John Jurko II was looking for a subject to make a film about following his graduation from Bowling Green State University’s film school.
He hit upon the idea of making a documentary about Yankee Lake, the village where he grew up and his family history is entwined with the town’s.
“I thought it would be a short, little film and (I’d) make it as a first project,” he said.
Ten years later, Jurko II still hasn’t finished the film.
As he dug into the subject, he found it much more fascinating than he imagined, he said.
His great-grandfather, also known by the Americanized name of John Jurko, came to the U.S. in 1905 from Romania. He bought a farm on Amy Boyle Road in Brookfield, and teamed with E.H. Stewart to buy the land now known as Yankee Lake in about 1920, the year Prohibition – the national ban on the manufacture, import, sale and transportation of alcoholic beverages – started.
“He started showing up on the radar of some bootlegging shenanigans,” said Jurko II, 35, a Kennedy Catholic High School graduate.
The elder Jurko decided to build a resort on his property and that included erecting a dam on Yankee Run Creek to create the lake the town came to be called.
The resort with the lake, cottages, a beach house, a ballroom and other amenities, became successful, but the bootlegging and Blue Laws violations – dancing was allowed on Sundays — became liabilities. At the end of the ‘20s, Paul Jurko – who was John Jurko’s son and John Jurko II’s grandfather — took the operation legit, creating the village.
Using newspaper clippings, documents, photos and interviews, Jurko II has plenty of material for the film. What he doesn’t have is the money to finish it.
He has worked as a camera operator in independent films, including ‘Bone Tomahawk” starring Kurt Russell.
Now living in Atlanta and doing video production and web site designing, Jurko II is seeking funding to finish the Yankee Lake film.
“I’ve tried to work on it in my spare time over the years,” said the son of the current village mayor and a former mayor himself. “I’m trying to raise enough where I can spend three, four months to put it together.”
He tried a main subscription fundraiser in which he would send out monthly tidbits of village history, but “It just didn’t really work out,” he said.
Jurko II has started a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.com, and welcomes any offers of support by contacting him at 724-866-3838 or firstname.lastname@example.org
“This needs to get done,” he said.