While the family reunion’s source perched perennially on paper at the top of an enormous family tree taped for the occasion to the living room wall, its soul sat regally in twin chairs across the hall.
Two grandmothers, between them mothers to 17 children, held court Saturday night and from their amiable stories emerged the fascinating history of an immigrant’s family that counts among its current members writers and artists, business leaders and attorneys, teachers and law enforcement officers.
Love, respect, humor, discipline, intelligence — these elements clearly contributed to both women’s successful parenting. But a more avant-garde focus emerged from their stories, especially for women coming of age six decades ago — education.
Grandma Mary Jane, who with her husband Vince raised nine ambitious children, put herself through Loyola University in the early 1950s by working at the Chicago Tribune, just down the road.
A few years later Vince’s only sibling, the honorable Aunt Pat, mother of eight and a retired Circuit Court Judge, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in German and went oversees to work before marrying her husband Donald and returning stateside to raise her family.
The tenacity both women displayed while securing college diplomas during a time less than 6% of women sought higher education seems remarkable today.
We raised a glass or two this weekend in honor of the prolific matriarchs whose dedication to old school values like family brought 17 children into the world and whose insistence on education inspired them to succeed.