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In Praise of Fathers…

8/29/2016 10:04:37 AM, LifeBio Stories

“As an early entrepreneur, my grandpa, Henry Deblieck, started a small dairy delivery business on the west side of Chicago in the early 1900’s. Every day he would buy milk and dairy products from local producers, then deliver them in his horse-drawn wagon. One of his stops was a local tavern. Henry delighted in going in for a ‘quick one’ and to socialize. When his horse sensed he was taking too much time at the bar, it finished the route without Henry, stopping at each house just as if Henry were in charge. The ladies of the houses on the route understood this and they would come to the milk wagon and take what they wanted from it.


New laws and information about sanitation and pasteurization eventually put little dairymen out of business because they couldn’t afford pasteurizing equipment. Pictures like the one shown here were taken by roving photographers and printed as postcards. In the picture, you see my grandpa, Henry, holding the horse and his son, Harry, my dad, stepping down from the wagon. Dad was about six, having been born in 1902. At the left in the picture are my grandma, Mary, and daughter Celina. Mary died not long after the picture was taken. Henry never remarried and raised both children with the help of his sister.


My dad, a wonderful man, lived in a west side Chicago apartment. He went to Catholic School for eight years, ending his formal education at that point. He would tell me he didn’t grow very fast and was able to ride the streetcars for the kid’s price until he was sixteen. He became quite a sportsman, participating in speed skating, bike racing, and even Golden Gloves boxing. On the creative side, he loved to sing, had a great tenor voice and once sang in the chorus of a Chicago opera company. He was also better than average in art.


Some of Dad’s uncles suggested he become a brick layer, so he apprenticed under one of them who had his own business on the north side of Chicago. Dad earned master mason status, helped friends and relatives build their homes, and once even did an interior brick mural for an elementary school. Eventually, Dad met my mom, who worked as a nanny. They married in 1931. Dad was 29 and Mom was 24. I was born 14 months later, and I became their only child.


Mom and Dad were beautiful together. I don’t remember them ever having even a squabble. He loved sweets so there was dessert at every meal, almost always homemade. He could fix everything, from plumbing to electricity to the old car. The dad I knew played cards, golfed, told stories, fished, sang, laughed, and thoroughly enjoyed people. A sensitive man, he needed a ‘little nip’ on the day of my wedding before he could take me down the aisle. And as a grandpa, he was totally wonderful for the short time he had that privilege.


In October 1954, heavy rains brought serious flooding. Phone service was disrupted, so Mom and Dad couldn’t know that the basement apartment where I was living at the time was flooding, and they were worried about my family. Mom and Dad managed to get to Forest Park where we were and found that, indeed, we were filling up with water. It was their help and assurance that got us through that awful night. The next day, on his way home from work, he was killed in an auto accident. He was 52.”


Rosemary M., Illinois


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