"A family tree can wither if nobody tends its roots."


Taylor Street Neighborhood

by  Phyllis Zeck

Corinne, Phyllis, Lori & Me

Corinne, Phyllis, Lori & Me

For many years, in the late 1990’s, Auntie Phyllis lived with my mother Corinne and my sister Lori in Romeoville, Illinois. In the audio clip below Auntie Phyllis talks of her love for Chicago, joining the Red Cross during WWII and the birth of her first child, Mark. The photo on the left was taken a few years before Lori bought her home in Romeoville. The next paragraph is one of Lori’s favorite memories of that time.

“Auntie Phyllis lived with me in Romeoville Illinois. Our house was a few blocks away from a Jewel-Osco grocery store/Pharmacy. Auntie Phyllis went to that store every day rain or shine. One day I went to the store and as I was walking in, I saw in the entrance corridor great big 20 x 30 pictures of people. Across the top was a banner that said our regular customers. I went home and said to Auntie Phyllis “you better watch yourself or you’re going to wind up on that wall”! We had a good laugh over that, and every time she went to the store after that I would tell her to wear a disguise or avoid the manager, and if she asked me to go to the store for her, I would say “yes but I’m not telling them it is for you, I don’t want to wind up on that wall”! She continued to shop there every day but somehow, she never wound up on the wall of shame! “

Phyllis Vincent

Phyllis and her granddaughter Becca

My brother Rob recalls “My first memories of Aunty Phyllis were in 1956, when she and cousin Mark came to stay with my family and me for a year while Uncle Vince was stationed in the Navy. I was enchanted having a playmate my own age. Aunty was in heaven at that time, returned to the bosom of her large family after a long period spent isolated in the East with Richard, in Springfield, Mass. Reconciling with her father was important and she often referred to that feeling of “coming home,” which in no small measure meant being close to her precious father. This would be the first time she would spend living with her beloved sister, Corinne. In time they would become “Golden Girls” and the easy familiarity of living together began that year when Aunty came home to Chicago.”

Click this link below to listen to part of the interview Rob and I had with Auntie in 2011.

Thanks to my siblings for their memories of our Aunt. Lori lives in Utah now but comes to visit us in Portland frequently. Rob is a national leader and trainer for Recovery International.  Click on this link to hear Rob discuss Mental Health Recovery. 



Mending A Broken Heart

by  Phyllis Zeck

Auntie Phyllis  and her great grandchild

Auntie Phyllis and her great grandchild

This weekend I edited more of the three interviews that my brother Rob and I recorded with Auntie Phyllis in 2011.  Auntie was my mother Corinne’s older sister. You can listen to the first interview by clicking here. I’ve skipped ahead to our third interview but will be editing the other two interviews as time permits. In this discussion we asked auntie what has given her the most pleasure and satisfaction in her life. “My children”, she told us. Phyllis and Richard had five children; Mark, Toni, Ricky, Gina, and Michele.

We also talked about my genealogy research and how pleased auntie was to begin correspondence with her first cousin, Joe Del Principe.  Rob then moved the discussion to God, faith, miracles, and Heaven. Auntie Phyllis encourages her descendants (in 2011 she had 14 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren) to follow their dreams. We ended with a story about how Auntie “calmly” explained to an aide in her assisted living center the difference between spaghetti and macaroni.

Auntie’s daughter Michele shares a memory below about her mother, thank you Michele!

“My First Broken Heart. I suffered my first broken heart at the age of 15 and I’ll never forget how my mother helped me get over it. After I had been lying in my mother’s bed crying for a couple of days, my mom came home from work one day with a little pink and white heart shaped pillow about 6″ x 6″. Coming from a family of five children, we didn’t often get spontaneous gifts so it meant a lot to me and I knew it was an effort to help me get through my first broken heart. The pillow itself was nothing special but for some reason I kept it in my cedar chest for years. When I’d see it, It would remind me of my first love and my first broken heart.

Auntie Phyllis & Michele (appor 2010)

Auntie Phyllis & Michele (approx 2010)

Fast forward many years, and my grown daughter is lying on her bed crying her eyes out over her first broken heart and suddenly I understood. My heart was breaking watching my daughter with her first broken heart. I wanted so badly to help her get through it. I so wished there was something I could do or say to help her and I felt helpless. My heart hurt. I went to my cedar chest and picked up the pink and white heart pillow. It no longer represented my first broken heart. I now understood that when my mother gave me this heart pillow, it was because her heart was breaking and she wanted to do something, anything, to help me. It was now about my mother’s love for me. I knew what I had to do. I handed the heart pillow to my daughter and told her about my first broken heart and how my mother helped me get through it.”

