Bill Seles of Tarentum remembered as ‘polka ambassador’
Bill Seles had a love for his community and pride in his heritage that radiated in all he did.
Seles, who grew up in Pittsburgh and most recently lived in Tarentum, spent his life promoting polka, the traditional music of his Slovenian ancestors, and fundraising for various causes to help those in need in his community.
“We did tell our dad, ‘You just don’t realize how many people you touched and brought happiness to,’” said Karen Seles, his daughter. “That was so important to him.”
Seles, 85, died Monday. He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Lydia Ann Seles; children Bill Seles, Karen Seles and Jim Seles; and eight grandchildren.
Seles worked for WKPA in New Kensington and WHJB in Greensburg, where he broadcasted the “Bill Seles Polka Bandstand.” He was designated as “Western Pennsylvania’s Polka Ambassador” and was inducted into the trustees honor roll in the Polka Hall of Fame in Cleveland in 1991 for his contributions to the music.
“That was unheard of,” Jim Seles said. “Usually, the musician is the one who gets those awards.”
Seles also spent many years working as a travel agent, where he would organize trips to Europe and see polka shows. He and his wife also spent time traveling and moving around the country, living in the Cheswick and Springdale areas, Southern California and Hilton Head, S.C., before moving back to Tarentum a few years ago.
He owned The Crystal Bar in Cheswick for 20 years, where he would host polka jam sessions one Tuesday a month, drawing musicians from the Pittsburgh region and Cleveland. He also hosted the Seven Springs Polka Festival for 40 years, drawing polka musicians from across the county and as far as Canada.
Brothers Dick and Jack Tady knew Seles for more than 40 years. The group traveled together to perform as far away as Hawaii and the Caribbean, with Seles’ promotion.
“We had some great times,” Jack Tady said.
Seles brought Dick Tady’s band, the Dick Tady Orchestra, to his show whenever they had a new album.
“When he promoted, he promoted,” Jack Tady said. “He made you feel so good.
“He did so much for polka music, he was just instrumental in keeping polka music alive.”
In addition to promoting the music, Seles also used his platform to help raise money for the Salvation Army and other charities by broadcasting out of the Hart’s Department Store in New Kensington around Christmas.
“He was always helping people,” said Lydia Ann, his wife. “He just loved doing things like that — he was just a good, good person.”
There will be no visitation. Friends will be received at St. Margaret Mary Church in Lower Burrell at 9:30 a.m. Friday, followed by a private Mass of Christian Burial at 10 a.m. A mercy luncheon will follow the service in the church hall.