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A Founder’s Story – The Choromanski Legacy

In our last blog, “A Month to Remember St. Therese of Lisieux,” we shared who St. Therese of Lisieux was, and how her acts and demeanor inspired the Saint Therese organization name and our mission, “to do ordinary things with extraordinary love.”

What we didn’t delve into was the genesis of this decision. Who knew about St. Therese and singled her out? For that we are eternally grateful to one of our co-founders, Jerry Choromanski.

To help tell the story, we talked to Lynn Choromanski, the second oldest of Jerry and Ursula’s seven daughters, and a Saint Therese board member.

Lynn described how Jerry grew up in northeast Minneapolis, the son of hard-working Polish immigrants, Josephine and Joseph Choromanski. In Lynn’s own words (click on links):

Lynn Choromanski Clip #1

Josephine and Joseph Choromanski (parents of Jerry)

In particular, Lynn talked about her Grandmother, Jerry’s mom, who may have been the hardest worker of them all. At times in her life, she owned a restaurant, two homes, sold bootlegged liquor and worked as a seamstress.

It was during this time – the 1920’s – that St. Therese of Lisieux became a saint, and she was well known in the Catholic community.

Lynn Choromanski Clip #2

Once Jerry and his wife, Ursula, began having a family, St. Therese became their patron saint. All seven daughters took “Therese” as their confirmation name and Lynn said her presence was a constant in their lives.

Lynn Choromanski Clip #3

Jerry (right) at the groundbreaking of Saint Therese of New Hope

The dream of building a senior living community in New Hope came about after Jerry’s mom had a major stroke and the family moved her into the closest Catholic nursing home they could find, in Winsted, Minnesota, about an hour west of the Choromanski home in Crystal.

The lack of a Catholic facility closer to the metro provided the catalyst for Jerry to begin working with others to plan and build one in the metro. He was already a well-known and respected bank executive with Crystal State Bank and soon found and purchased farmland near Bass Lake Road and Winnetka Avenue North, very close to his neighborhood and business.

The name chosen was, of course, Saint Therese.

Building and opening the community was a family affair, up to and including when it opened in 1968.

Lynn Choromanski Clip #4

Lynn Choromanski Clip #5

Jerry and Ursula

While Jerry was the driving force, Ursula was right by his side, especially with her service to the Auxiliary and the Gift Shop. Although, as Lynn said, having seven kids was job enough. Still, she was there to help in any way. she could.

Lynn Choromanski Clip #6

The seven Choromanski daughters (Lynn is top center)

Over the years, all the Choromanski daughters contributed in ways to Saint Therese, be it serving on the Board of Directors, contributing money, working at the gift shop or volunteering in other ways. And now that extends to the grandkids.

In their later years, both Jerry and Ursula lived in the New Hope community. And,  and both passed away in 2015, within a week of each other.

To be sure, the Choromanskis didn’t do this alone. The other cofounders – Father Gordon Mycue, Elizabeth Hidding and Sister Marcelline Jung, OSB – were very involved and created the vision. But, it isn’t too much of a stretch to say that without the Choromanskis, we wouldn’t be who we are today.

And Lynn doesn’t want their connection to be forgotten.

“I think as an organization, we were an innovator,” said Lynn. “Our reputation is what’s so special. People know us, they respect the brand. The legacy is what’s so special and how it came from small roots to where we are today. We’ve grown and blossomed and spread branches to different part of the city and now the country, with the Michigan community.

Lynn Choromanski Clip #7

Jerry and his seven daughters