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

Nov17th2018

I Will Love You Forever

by  Phyllis Zeck

Today is a very difficult day for my family and friends.  My brother passed away this summer and today would have been his 69th birthday.  Robert Gilbert Winike was the oldest of eight children born to Corinne and Robert.  Our father passed away when Rob was 20 years old.  Rob helped guide his siblings through life giving them strength and confidence as they forged their paths.

Rob was the first to move to Portland and one by one brothers and sisters followed him.  Many of us settled in the St Johns neighborhood where we raised our children who affectionately nicknamed Rob “Poppy”.  The Winike clan continued to grow. As my nephews and nieces arrived I realized that my siblings were the best gift my mother and father ever gave me. We leaned on each other as our children grew and we offered love, support, and guidance as our babies maneuvered through the bumpy road toward becoming adults. We made sure that family gatherings happened frequently.  With a clan like ours those parties were filled with stories of our childhood, teasing, laughter and love. Then, in the blink of an eye, there was a whole new generation of children and Rob became a grandfather.  The 1985 photo below is of  Rob, Lori, Janie, Paul, myself, Holly, Grandma Corinne (her grandchildren) and Steve.

Family was one of Rob’s greatest joys in life.  Rob loved to tell stories of his youth.  Until the age of 10 he lived in Chicago and was surrounded by Del Principe & Ciolli families, most of them living within a few homes of Rob, our parents and our grandfather. In 1958 our parents along with grandpa Gilbert and the 4 oldest children moved to the suburbs of Villa Park.  Janice was the first sibling born in Villa Park. 

Rob thrived on helping others. His service to the church started when he was a youth and lasted his whole life. When his children were young Rob would coordinate overnight shelters at his church so the homeless had a place to sleep.  Rob had a deep religious conviction, which helped comfort him through many of life’s good and bad times. Rob and my sister Holly are my daughter Ashley’s godparents.  Rob and his wife Judy are my granddaughter Abby’s godparents. 

Rob was an example of a Christian who used his faith and relationship with God to grow as a person.  He went through ups and downs and particularly during the lows in his life he leaned into his faith to improve his life and change for the better.

Rob and I shared the excitement of establishing this family history blog. He contributed so many of his memories to countless blog posts for which I will be forever grateful.  Rob was a gifted and talented writer.  Some of my favorite memories of researching and blogging with Rob is the time we audio recorded several interviews with Auntie Phyllis.  When you get lonely for Rob’s voice and laughter, click on one of the interviews. Click here to listen to one of my favorite posts.  This always brings a smile to my face. To hear more audio interviews click on the Category column in the right for “Vincent Family”.

Lindsay, Robin, Tyler, Rob & Judy

I feel the heartache daily of saying goodbye to this wonderful man and will for a very long time to come.  He has touched us all in different ways and for myself and Ashley there are endless memories of fun adventures that fill us with contentment and happiness.  We try to find peace rejoicing in the knowledge that Rob is in Heaven and watching out for us all, just as he did in life.  Rob will forever be deeply and dearly missed.

 

 
 

Apr22nd2018

Our Lady of the Angels Fire

by  Phyllis Zeck

On December 1, 1958 a fire broke out at Our Lady of the Angels Catholic grade school in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood.  92 children and 3 nuns were killed. The fire started in the basement and spread quickly through the school reaching many combustable substances which accelerated the fire. Jean Gallo, one of my mother’s best friends, had two children who survived this fire.

My mother had two close friends in high school who were sisters.  Their names were Jean & Teresa Spotts.  Teresa married August (Gus) Russo and they had two children, Barbara and Michael.  They lived near Berwyn.  Jean married Frank Ernest Gallo and they had four or five children; Frank Jr, Sam (Sandy), Anthony, and Theresa.  

My brother Tom told me the following details about mom’s close friends.  “Aunite Jean lived in the Del Principe apartment building at Harrison & Oakley while her husband served in the military. Everyone in the family loved Jean and Theresa’s father. The last time we saw the Gallo family was probably Christmas 1970.  We took 2 cars to their house in the south suburbs.  Rob & Janie took one car and mom took most of us kids in the other car.  Uncle Frank had a split level in a very nice neighborhood.  He stayed in the kitchen cooking Italian food the whole time.” Frank Sr passed away in 1973.

Tom continued, “Jean and Frank’s oldest son Frank Jr and his brother Sam survived the horrible school fire at Our Lady of the Angels Catholic school. Frank was 9 and in the 4th grade. Sam was 7 and in the 2nd grade. The boy’s father was a paratrooper in the Army Air Force and he had taught Frank Jr and Sam how to jump from trees and roofs, which is why Frank as able to survive the fire”.

