Members of the Belgian-American Association board of directors pose during the group’s 90th anniversary celebration Jan. 27.

Members of the Belgian-American Association board of directors pose during the group’s 90th anniversary celebration Jan. 27.

Photo provided by Maureen Kay


Belgian association celebrates 90 years

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published February 5, 2018

 Association President Robert Hison stands with chaplains the Rev. Ronald DeHondt, of St. Margaret of Scotland Parish, and the Rev. James Commyn, of St. Lucy Catholic Church.

Association President Robert Hison stands with chaplains the Rev. Ronald DeHondt, of St. Margaret of Scotland Parish, and the Rev. James Commyn, of St. Lucy Catholic Church.

Photo provided by Wendy Ouvry

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Begun in October 1927, the original goal of the Belgian-American Businessmen’s Association was for businessmen of Belgian descent to come together and promote their companies.

With 84 members, the club had a variety of social functions and, as the Great Depression descended on the country, also worked to help Belgian-Americans in need. Through the purchase of a building in Detroit, its sale and moves to different locations around St. Clair Shores, the association has survived with membership still in the hundreds.

“We’ve been around for 90 years, the last 50 or more in St. Clair Shores,” said Bob Putrycus, of St. Clair Shores, the current vice president of the club. 

The social club began as a Belgian businessman’s club, he said, but “after so long, there’s only so many businesses and so many men that could join.”

The rules were changed through the years to allow the husbands of women of Belgian descent to join, as well as men with a parent of Belgian descent. 

The group now includes 258 members, as well as a ladies auxiliary. It meets once a month at the Assumption Cultural Center for lunch, cards and other activities. The group also sponsors the Belgian-American Association Band — which celebrated 85 years in 2017 — an annual picnic in Blossom Heath Park, two golf outings each year, casino trips, holiday parties and concerts, a memorial Mass, and feather bowling. 

The group gives out three $1,000 scholarships to children of members each year.

“It’s a great organization and, 90 years, how many organizations are still in existence after that time? It’s amazing; it really is,” said BAA President Robert Hison, the former mayor of St. Clair Shores. “The organization is really to encourage fellowship. It promotes social and cultural activities and that we preserve our Belgian heritage.”

The group first met in a building that has since been torn down in Detroit. It met decades ago at Blossom Heath and then moved to Barrister Gardens before finding its current location at Assumption, 21800 Marter Road.

Putrycus said that as the association ages, its membership has aged as well, so they are looking for new members. 

“It’s high time someone steps up and takes my job,” he said, explaining that he’s been on the executive board of the BAA for 22 years. Members must be men 18 years or older and have a Belgian parent or wife. To learn more or for an application, visit www.the baa.us.