William (Bill) Borek was born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, on July 19, 1941, to Joseph and Stella (Socha) Borek. His dad owned and operated a very successful Polonia Bakery in northern Rhode Island for many years, where he and his younger brother Edward would work as kids helping to bake and deliver bread, rolls and many traditional Polish pastries. This is where Borek developed and cultivated the work ethic and appreciation for Polish culture that would become the hallmarks of his life.
After Borek graduated from Woonsocket High School in 1958 as the class valedictorian, his parents insisted that he be the first in the family to go to college. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in education from Rhode Island College in 1962. Subsequently, he went on to earn two Master’s Degrees, one in 1964 from the University of Connecticut and the other in 1968 from the University of Rhode Island.
Borek served his country as a member of the Rhode Island National Guard from 1964-1971. He taught high school history and served as a reading consultant for many years in the Rhode Island public school system. After retiring from teaching, he took a job with the Combined Insurance Company of America and worked his way up from a salesman to district manager. He won many honors for his unrivaled job performance with the company and was constantly recognized as one of the top sales leaders in the company.
He was married to Barbara Jarosz. Although they eventually divorced, they had two children during their marriage, Elizabeth Dardzinski and William Borek, Jr. He was also the proud grandfather of two beautiful grandchildren, Khristopher and Kassandre.
While Borek focused on his family and career, he still made time to pursue his lifelong passion: writing and performing music. He was proficient with the piano, organ, keyboard and bass. After forming the Wesoly Bolek band in 1958, he quickly began performing. His career would span five decades and take him to over 5,500 engagements in 18 states, Canada and Poland. Bill often played polka dances, festivals and conventions several days a week, every week, all year round. He was fondly referred to as Wesoly Bolek – Rhode Island’s “Polka Clown.”
As the Wesoly Bolek band became more and more popular with crowds everywhere, they started recording albums. They made 10 recordings total on the Rex, Dala and Borek’s own label. Bill regularly appeared on television and polka radio stations in Rhode Island and Florida. He won “Band of the Year” honors from stations all over the country. He was also a polka disc jockey since 1970. Fan clubs sprouted up in both Rhode Island and Florida to support the band.
Borek believed in promoting Polish culture just as much as polka music and tried to marry the two at every possible occasion. He ran summer Polish picnics and regular Sunday night gatherings where polka bands from around the country would play. He promoted polkas by running bus trips, cruises and polka parties. Bill was the originator and chairman of the first five All Florida Pulaski Weekends. He was a member of the IPA since its inception, as well as an IPA elector.
Bill Borek passed away after a long battle with cancer on May 13, 2006, in Hollywood, Florida. His family and friends miss him dearly. He will be remembered most certainly for his smile, his faith in God, his love for life and of polka music.. He continues to, and will, live in our hearts forever.