If you click this link and scroll to Room 210 you will read the following:

Frankie was hospitalized overnight with minor burns and for observation of minor injuries. “A kid in my room jumped up out of his seat and hollered, ‘smoke.’ And smoke started coming through the cracks in the door. Our nun was writing on the blackboard. She told us to open the windows and start praying. Then everybody started running toward the windows because they couldn’t breathe. She just stood there, cool as a cucumber.” Frank said that after seeing several boys jump, he pulled himself onto the window sill, sat down and slid off, falling 25 feet to the hard ground below. “I felt like my back was broken. I crawled along a while and then got up. A lot of them couldn’t get up.” Firemen found Frankie sitting on a curb in shock, and had him taken to the hospital. Frank passed away on May 8, 2011.

Brother Sam Gallo age 7. Sam escaped without injury from his first floor classroom.  Neighbor Alice Tarsa took him into her home until his parents could get him. 

Tom also remembers “The church was rebuilt and is still open.  It’s 3 miles from the house where mom and Auntie Phyllis grew up.  The last Del Principe to live in the house was Uncle John and his wife Jeanette.  One of the most painful memories of Our Lady of Angels tragedy is that most of the children were taken directly to the county morgue which is where Jeanette worked. 65 children were taken directly to the morgue.”

Jean Spotts and Frank Gallo Gus RussoThe photo to the left is Auntie Jean and Frank Gallo’s wedding photo. My mother Corinne is second from the left.  Jean’s sister Teresa is between Jean and my mother.  I have two more photos of the bride and would love to forward these three photos, which are in excellent condition, to Jean or Theresa descendants.  Unfortunately we’ve lost touch with the Gallo and Russo families.  

 
 

Jan22nd2017

Family Stories – Pass Them On!

by  Phyllis Zeck

Auntie Phyllis and her daughter Gina’s Family

Today I will post the 5th and last audio clip that I have from a series of interviews that my bother Rob and I had with our beloved Aunt Phyllis in 2011. To listen to the other interviews, click on the box titled “Vincent Family” in the categories box to the right.

This series of blog posts have brought back wonderful memories for me and I hope that listening to Auntie’s voice has brought you as much joy as it has brought me. In the clip below you can hear the tenderness in Auntie’s voice as she tells us the story of how she sat in her grandmother Elvira’s kitchen on Sunday and Wednesday to watch her grandmother prepare spaghetti for dinner. Thank you for the priceless stories Auntie!

2244 Harrison St

Photo courtesy of Todd Harrison & Oakley 1939

The photo to the left is 2244 W Harrison St which was Auntie Phyllis and mom’s first home. I can envision the girls dashing across the street to see their aunts, uncles, and cousins each day. The photo below was taken in 1939. Click here to read more about the music store. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you will see my great grandfather’s name (P. Del Principe) on the top of the building on the left, next to the gas station.

Auntie Phyllis was born Phyllis Elvira 16 Nov 1927 and passed away 21 Sep 2013. Some very significant events happened the same year Auntie was born. Population in Chicago was over 2.7 million people. Transatlantic telephone service began between New York and London, a woman took a seat on the New York Stock Exchange breaking the all male tradition, Babe Ruth signed a 3 year contract with the New York Yankees for a guarantee of $70,000 a year becoming baseball’s highest paid player.

Babe Ruth

The US Supreme Court ruled that bootleggers must pay income tax (still pondering how that was enforced), Charles Lindbergh flew from Long Island, NY on the Spirit of St Louis on his solo flight to France, the era of talking pictures arrived with the opening of “The Jazz Singer” starring Al Jolson. In Chicago Al Capone’s support allowed Big Bill Thompson to return to the mayor’s office where Thompson pledged to clean up Chicago and remove the crooks, and Chicago Midway International airport opened. 

My siblings and I love to reminsece about our mother and Auntie Phyllis and Holly has shared one of her favorite memories below.

Holly and Aunty Phyllis 2009

“Driving around with the ladies (Mom and Aunty Phyllis) was always a scary adventure. Mom was the navigator. I’m not sure how or why she got that job when she would get lost 10 feet away from the house. Aunty was the driver. I’m convinced she scared everyone
driving around her as much as she scared me. I was always designated to the back seat where I would have plenty of air for my panic attacks while we drove around aimlessly, mom yelling at aunty, “Turn here!” and aunty yelling back, “Which way??”. Every time aunty would turn left and go over the cement dividers in the middle of busy streets, I’d throw my hands over my eyes and say, “You’re not supposed to do that!”. She’s calmly brush her hand through the air and say, “Those are there just to make you go slower when you do U-turns… we should have left her at home Corinne”. They’d both laugh and turn the Andrea Bocelli music up louder.” 

Corinne Del Principe Winike (my mother). Corner of Harrison and Oakley

Click the audio below to hear the last clip of Rob’s and my interview with Auntie Phyllis.

 
 

Jan16th2017

Cousins Make The Best Friends

by  Phyllis Zeck

Since my father had no siblings, my only set of cousins were the children of Auntie Phyllis, my mother’s sister. They lived on the east coast so we didn’t get to see them often, but we made the most of the time we did see each other. The photo to the left was taken in 1962 in Springfield, MA. Back row: Auntie Phylllis holding Gina, Grandpa, mom holding Holly. Center row: Rob (kneeling), Tom, Mark, Toni. Front row: Ricky, Phyllis, Janice and Steve.

