JOHN A. WORTS FAMILY
The first born child of John and Lena was my father, Peter. The records at St. John the Baptist Church state that he was born April 13, 1884, but he always celebrated his birthday on April 14th. He was baptized on April 15, 1884 as Peter Wirtz. He was named after his maternal grandfather and sponsor, Peter Wagner. His other sponsor was his paternal grandmother, Katherine Wirtz.
He grew up on the farm at a time when labor saving devices were few and farming required a great deal of physical effort. His boyhood was harsh and austere, especially after his father's accident. His only escape from the hardwork of farming and the abusive behavior of his father, was with a dog he loved and raised called, Gyp. He trained the dog to herd the cows and to accompany him hunting game. They were constant companions.
Peter attended a one room school, off and on, until the fourth grade. The school was located on the southeast corner of Lily Lake Road and Route 120. It was razed in the 1950's and is now the site of a firehouse. The school teacher was a man and a harsh disciplinarian. One form of punishment he concocted was to have a student place his or her finger on a hot stove for any behavior he did not find acceptable. My father had lost the tip of his middle finger in a farming accident and when the injury healed, he was left with some semblance of a fingernail growing on the inside of the finger stub. When he was ordered to place his finger on the stove, he would always do so with his middle finger. A burn would be thwarted because of the insulation provided by the malformed fingernail. The schoolmaster could never understand why my father did not cry out during this punishment. It was probably in this school that Peter initially acquired some understanding of the English language because at home, only German was spoken. After his father's accident, his schooling ended as he was needed to work the farm.
When the family left the farm and moved to Chicago, Peter was about 15 years old. He did not like the city environment and despite the rigor of farm life, he wished to return. Being the new kid of the block at 51st Street and Lowe Avenue, he was repeatedly set upon by the boys already living there. Many of them were Irish and looked upon Peter as a country hick. After one such incident in which he was pretty well roughed up, he returned home only to receive a chastisement from his father that he had better learn to take care of himself. Peter was a very strong young man, perhaps because of the hard work on the farm, and at the next encounter with the boys he decided to stand his ground and take on the ringleader whom he thoroughly trounced. They became good friends and my father went on to become an outstanding club boxer for the Irish athletic club known as the Morgan A.C. 's. The club later became the renowned Reagan Colts. After defeating a professional boxer in the ring, he was strongly urged by the club to turn pro, he never did for by this time he was married and my mother would have no part of boxing.
Peter met my mother, Gertrude Hentsch, through her father when they were both employed by the Tuttle Brick Company. Peter's father and brother, Mike, also worked for the company. Peter and Gertrude were married on June 20, 1904 at Visitation Church on Chicago's southside. Peter's cousin, Teddy Wagner, was best man and his sister, Maudie was bridesmaid to my mother.
Their first child, Edwin, was born prematurely and died shortly after birth in February, 1905. Sometime afterward, they moved to McHenry. where three of their children were born; Bernard, Richard and Marie. Somewhere in the vicinity of McHenry, Peter began farming at a place known as Skunk's Misery. It was here that Richard was born. The land was of poor quality and not at all profitable to farm, so Peter moved to Augustburg which is now part of the town of McHenry. He then became employed by his uncle, Mike Worts, at the brewery. In 1916 or 1917, he moved back to Chicago and worked for a while as a special policeman for Armour and Company.
In 1922, the last child was born to Peter and Gertrude, me. At that time, the family lived in a third floor apartment at 7019 South Par-nell Avenue. Peter was now employed by the Borden Dairy Company in a supervisory capacity and was doing quite well. In 1925, he purchased a home at 8316 South Peoria Street. He also owned a lot at 96th and Leavitt Streets in the Beverly community. Things were going quite well, but then, in 1929, the roof caved in with the onset of the Great Depression.
All of the family's savings were lost with the closing of the banks. Borden Dairy closed, purportedly for remodeling, and all employees were laid off. When the plant reopened, none of the former employees were called back. My father, being 44 or 45 years old at the time, could not find employment anywhere. He was desperate and, at one time, he was reduced to cleaning and frying fish on Friday nights in a neighborhood saloon for just a few dollars. If it were not for the fact that two of his children, Richard and Marie, were employed and helping out, foreclosure of his home and property would have occurred.
