Anna Calderon Reich

January 8, 2006 on 1:01 am | In General | Comments Off

My great grandmother was Anna Calderon Reich. She passed away March 16, 2005 at the age of 102. This is her life story.

My great grandmother’s parents, Anton and Consetta Calderon, came to Chicago in 1887 from a small town in Sicily. According to my great grandmother Anna, they were very poor and came to America in search of more opportunities. They traveled by boat for 26 days from Italy to the United States. The trip was difficult for Anna’s mother as she was sick nearly the entire time. Upon their arrival, her parents bought a “two flat” building on the south side of Chicago. The Calderons lived on one floor and rented out the other. This building, located at 4809 Archer Avenue, also housed a grocery store that helped support the family for more than twenty years. A horse and buggy were kept in a barn next to the house and were used to get meat for the store because it was cheaper than delivery. Anna often recalled jumping off the hay loft and into the manure her best friend Petress.

Anna’s older sister, Margaret (Mami), was born in 1887. Anna also had another older sister who died at age six. She and friends were playing with matches and her dress caught fire. She was severly burned and eventually died because of this accident. Anna was born on July 22, 1902. Consetta Calderon had difficulty having children. She lost several babies and there was much sorrow in the house. Consequently Anton went to Cook County Hospital and got a baby for his wife. Having just lost a baby, Consetta nursed baby Joseph as if he were her own. Joseph was a good-looking Irish child and Consetta favored him. Anna and Joseph took piano lesson together. He would push her off the bench during practice and Anna would be in trouble for playing around. Joseph was ambitious and desired to work and make money at a young age. At seventeen he went to work for the railroads after lying about his age to get the job. At the time Joseph had a girlfriend and was starting to plan for the future. At nineteen he was killed on the job. Consetta was devestated. As a result of Joseph’s death, Anna did not graduate from St. Gail’s High School and instead went to work in the grocery store full time. While Anna worked in the store she was always amazed how well her sister Mami handled the fussy customers. When they complained they always left happy. She had a way with customers no matter how difficult they were.

After working at the grocery store, Anna worked as a messenger for Sears. Shortly there after, she met her first husband, Herbert Ott. She would pass him on the street while he hung out on the corner. At first she did not like him, but he kept asking her out. Eventually Anna accepted and the two began dating. After a brief courtship they married. Anna became pregnant unexpectedly and a son, Herbert Jr., was born. Her husband had not wanted children, and the baby strained their marriage. After seven years of marriage Herbert and Anna divorced. Anna was on her own to raise her son.
Not long after the demise of her first marriage, Anna met William Reich. He worked as a waiter in the Edgewater Hotel. He made decent money and Anna thought life would be better. Although she suspected that “Willie” had a drinking problem, she married him because she did not want to be alone any longer. . William and Herbert Jr. had many arguments. Anna became pregnant. She had another son, William Jr. Their marriage was strained but Anna gave birth to another child, Anna Marie. Anna named her daughter after herself and her sister Margaret. William would take his daughter to the tavern and sit her up on the bar. Anna would be furious. Although the marriage remained unstable another son, Robert, was born. Anna had four children to care for and her marriage crumbled because of William’s alcoholism. After twenty years, Anna divorced her second husband.

By this time Herbert Jr. was a young man. He enlisted in the Marines and married a girl named Celete. Together they had eleven children. Herbert Jr. died young.
William Jr. did not finish high school. He married young and had four children,William, Thomas, Laureen and Raymond with Mildred Pollack. He worked at the Post Office and earned a decent living. Anna Marie took dance lessons as a young girl and dreamed of being a dancer. At age twenty, Anna Marie met Tony DiGaudio and married him. Together they had four children. Robert was a special child. He struggled with learning problems and mental disorders. He was teased throughout his adolesence about his disability. Robert lived with Anna unitl he was fifty-eight years old. Sadly, Robert committed suicide and sorrow filled Anna’s home.

At sixty-five Anna went blind due to a hereditary condition in the family. The same had happened to Mami. But Anna never let in stop her and she continued to live a very happy and independant life until the very end. Anna Calderon Reich passed away on March 16, 2005 at the age of 102.

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