The Mother-In-Law

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Alice and Elmer Grunst

Back in 1975-76, I  Started to fill the blank spaces on the family tree in my children’s baby books with names, and noticed mine was almost filled and my husband’s almost empty. Both sets of his grandparents died before he was born or when he was a young child and he didn’t know very much about them.  I went to my mother-in-law and asked about her parents.   The first thing she asked, “Why, are you going to write a book?”  At the time, I thought it was a funny question because writing a book had never crossed my mind.  All I wanted was some names and dates.  She very reluctantly gave me her parent’s names, birth dates, and death dates.  I wrote them in the baby books and forgot about it for a while.  Then in 1979 I Started to do genealogy, and I made family group sheets for them and filed the information away.  For years it has sat in my filing cabinet while I have worked on my own side.  I don’t think my mother-in-law would like it, if she knew I was writing about her now.  But here goes anyway!

Alice Gorski[1] was born at the turn of the last century on 27 March 1900[2] in Cicero, Cook, Illinois[3] to Stanley Gorski[4] and Mary Witkowska.[5]  Both of Alice’s parents emigrated from Poland.[6] Her father came to the United States in 1891[7] and her mother in 1893.[8]  Stanislaus Gorski and Maryanna Witkowska were married in Chicago, Cook, Illinois on 28 May 1894.[9]  Stanley worked in a stone quarry[10] and for the railroad[11] to support eight children while Mary worked at home raising the children, cooking, and keeping house.[12]    Alice, along with her siblings, Joseph, John, Stanley, Constance, Chester, Leo and Felix[13] grew up in Cicero, Cook, Illinois.[14]  In 1900 when Alice was born there were two uncles, John Gorski and Adam Gorski, living in the household.[15]  Alice had an 8th grade education and after completing the 8th grade[16] worked in a Snuff factory.[17]  On 24 November 1920, Alice married Elmer Grunst also of Cicero, Cook, Illinois.[18]  They were married at  St Mary of Czestochowa  church in Cicero, Cook, Illinois.[19] Alice and Elmer had five children, Elmer Jr. in 1921,[20] Harry in 1922,[21] Dorothy in 1923,[22] Lester in 1936,[23] and Bruce in 1941.[24] Around 1929 Elmer and Alice bought a home in Berwyn, Cook, Illinois.[25]  There they raised their five children and spent the rest of their lives in the same house on Kenilworth Ave.[26]  Alice was the typical stay at home mother of the times.[27]  Elmer worked for Western Electric in Cicero, Illinois as a draftsman working his way up to a supervisor.[28]

The first time I met my future mother-in-law was in 1970 when she invited Bruce and I to dinner.  I guess she wanted to meet the girl her son was going to marry.  She was a spry 70 years old.  She cooked a great meal of stuffed Cornish hens.  I think it was the first time I ate a Cornish hen.  During the meal brother Harry came home, and he was feeling no pain, if you know what I mean.  But Harry is a story for another time.  After that meal, I had many more meals there during our courtship and early married life.  I loved some of the things she made, and my very favorite was her homemade Polish sausage.  I have never tasted Polish sausage as good as she made.  Her sister, Constance, would come over to her house and they would spend the day making sausages.  When we got married she paid off Bruce’s car for him.  She helped us with a down payment on our first house and bought us the refrigerator, washer, and dryer.  She could be very generous; however I think she wanted me to keep working to help support us.  When we announced that we were expecting our first child, she commented, “Oh no, now you will have to quit working.”  In 1974, women were just beginning to have both a career and a family.  I probably could have tried to do that, but I chose to stay home.  It took her a while; however she did to warm up to the idea because she called my mother to say, “Congratulations Grandma.”  Alice was already a grandma 6 times, so this was not a new experience for her as it was for my mother.  I must say that she sure did love our sons. 

When our first son was about six months old, we took a trip up to northern Wisconsin to visit relatives with Alice and Harry.  We stopped at a rest stop on the way to eat lunch and feed the baby.  I fed him almost a whole jar of baby food (his normal meal).  Grandma (as I referred to Alice after the kids were born) said, “You are feeding him too much food, and he is going to get sick.”  I told her, “No, I always feed him this much.”  Well, guess what?  He did get sick in the car and oh the smell and mess.  We were on the express way and had to wait until we could find a spot to pull over and clean him up and the car.  She didn’t say, “I told you so!” But I bet she was thinking it. 

Alice never saw any sense in traveling just to sight-see.  She believed the only reason to travel was to visit family or friends or do something like fishing.  Whenever we traveled anywhere she would ask, “What’s there?”