Finally, 1933, Peter found employment as a janitor at Chicago's Century of Progress world fair. He often said it was the best job he ever had. The fair was of two years duration and he had an opportunity to meet a lot of people from many different places. He was stationed at the twin Skyride Towers which were about 600 feet in height and connected by cable cars at the 200 feet level spanning a lagoon below. One evening, during an especially violent storm, my father was marooned at the top of the west tower. Gale-like winds caused the tower to sway and rendered the elevators inoperable. He was in phone contact with the ground and they suggested he make his descent on an exposed ladder and catwalk. He chose to ride out the storm where he was and afterwards had full confidence the structure could withstand anything nature had to offer.
Another interesting anecdote about the Skyride Tower evolved from an experience he had with his false teeth. On one particularly nice day he was gazing out of an open window atop the tower taking in a panoramic view of the city when he violently sneezed. Out went his false teeth, plummeting to the ground six hundred feet below. He boarded the next elevator going down to ground level and began searching for his teeth. Luckily, he found them intact at the base of the tower. He often claimed afterward that he owned the most durable set of false teeth in the world and only paid $13.50 for them at the Boston Dentist Association.
After the Century of Progress closed he worked at odd jobs until in either 1935 or 1936 he found employment at the Vitality Feed Mill located at 87th Street and Stewart Avenue. His job there consisted of filling, shouldering, carrying and stacking one hundred pound sacks of feed to a height of twenty-five feet. This was an extremely physical job and even demanding for a young man let alone a person of my father's age who, by that time, was in his fifties. As time passed, he rose to foreman and the physical demands were not as great. He retired at age 67 and he and my mother lived in quiet retirement in the Peoria Street home.
On February 9, 1962, Peter fell victim to a massive heart attack. He had walked to a Walgreen drug store a half a mile away to buy some medicine for my mother. He had his hand outstretched, waiting for his change, when he suddenly toppled over backwards. He never knew if he was receiving the correct change or not. Funeral services were held in St. Kilian's Church and burial in St. Mary's Cemetery in Evergreen Park, a southwestern suburb of Chicago. Despite suggestions that he be buried in the McHenry area where he spent his youth, my mother would not consider it.
All his life, he worked hard and, despite some bad breaks, he normally maintained a cheery outlook. I remember during some of the bleak days he would sing a song in German,''der draussen ist ales so praetig, un mit mir ist nicht so wohl .'' When I asked him what it meant, he replied, "outside everything is so bright, but with me it is not so well.'' Even though he lacked virtually any formal education, he always used a common sense approach to matters. With all of his ruggedness, he was kind to his children, however, he did insist on courtesy and respect. He was devoted to his wife and held her in the highest regard. He often remarked how lucky he was that an educated woman like my mother would have a dumb farmer like himself for a husband.
On February 26, 1963, one year and a few weeks later, Gertrude passed away. She never really got over the shock of her husband's sudden death. We all believe that she did not want to live any longer without him and died of a broken heart. I will never forget her words when I informed her of her husband's death. She said, "his work is now over. ' My mother lies in peace beside my father in St. Mary's Cemetery.
My mother was a quiet person who detested violence, drinking and unmannerly people. She graduated from St. Margaret's grammar school and received higher education math the Longwood Girls Academy on Chicago's far south side. She played the piano well and liked good music, especially classical. She enjoyed reading and spoke very well both in English and German. One of her highest hopes was that her children would seek a college education. We all disappointed her for not one of us even graduated from high school.
Gertrude's grandparents came from the German speaking area of France known as Alsace-Lorraine. Their name was Folschweiler and they were in this country prior to 1871 because of my mother's aunt, Anna, remembered fleeing to the Lake Michigan beaches, as a small girl, to escape the Chicago fire of 1871. Anna's father, Peter, worked in a lumber yard located at what is now Polk and Calark streets in downtown Chicago. Gertrude never knew her real father. Her mother, Mary, married George Hentsch who was a very fine stepfather. Mary died in April, 1895 while only in her early thirties. She is buried in Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago. Anna, (Auntie Ann), married Casper Gleich in her later years, lived to 97 years of age, and is buried next to her husband in St. Mary's Cemetery, Evergreen Park, Illinois. Anna's brother, Peter, lies in St. Boniface Cemetery on Chicago's northside in the same plot that my mother's first child, the baby Edwin, lies. My mother had no brothers or sisters.