When my siblings and I started our families our children got together as often as possible. Now the middle generation help gather our grands for play dates, zoo lights, and pool 

Jared, Robert, Dominick, Ashley, Robin, Lindsay

parties all year round. It’s a miracle when everyone can unite at the same time! My two oldest children Buck & Heidi and my grandson Tyler are missing from these photos. Someday I’m going to corral everyone at the same time and snap photos like crazy.

I asked Rob to listen to one of the clips from our interview with Auntie Phyllis and he shared his thoughts below.

Ava, Abby, Kayla, Tyler, Gracie

Rob wrote “Phyllis included recordings of our ancestors speaking. Nothing recalls memories quicker than hearing the voice of a loved one who has long ago passed on. Especially when it involves people in the family who have shared many of the same experiences. Experts say that is one reason why siblings stay close in many families: the common bond of recognizing your mother’s stressful voice when she can’t find her car keys, for instance. No one else in the world would know that sound unless they had been there and shared the experience.

So, it was with that kind of anticipation and attention when I listened to the latest recording Phyllis sent me, of an interview we did with Aunty Phyllis many years ago. Hearing her speak again, and especially the sound of her laughter, brought her presence and spirit right back to me. Or maybe her voice brought me back to HER!” 

Michele, Toni, & Gina
Ricky, Richard, & Mark

In the 4th audio clip from our 2011 interview Auntie Phyllis talks about her uncles, growing up with her cousins, working in the music store, and eloping with Richard. I asked her about advertising that was purchased for the music stores. I ran across this advertisement in Google Books. It was placed in the Popular Mechanics magazine in March of 1938. The ad states that the music store was established in 1890. 

Click below to listen to part of our interview with Auntie. If you’d like to hear snippets of this interview in past blog posts, click on the “Vincent Family” category in the right column of the web site.

 

 
 

Dec21st2016

Christmas with Grandma & Grandpa Frank

by  Phyllis Zeck

Corinne & Robert Winike

Corinne & Robert Winike

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! With 8 children in the house you can imagine the excitement that erupted on Christmas Eve.  We’d take turns sneaking down the stairs, (careful to make sure they didn’t creak) opening the door, and peaking out to see if Santa had arrived, then race back up to report to our siblings.

My sister Lori remembers “Christmas was always a magical time at our house! Christmas morning we would wake up to a floor full of toys under the tree that Santa had brought the night before. Later I found out that Santa started putting toys on layaway at our local toy store in August each year. Our grandpa, Gilbert, must have been on Santa’s Naughty list because EVERY year at least one of his grandsons would get a gift with some assembly required and one of his granddaughters would get some sort of cooking device such as an easy bake oven, and that poor man had to eat everything we made for him, which he did without complaint! I don’t know why he never learned his lesson and just behaved himself! Grandpa Gilbert’s favorite Christmas song was Silent Night. He said it reminded him of his mother and he would ask me to play it on the organ for him over and over again! To this day I think of him every time I hear it!”

While searching through my audio files from Auntie Phyllis’ interview, I stumbled upon an audio file of mom and grandpa Frank from 1983. Lori, Tony, and Steve were asking mom and Frank questions about their upcoming visit to Portland.

Grandpa Frank came into our lives in the late 1970’s and there was never a dull moment when he was around. Each year mom and Frank would come for a two week visit at Christmas time. Some of the fondest memories I have of Frank was him speaking Italian to my mother and using the phrase “Bada Bing, Bada Boom!”.  Those two week vacations flew by and our family would gather almost daily to gobble up as much time with grandma and grandpa as possible. 

                     Mom and Frank

Holly wrote “My favorite memories involve the excitement I felt leading up to them arriving. I couldn’t wait to see them! We didn’t have cell phones and long distance telephone calls were expensive, so there was a lot to catch up on and children change so much in one year. I loved seeing my boys enjoying time with Grandma Chicago (aka Grandma Pizza), Grandpa Frank, and Aunt Lori. A few times, when they came to see us they brought Italian beef and gravy from Lukes, oh boy was that a treat!”

Ashley remembers “Grandpa Frank always pretended to be asleep when it was time to open presents and all the kids would tap his tummy while he pretended to snore”.  Robin’s favorite memory at Christmas time was “being so excited for his parents to come home so they could race up the hill to the Zeck house to see his grandparents. Then, we all wanted to see grandma laugh, so us kids choreographed a dance to the old Richard Marks song called Right Here Waiting”.  Lindsay enjoyed performing the Nativity Play the kids put together for everyone.

Below is a slide show to go with the audio that I have. (If you are using a wireless connection it might take a while for the video to load.) Click here to view on You Tube.

The first photos are of my mother Corinne and my father Robert. The last photos are mom and dad’s children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren along with our wonderful extended family. I wish I had some audio of my father, he passed away in 1970, but I am so grateful for this audio of my mother and Frank. I hope this clip brings a smile to your face the way it did to mine!