I asked my husband the other day, “What’s your favorite memory of your mother?”  His answer was, “Coming home from school for lunch. I liked talking with her as I ate.”  In 1978, Alice took a fall in her home and broke her hip.  Unfortunately, she was never the same after that.  While she was recuperating from hip surgery, she had a stroke which left her paralyzed on the opposite side of the repaired hip.  She had both sides that did not want to work, and she never walked again.  She spent the last three years of her life in a nursing home.  We would visit her every week no matter how difficult or inconvenient it could be at times.  She was so depressed and would tell us that she wanted to die.  It was so sad and difficult to hear her say that.  Before the fall, she was cleaning house, cooking, going up and down the basement stairs to wash cloths, grocery shopping, etc.  I thought she was so healthy and spunky that she would live to be in her 90’s.  But that was not to be. Alice passed away on 9 February 1981[29] just shy of her 81st birthday.  She is buried in Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Stickney, Cook, Illinois.[30] She was quiet, shy, and a nice person who has been missed the past 37 years and loved deeply by her children and me.  Now that Alice has made her final trip, I have one question for her and that is, “What’s there?”

#52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Copyright © 2018 Gail Grunst

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[1] On the 1900 and 1910 Federal Census’ Alice’s name is Polly and on the 1920 Federal Census it is Pelagia. We don’t know if her middle name was Alice or if she changed her name. 
[2] Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2011.  Original data: Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File. Social Security Administration.
[3] Told to author, Gail Grunst, by Alice Grunst in 1979.
[4] Ibid.
[5] “Illinois Cook County Marriages 1871-1920,” Index, FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2010.  Illinois Department of Public Health Records. “Marriage Records, 1871-Present.”  Division of Vital Records, Springfield, Illinois.
[6] Year: 1920; Census Place: Cicero, Cook, Illinois; Roll: T625_359; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 65. Source Information:  Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.  Original data: Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920. (NARA microfilm publication T625, 2076 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid.
[9]  “Illinois Cook County Marriages 1871-1920,” Index, FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2010.  Illinois Department of Public Health Records. “Marriage Records, 1871-Present.”  Division of Vital Records, Springfield, Illinois.
[10] Year: 1900; Census Place: Cicero, Cook, Illinois; Roll: 292; Page: 22A; Enumeration District: 1150; FHL microfilm: 1240292. Source Information: Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004.  Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1900. T623, 1854 rolls.
[11] Year: 1920; Census Place: Cicero, Cook, Illinois; Roll: T625_359; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 65. Source Information:  Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.  Original data: Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920. (NARA microfilm publication T625, 2076 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Year: 1900; Census Place: Cicero, Cook, Illinois; Roll: 292; Page: 22A; Enumeration District: 1150; FHL microfilm: 1240292. Source Information: Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004.  Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1900. T623, 1854 rolls.
[16] Year: 1940; Census Place: Berwyn, Cook, Illinois; Roll: T627_772; Page: 14A; Enumeration District: 16-5.  Source Information:  Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.  Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1940. T627, 4,643 rolls.
[17] Told by Alice Grunst to her son Bruce.
[18] State of Illinois, County of Cook, Chicago, Marriage License 888953,  Cook County Clerk’s office.
[19] State of Illinois, County of Cook, Chicago, Marriage License 888953,  Cook County Clerk’s office.
[20] Year: 1940; Census Place: Berwyn, Cook, Illinois; Roll: T627_772; Page: 14A; Enumeration District: 16-5.  Source Information:  Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.  Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1940. T627, 4,643 rolls.
[21] Ibid
[22] Ibid
[23] Ibid.
[24] State of Illinois, Springfield, Department of Public health, Division of Vital Statistics, Certificate of Birth Reg. # 106, Reg. dist. # 176.
[25] Ibid.
[26] Personal knowledge from son of Alice Grunst (husband of author).
[27] Ibid.
[28] Ibid.
[29] State of Illinois, Springfield, Illinois Department of Public Health, Office of Vital Records , Medical Certificate of Death, Reg. Dist. 16.21, Reg. No. 134.
[30] Ibid.

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4 thoughts on “The Mother-In-Law

  1. Gail, thank you so much for this update. Since I knew most of these people, it meant a lot to me. Yes, Brother Larry did at times feel no pain! They were a good family and generous. Once day Bruce and I were at Elmer’s in Lisle and it became time for dinner. I wanted to leave but they insisted we stay for dinner. Bruce’s mother was a perfect example of the old time housewife. Stable, nourishing and patient with her brood. Keep on with your research.

  2. As I don’t remember much about Grandma, I remember seeing her though. I vaguely remember her in the nursing home, and maybe once or twice at the house in Berwyn. I remember visiting Berwyn, and seeing Uncle Harry. Most of the time he was entertaining, maybe a little strange but still loved. Going to Uncle Elmers for years and seeing his room of memories some of which I wish we still had. He had pulled out a chunk of ship, and it was marked with the writing of whatever ship it was, and the date the ship had been hit. Only reason I knew this was a ship was because you could see the waterline. Years later I had done some research myself and found out that Uncle Elmer had been at the battle for Guadal Canal. I always idolized my Uncle Elmer and My father,

  3. Pingback: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge | Family Tales from Gail

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