Peter and Elizebeth Folschweiler were born in Alsace-Lorraine located in what is now France. They are buried in St. Boniface Cemetery in Chicago. Peter originally purchased Lot #100 and transferred it to Anna in 1901.
Peter, Elizebeth, Peter J., Josephine and Edwin Worts are interred there.
Anna married her sister Elizebeth's husband, George Weller after she died and raised her two children, Liddy and Sarah. Liddy had two children, George and Ralph. George died as a youth and Liddy was living with Ralph, a retired farmer in the early 1970's. Anna is buried beside Caspar in St. Mary's Cemetery in Evergreen Park, Illinois.
George Hentsch was Gertrude's step father. She never knew her real father.
As mentioned earlier, the first child born to Peter and Gertrude, was named Edwin, but did not survive beyond a few weeks. On April 3, 1906 another son, christened Peter Bernard, was born. As of this writing, he is 82 years old and still hale and hearty. He is known as Barney, his nickname, by almost everyone. I believe it was in the 1950's that he had his name legally changed to "Worth." On May 5, 1928, Barney married Mary Connelly, of Chicago. he worked in a variety of occupations over the years which included truck driver, streetcar motorman, bartender, and policeman. As a policeman, Barney apprehended an armed killer who was being widely sought and considered highly dangerous by the authorities. An article describing the capture appeared in Chicago newspapers. Barney was more like our father than either the other brother, Richard, or myself. He was rugged and like our father, could handle himself well in rough situations.
Barney and Mary spent most of their life in the Chicago area. In 1971 they retired, sold their home in Chicago, and moved to Iron River, Michigan. There, Barney who is still very alert, keeps himself busy cutting and splitting his own firewood. While they had no children of their own, they legally adopted a baby boy, named Larry, and raised another boy, Tim Mchanus, whose mother died when he was an infant and his father in ill health.
The second child was named Richard Michael and he was born on August 12, 1907. Dick, as he was more commonly known, was not as rugged as Barney and as a youth he was rather frail. He was more inclined to stay indoors, while Barney preferred the outdoors. Perhaps Dick's dislike for cold weather stemmed from an incident when he was a small boy on the farm. On a very cold day, he was sent outside to fetch some water from the well pump. For some unknown reason, he placed his tongue on the pump handle and it was immediately frozen to the metal upon contact. After a series of odd sounding yells, my mother was alerted and she rescued him after a sufficient application of hot water freed his tongue.
When the family moved to Chicago, Dick attended Parker High School for a short time and then became employed by the Rock Island Railroad. He worked in the accounting department office at 71st Street and Stewart Avenue which was later moved downtown. This was the only job he ever had. His term of employment spanned almost fifty years.
In 1941, Richard married Rosella Mauer. They resided on the third floor of an apartment building on the northwest corner of 70th Street and Emerald Avenue for a number of years and later moved to 2825 West 71st Street, where Rosella, (Babe), lives today.
Dick was the tallest of Peter's three boys, standing 6 feet, two inches. As a youth he had blond, curly hair which darkened somewhat as he grew older. As a slim, agile man he was a good baseball player. He played both soft and hard ball and was a key player at first base for the Rock Island Rockets. Dick continued playing softball well into his thirties. He, like Barney, was an avid White Sox fan and attended many of their games at Comiskey Park. As a matter of fact, he liked all sports. He was also an excellent bowler and maintained a consistent league average of close to 190.
Dick was usually mild mannered and sensible. He was frugal, but not what one could consider as being "tight." He always paid his way and was never looking for something for nothing. One thing that could upset him was for someone to mispronounce the name as "Warts." In his later years Dick loved to go fishing in northern Wisconsin with myself and a mutual friend, Bob Shanley. With gourmet delight, Dick relished nothing more than to have a couple of cold beers with limburger cheese on rye bread with a slice of raw onion.
In March of 1969, Dick suffered a massive heart attack. He was considered clinically dead, but miraculously recovered. After a long period of recuperation, he returned to work. Unfortunately, on November 23, 1970, he succumbed to another deadly heart attack. Richard Worts was laid to rest in St. Mary's Cemetery not more than fifty feet from the graves of his mother and father. Dick and Babe had no children.
