain Dealer, 2012)




Known as Mr. Nice and Easy, Jim Kozel turned out buildings and polkas. The 50-year resident of Euclid died Sept. 1 at the Hospice of the Western Reserve after struggling with several illnesses. He was 84. "In addition to being a superb architect, Jim Kozel was one of the greatest accordion stylists Cleveland ever produced," said polka star Joey Miskulin. Kozel played with many stars, including Frankie Yankovic, and composed songs that several recorded. He also designed homes, offices, banks and more. Kozel grew up in Collinwood and overcame polio at age 5. He learned accordion at 9 and started playing in local taverns by 16. He graduated from Collinwood High School in 1945. About then, he teamed with Chuck Smith to play on WSRS and at many local parties and dances. He toured the Midwest with Yankovic's band and with George Cook's band. He recorded with Cook on the Decca label. Polka paid for Kozel's architectural degree at Western Reserve University. He was a regular at Euclid's Welcome Tavern during his college years. He also played with Johnny Vadnal, Frank Mullec, Al Markic and many other notables. He performed on Polka Varieties and other television shows. Eddie Habat, Walter Ostanek and other performers recorded his "Keystone Polka." Vadnal recorded his "Recipe for a Polka." Backed by friends, Kozel cut an album, "Nice and Easy" in 1975. Starting in 1950, Kozel worked for several architectural firms, including Arthur G. McKee & Co. In 1969, he opened his own firm. According to his resume, he designed the Lorenzo Carter log cabin at Settlers Landing in the Flats, McKee's headquarters in Independence, the St. John Vianney Catholic Church parish office in Mentor; the Briardale Greens pro shop in Euclid and several banks. He also worked on a building at Children's Hospital in Akron; two medical buildings in Steubenville and a Veterans Administration building in Fort Myers, FL. In 1981, Kozel became chief of design and engineering for the Cleveland Metroparks. In 1983, he became the parks' chief architect. He was a charter member and a president of Euclid's architectural review board. He was president of the Slovene Home for the Aged and of St. Augustine Manor. He was a trustee of the Slovenian Society Home and a volunteer at the Collinwood Slovenian Home, which named him a Polka Prince. He was a founding member of the American Slovenian Polka Foundation and a member of the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame's Trustees Honor Roll. Among other contributions, he designed parts of the hall's two locations over the years, served as musical director for its first 11 shows and helped with later shows. Kozel was president of the Zarja Singing Society and performed with it in Slovenia several times. He belonged to the Elks and liked to garden, golf and go on cruises with his wife, the former Victoria Langus.

















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