27 February 2013

My American Grandmother, Mary Inda Szostek

Mary was the third child and first daughter born to Jozef and Antonina (nee Nowicki) Inda.  She was born in 1894 in Chicago, Illinois in 1894.  Since she was my only grandparent born in the USA, I had always thought of her as my American Grandmother.  She completed 8 years of school in Chicago and was fluent in both English and Polish.  Her daughter, Loretta (my mother), told me of finding a long braid of auburn hair in a trunk in her parents' home.  She was told this was Mary's hair which she had cut about in the sometime after her marriage.

Mary Inda 1907 First Communion


  In the 1910 US Census, Mary is living with her parents and eight siblings at 1736 Wood Street, Chicago, which is part of the area known as Bucktown.  She was already working as a seamstress in a tailor shop and would eventually do piecework for a company called Smoler Brothers.  Sewing was a skill she was taught by her mother along with crocheting and embroidery.

Her uncle, Sylwester Inda, was living with his family at 2124 Berlin Street.  Living in the same building was a man by the name of John Bochyniak.  In all probability this is were Mary met John.  He was a very handsome man, tall with blond hair. The couple would fall in love and marry on 26 November 1913 in St Hedwigs Catholic Church.  On 3 October 1915, Mary would give birth to their first child, Edward.  There happiness would not last.  John was what is called a "ladies man".  He was not a faithful husband and because of this tragedy would befall the once happy couple.  John was diagnosed with syphilis and was being treated.  He told Mary that both she and their infant son would need to be treated also.  The shame he felt lead john to despair.  On 8 January 1917 John threw himself under a train in Franklin Park and died at the age of 30 years, 11 months.

Mary's sorrow knew no bounds but she had a child to raise.  She moved back in with her parents who now lived at 3344 Edgington in Franklin Park.  She would not be a single parent long.  John had been a moulder in Chicago.  He had a friend by the name of Stanley Szostek.  Stanley had also immigrated from Poland and now worked with John.  He was often invited to the Bochyniak home.  Over time he fell in love with Mary but had never let her know since she was married to his friend.  After allowing for a time of morning, Stanley approached marry.  He told her of his love.  He then asked her to marry him and told her he also loved her son and would adopt him legally and raise him as his own.  Mary and Stanley wed at St Gertrude Catholic Church in Franklin Park on 24 September 1918.


On 5 July 1919, Mary would give birth to the couple's first child, Monica Phyllis Mary.  Their daughter, Loretta Mary, would follow on 21 November 1921.  Their last child was also a daughter.  Helen was born on 16 September 1928.   Stanley did legally adopt Edward.  The family lived at various addresses prior to their purchasing their own home in the early 1940's at 2535 North Springfield Avenue in Chicago.  It is interesting to note one of the homes rented by the Szostek's about 1928 was owned by Michael and Maryanna Kolodzinski, my paternal grandparents.  That is a story for another day.

Mary was a wonderful sewer and never used a pattern just cutting the material and creating clothing for her children.  She would dress Phyllis and Loretta as twins since they were so close in age.  She did not have patience to teach her daughters how to sew feeling she could always do it faster.  Her daughters were taught embroidery and Phyllis learned crocheting.

Mary and Stanley's happiness continued as their children married and they would enjoy the arrive of their grandchildren.   Then on 20 September 1955, tragedy again struck Mary as the husband she grew to love died of a stroke.  Now Mary would move into the home of her daughter, Phyllis Szostek Wegrzyn.  At various times she would be living with each of her three daughters' families.  The following picture was taken in 1959 outside of my parents home at 2866 North Woodard in Chicago.  We lived near a neighborhood shopping district and Mary did enjoy shopping.


Mary enjoyed spending time with her family.  As her children grew they would visit many times during the year.  Some days were very special and would mean all of the families would gather.  These would include Christmas Day and one day in the summer for a family picnic also every Easter we would celebrate both Easter and her birthday even though the day of this event would in reality change yearly. 

My grandmother carried on the tradition of teaching needlework.  I fondly remember sitting by her when I was about six and learning how to embroider.  Yes, it was simple embroidery stitches but she taught me and instilled my love of the needle arts by doing so.  The first piece I embroidered was a quilted potholder with Humpty Dumpty on it.  Mary continued to sew and altered both her clothes and that of her daughters if they asked.  She enjoyed her soap operas especially All My Children and As the World Turns.  You were not allowed to interrupt her during her favorite soaps!  As far as she was concerned there were no commercials.  She assumed they were just a part of the show so you needed to save conversation until they had finished, commercials and all.

Mary Inda Szostek died in Chicago on 10 February 1977.  She is buried next to Stanley at St Josephs Catholic Cemetery in River Grove.