Marie Ellen, the only girl, was born in McHenry on December 13, 1910. She was attending Parker School when the family moved to the Peoria Street address. At the time, she was not well and spent much of her time in the house, probably looking after me. Finally, the doctor told my mother to get her a pair of roller skates and get her outside of the house. Following this advice led not only to her recovery, but also to my learning how to skate.
When she was 19 or 20, Marie was employed at Western Electric and later took a job at the Capitol Theater as a switchboard operator. It was there she met John Roche who was to become her husband on June 17, 1939. Prior to meeting John, (he was called "Rocky" by most people that knew him), several young men asked her for a date, but she would not consider going out with any of them. She preferred going to a movie with her mother or reading a good book. She also had several neighborhood girl friends with whom she associated. Marie was a very attractive young lady. She had dark hair and beautiful soft brown eyes. Like her mother, she was a quiet, easy going person with virtually the same likes and dislikes.
Initially, Rocky and Marie lived in an apartment in a building at 83rd and Peoria Streets. Then, in 1943 they moved into their own home at 10616 South Kedzie Avenue in Chicago. It was in this location that they resided for the rest of their lives. Rocky was a hard working man and for a long time held two full-time jobs. He learned the art of metal polishing and buffing at the International Silver Company and later was employed in the silverware department of Mandel Brothers department store in downtown Chicago. In the evenings, he was a bartender and worked at various cocktail lounges. He was one of the fastest and best in the business.
Marie and Rocky had five children, the eldest being John, of whom I am godfather, Richard, Judith, Mary and Daniel. The family was overwhelmingly saddened when, after a lengthy illness, Marie passed away on September 13, 1973. Rocky left Mandel Brothers and quit tending bar. He continued to do silverware restoration at home and had a job as a school janitor which he always said was like being semi-retired. As time passed, Rocky also became ill and passed away on January 2, 1981. Both are interred in St. Mary's Cemetery in Evergreen Park only a short distance from the resting place of Marie's parents and her brother, Dick.
On July 6, 1922, the last child was born of Peter and Gertrude. He was named Robert Edward. I will not bear the burden of writing about myself, I will leave that to others. However, I will list some facts about myself just for the record:
- When born, family lived at 7019 South Parnell Ave. in Chicago.
- Family moved to 8316 South Peoria Street on July 6, 1925.
- Graduated from St. Kilian grammar school in 1936.
- Attended Calumet High School for three years.
- Worked at Weil-McLain Co. in 1938
- Worked for John Guldan Plumbing full-time 1939 to 1943. (part time to 1973)
- Married to Rita C. Weier on May 15, 1943
- Entered U.S. Army Air Force as Air Cadet in July, 1943.
- Received medical discharge from Air Force in October, 1943.
- Employed at Illinois Bell Telephone Co. on February 21, 1944.
- Son Peter badly burned, April, 1950
- Bought lot in Worth, Illinois and broke ground to build new house.
- Moved into new house, 7249 W. 108th P1. Worth, IL, April 1955.
- Separated from Rita in 1959 and divorced.
- Married to Barbara J. Dunnam, November 19, 1960. Moved back to Worth home.
- Purchased Marion Lake, Mich. property June 1966.
- Visit Wirtz family in Germany, May 1978.
- Retired from Illinois Bell, June 1981.
Three children were born of my marriage to Rita. Carol Ann was born on July 20, 1944, Peter Jacob on August 18, 1946 and Mary Ellen on December 5, 1952. With Barbara, two children were born,
Cynthia Louise on January 3, 1962 and Melanie Lynn on October 8, 1963.
I am, or was, 6 feet one inch in height and generally weigh between 175 and 185 pounds. I had blond hair which darkened as I grew older and has now turned white again. My son, Peter, is the only one to carry on the name of Worts of John A. Worts' offspring. Peter has two sons, Waco Waylon Worts and Levi Coulter Worts. Perhaps, they will carry on the family name.
The second child born to John and Lena was a daughter named Barbara. She was born on December 12, 1886 and was baptized at St. John the Baptist Church in Johnsburg. The records show her sponsors to be Mathias Wirtz and Barbara Wagner. Although christened Barbara, she was more affectionately known by everyone as Maude, Maudie or, by her nephews and nieces, Aunt Maudie. How or when this nickname came into being is unknown to me.