Click on this button below to listen to an excerpt from our interview with Auntie Phyllis in 2011.



A Chance To Hear Auntie Phyllis Laugh Again

by  Phyllis Zeck

Phyllis Vincent

Phyllis, Gilbert, & Corinne

Gilbert Del Principe and Bertha Reher married in Chicago on 27 Nov 1926. Phyllis Elvira was born in 1927 and my mother Corinne was born in 1931. I now realize that Auntie Phyllis was named after my 2nd great grandmother Filomena Ursitti.  

Mom and Auntie suffered some traumatic events early in life. They were both with their grandmother Elvira at Christmas Eve Mass when Elvira passed away in 1939. And they were both with their mother Bertha when she passed away at home in 1947. Auntie Phyllis was 19 and mom was 16.  Auntie Phyllis would soon marry Richard and leave Chicago to settle in Connecticut. Auntie had 5 children and mom had 8 children. This equaled plenty of grandchildren for Grandpa to spoil.

Mom and Auntie tried to see each other often and I have such fond memories of vacations with my cousins. Calling each other on the phone was a luxury for mom and Auntie that our children would not be able to comprehend. Long distance calls were very expensive and once the sisters started chatting there was no stopping them. When my aunt and mother got together those two ladies laughed and talked non stop.  I can still hear them as if it was yesterday. 

Phyllis Vincent Corinne Winike


In 2011 my brother Rob and I recorded an interview with Auntie Phyllis. I had just begun my genealogy research and knew Auntie Phyl had some great stories to tell. I recently played those files and found myself laughing out loud and smiling. What a great idea we had and why hadn’t we thought of it earlier so we could have recorded our mother!? 

Click below to listen to Auntie talk about how her older cousin Elvira (Snookie) gave Auntie Phyllis a bike she had outgrown. She tells us how grandpa taught her to ride it. We also discuss childhood illnesses (my mother had scarlet fever) and a lesson auntie and mom learned about washing the dishes in a timely manner.




Baby Girl Del Principe

by  Phyllis Zeck

Bertha & Gilbert, Phyllis & Corinne

Bertha & Gilbert, Phyllis & Corinne

I count on my favorite podcast, Genealogy Gems, to keep me up to date with family history news and technology. I listen to Lisa while driving or working at my desk and I get her weekly email newsletter updates. The databases I use for my genealogy research grows too fast for me to keep up with so I keep my eyes peeled for Illinois news. Lisa keeps me updated with new source additions at this link. Scrolling down to February 18th brought up the link to over 3.7 million records that have been added to the free index for Cook County, Illinois deaths at FamilySearch.org. If you don’t subscribe to a searchable database like Ancestry.com but you are researching your heritage, the Family Search website is a wonderful resource.

It was at the Family Search website that I discovered a death record for Baby Girl Del Principe, Auntie Phyllis and mom’s younger sister. I knew that Bertha and Gilbert had a third daughter but did not have much information about her. My aunt told me that Bertha lost the baby when Bertha fell down some stairs. You can read more about Bertha and Gilbert at this blog post from 2010. Auntie Phyllis was born in 1927, my mother Corinne was born in 1931, and their sister was born 04 Jan 1938. Click here Family Search to view  the source information from Family Search “Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994”. The actual record has not yet been scanned to FamilySearch.org.

I wanted to see if Ancestry.com had scanned the record. They had indexed the record but had not scanned it. Click here Ancestry.com and you can see that Ancestry included different source information than Family Search did. The family’s address was not included, but I found it interesting that the baby’s body was released to the Presbyterian hospital. I just assumed that Bertha was also Catholic but perhaps she was Presbyterian. 

Auntie Phyllis would have been 10 and my mother almost 7 when Bertha was carrying this baby. What a devastating loss for my family. I’m so appreciative that we have access to these records. Having actual birth records sheds new light on this ancestor for me. 



Unknown Family Photographs

by  Phyllis Zeck

The following photos are from the albums of John Del Principe Jr (aka Bubbles). Andrew discovered them on a recent trip back to Chicago. Thank you for sharing these Andrew. Please email me or post a comment if you are able to identify anyone.  If you click on the photo, then click again, you will be able to view the photo enlarged.