Aunt Maudie grew up on the farm and came to Chicago with her family in 1900. Later, when her father took over the operation of the Buffalo House, the family moved back to Volo. She met Henry Block, of McHenry, and in 1911 they were married. Henry, or "Uncle Hop" as he was known within the family, was employed by the Borden Dairy in McHenry and later was transferred to the Borden plant in Chicago. On October 7, 1921, their only child, a daughter named Mildred, was born. Like so many of the Worts family in those days, they moved between Chicago and McHenry from time to time. In any case, Henry was employed at the Borden Dairy in Chicago when it was closed for renovations in 1930. He, like so many others, was not called back when the dairy reopened.
The Henry Block family lived at 69th and Dorchester Avenue in Chicago until 1941. Uncle Hop suffered a heart attack and the family moved back to Volo and lived in the home of John A. It was hoped that the country living would help him regain his health. Almost one year later, on August 14, 1942, Henry Block suffered a fatal attack. He was only 61 years of age as of his birthday on June 18th. Uncle Hop was laid to rest in St. Mary's Cemetery in McHenry.
Sometime later, Aunt Maudie married Ernie Loomis. He remodeled and modernized the John A. Worts home quite extensively. They lived there until Aunt Maudie passed away on June 18, 1967. She was laid to rest in St. Peter's Cemetery in Volo. Ernie died several years later.
Uncle Hop and Aunt Maudie were mild mannered, gentle people. Aunt Maudie was much like her mother in that respect. She always treated me very kindly and most always addressed me as "Bobby." I can remember her as always being nervous when riding in an automobile. The story was often told of one instance in which she was riding in a car being driven by her brother, Mike. They were on their way back to Chicago from Volo when she became inordinately upset with his driving. Mike slammed on the brakes and told her to get out and walk. Of course he only went a short distance before he turned around and picked up his distraught sister. Needless to say, there were no further comments from Aunt Maudie the rest of the way home. An interesting sidenote is that she learned how to drive a car when she was in her seventies. However, Cousin Earl says that he was always on ''pins and needles" when riding with her.
Uncle Hop and Aunt Maudie were family oriented people and always welcomed a family get-together. I still have the pleasant memory of my father breaking out his home brew at a family function during the Prohibition era and after a couple, Uncle Hop would break out into song. In short order, the others would join him, "du, du, liegst mir im herzen........... ," and old German folksong. How pleasant and simple those days were. It is remarkable that despite unemployment and the struggle to survive during the Great Depression, everyone maintained a positive attitude.
One other clear recollection I have of those days is Cousin Mildred's dog, Tippy. It was jet black with fur as sleeek as a seal. It looked like a Labrador Retriever except that it was much smaller. Whenever Uncle Hop extinguished a cigarette, the dog would eagerly eat the butt. It relished cigarette butts, which apparently produced no health hazard since Tippy lived to the age of fourteen years.
Mildred and her husband, Harold Lindsay, lived in the Mchenry area for many years. They now reside in Morton, Illinois and are the parents of three children; Linda, Gregory, and Teresa.
On May 27, 1889, the third child was born to John and Lena. He was baptized and named Michael Wirtz at St. John the Baptist Church. His sponsors are recorded as Michael Wagner and Maria Wirtz. His early childhood was spent on the farm at Lily Lake. He went with the family when they moved to Chicago in 1900 and was with them when they returned to Volo in 1906. He became deeply interested in automobiles, and after being married to Margaret Steindorfer on November 22, 1914, he took up residence in McHenry. He was employed at the Overton Garage in McHenry and learned the trade of an automobile mechanic even though he only attended five years of grammar school.
Along about 1916 or 1917, Michael and his wife moved to Chicago. He started his own business in a garage and automobile repair at 69th Street and Stoney Island Avenue. The business thrived and he was doing quite well even after the Great Depression set in. At one time he employed his brother Peter and Henry Block, his brother-in-law, as both were unemployed at the time. "Uncle Mike" was always a favorite with all of his nieces and nephews. Although he had no children of his own, he loved kids. He enjoyed taking us for a drive in his big Haynes touring car. We were always thrilled when he would suddenly disengage the muffler on the exhaust system and the engine would roar loudly. He was in the habit of giving his nieces and nephews a quarter, which in those days was a lot of money.
Shock and sorrow permeated the family when, on the evening of August 29, 1932, Uncle Mike was killed and his wife seriously injured after being struck by an automobile while walking across Stoney Island Avenue. He had parked his car in his shop and was crossing the street to get to his apartment at 6947 5. Cornell Avenue. The auto was driven by a Frank Vetter, twenty-two years of age, who was held for manslaughter. The victims were taken to Jackson Park Hospital where Michael was pronounced dead. He was waked in the home of his sister, Clara, and his body was taken to St. Mary's Cemetery in McHenry for burial. He was only 43 years of age.
It was ironic that earlier the same evening Uncle Mike had been to our home visiting my father who was recovering from injuries he incurred the week before after being struck by an automobile at 79th Street and Stoney Island Avenue. My father had been with Mike to Indiana to retrieve a disabled automobile. Uncle Mike had dropped my father off to take a street car home while Mike towed the car the rest of the way to his garage. My father was hit as he ran for the street car. Uncle Mike witnessed the incident and was quite shaken by it for he did not expect my father to survive the impact. After visiting with my father, Uncle Mike and Aunt Maggie went out for the evening with my brother Barney and his wife, Mary. About an hour after driving Barney and Mary to their apartment, Uncle Mike was killed.
Aunt Maggie completed her recovery at our home after being discharged from the Jackson Park Hospital. Witnesses stated that her life was saved by Uncle Mike who attempted to shove her aside and thereby bore the brunt of the impact himself. Years later, she was married to Roy Montgomery, the son of Agnes Worts.
On November 5, 1892, a fourth child was born to John and Lena. She too was born on the farm at Lily Lake. She was christened Agnes Clara Wirtz and was the first of the family to be baptized at St. Peter's Church in Volo. Although her first name was Agnes, she was always known as, or preferred to be called, Clara. She grew up on the farm and was the first of the family to obtain a grammar school education. After her father moved back to the Lily Lake area, Clara found employment in the Riverside Hotel in McHenry. In McHenry, she met Theordore Bickler who was employed at the Borden Dairy there. They were married on Clara's twenty first birthday.
When her husband was transferred to Borden's southside location in Chicago, they moved to 71st Street and Lowe Avenue, which was close to the Borden Dairy. They lived there for quite some time and later at other locations in the same vicinity. Her husband died in January of 1958 and then Clara and her daughter lived in a home on 85th Street west of Western Avenue in Chicago. Later, they moved to an apartment in the suburb of Mount Prospect.
Theodore and Clara had two children, a daughter, Evelyn, born May 15, 1916, and a son, Clifford, born June 7, 1920. Evelyn was married and divorced. She had two children, a son Michael, and a daughter, Gail. Evelyn was a sweet, conscientious girl and worked hard all of her life to raise her two children and support her widowed mother. On May 25, 1979, Evelyn suffered a sudden and fatal heart attack. Her untimely death was a terrible shock to everyone, but most of all, to her children and her mother. She was laid to rest in St. Mary's Cemetery in McHenry.
Cousin Cliff married Juliet Brosius. They also had two children, Janet and Michael. Cliff was a fun guy and probably the only nephew most like uncle Mike, whom he idolized. During World War II, Cliff became a bombardier in the United States 8th Air Force based in England. Her participated in more than 35 bombing missions over Europe from 1943 to the end of the war. He was in the lead bomber on the disastrous mission over Schweinfurt, Germany in which the Americans suffered heavy losses. Cliff said he was lucky to have survived. Although he never suffered a scratch personally, he told me of one occasion where after returning from a mission he found a spent bullet imbedded in his parachute upon which he was sitting during the entire mission.
A terrible tragedy occurred when on January 5, 1981, Cliff's son, Michael succumbed to injuries he suffered in an automobile mishap that occurred during the holiday season. At the time of his death, Michael was a United States Air Force jet fighter pilot and was a veteran of the Viet Nam War. After suddenly becoming ill on an airplane while returning from a business trip, Cliff passed away on June 5, 1984, only two days from his 64th birthday. Both father and son are interred in the family plot in St. Mary's Cemetery in McHenry.
After Evelyn's death, Clara lived for a while with her cousin, Tillie Wagner, in McHenry. Then she lived with Cliff and his family in Fort Wayne, Indiana. However, she longed to be back in the area where she spent her youth, and entered a senior citizens home in McHenry. On August 26, 1983, Agnes Clara Worts passed away at the age of ninety and a half years. She is interred next to her husband in St. Mary's Cemetery in McHenry.
Aunt Clara had a good sense of humor, was feisty, and perhaps more outgoing than her sisters. Throughout her life she underwent serious surgery on a number of occasions, but always managed to recover and come back strong. She laughingly remarked that her abdomen looked like a bunch of zippers. Even in her last years, Aunt Clara had an excellent memory and provided me with a great deal of information in regards to the family genealogy. She loved to relate funny, and sometimes not so funny, stories about Volo and McHenry. She liked to comment that while her father was often mean and a horsethief, she said prayers for him nevertheless mainly because he needed all the prayers he could get. She spoke of how she and her cousin, Tillie Wagner, looked forward to going to dances in
Johnsburg when they were young ladies, "because it was about the only fun thing you could do in those days." She told also of the annual Worts picnics which also attracted people other than family members. Sometimes, with the beer flowing like water, the boys would get a bit rowdy, or fresh, but all the girls would have to say is that they would call her brother Peter and things would usually return to normal very quickly.
ANNA and HELENA
As mentioned earlier, these twin girls died shortly after birth in 1894. They are buried in unmarked graves in St. Peter's Cemetery in Volo. Because of the lack of proper medical attention it was not unusual for infants or young children to succumb to disease in those days.
On November 22, 1899, the last girl was born to John and Lena. While Laura was still a very young child, her father moved to Chicago and then back to Volo when she was about seven or eight years of age. Laura attended St. Mary's grammar school in McHenry, but never showed any liking for it. Aunt Clara said Laura quit attending school when she was in either the sixth or seventh grade. After again moving back to Chicago with her mother and father, Laura met the man who was to become her husband. He was Paul Wray and had just returned from France as a soldier during the First World War. They were married on July 31, 1919.
During their life, Paul and Laura lived at various places in the Chicago area and for a short period of time lived in Arizona. While their children were young, they lived in Volo in the home of her father. Three children were born of their marriage; Lloyd on April 5, 1920, Earl on March 30, 1924, and Maydelle on May 17, 1930.
Lloyd married Irene Pilk on March 4, 1945 and was the father of four children; Paul, Jane, Carol, and Christine. Lloyd died of an apparent heart attack during his sleep on November 2, 1983. May-delle married Peter Visak on September 1 , 1951 and became the mother of seven children; Lawrence, Lori, Judith, Gerard, twins Debra and David, and Jennifer. Earl never married.
Aunt Laura was the shortest, but the prettiest, of John and Lena's daughters. She, like her sister Clara, had a sense of humor. Whenever the two would get together, there was always a great deal of kidding and laughter as they would recall events of their younger days in Volo and McHenry. One time she exclaimed to my wife that she wondered why I was spending so much time researching the Worts family when none of them were polished individuals, but rather, a bunch of roughnecks.
Laura became a widow when Paul died on December 30, 1966. As time passed, she was beset with health problems until she passed away on February 6, 1977. Both she and her husband are buried in the family plot in St. Mary's in McHenry. Not enough can be said for Aunt Laura 5 son, Earl, who stayed with her and cared for her all during the time she was a widow.
The last child born to John and Lena was Willie. He was born on November 26, 1901 after the family moved from Lily Lake to Chicago. But, Willie was destined to have his life cut short for on Christmas Eve, 1912, when the family was living in McHenry, he fell through the ice while skating on the frozen-over mill pond. He was in the lead of a trio of boys and reached a spot on the pond known as the "channel" where the undercurrent apparently had not allowed the ice to form to a safe thickness and he plunged through into the icy
water below. His companions tried their best to save him while other skaters sought the help of the fire department. His unconscious body was recovered with the use of a fire ladder and brought to the office of Dr. D. G. Wells where he was pronounced dead. He received the new ice skates for Christmas.
Willie had purchased a "Happy Hooligan" doll that, when squeezed, it's head would turn and it's arms would bring two cymbals together. (Happy Hooligan was a popular newspaper comic strip character at that time). The doll was to have been placed on the family Christmas tree. The doll came into the possession of my father and every year it was placed on our Christmas tree whereupon my father would relate to me the sad story of Willie Worts. That doll is now the treasured possession of my nephew, John Roche.