Friday, September 26, 2014

THE MOST UNFORGETTABLE WOMAN I EVER MET - Ailzia M. Drake - Part Three

When we left off telling the story of Ailzia McElroy Drake (Babe) and her husband T.H. Drake (Dukie) they had just bought a bungalow at 1020 Harvard Terrace in Evanston, Illinois.  It is the early 1950s.  My family moved to 1027 Harvard Terrace in 1953, although I did not come along until 1956.  My family was already living on Harvard Terrace when Babe and Dukie moved in across the street.

My best friend growing up was Freddie Murray who lived next door to the Drakes at 1016 Harvard, so all through my childhood the Drakes were there, although in the background.  We would say hi when we ran into each other but that was about it.  Babe and Dukie did not like answering their door on Halloween, but they always gave  Freddie and me Hershey Bars ahead of time so we wouldn't think they had forgotten us.

The first long talk I ever had with Babe and Dukie was during the aftermath of the "Big Snow" blizzard that hit Chicago in February of 1967.  It was weeks before the snowplows were able to get down the side streets in Evanston, so you had to walk to either Ridge of Asbury to get a cab or catch a bus.  There was a small footpath in the snow down the middle of Harvard Terrace, but that was it.  Luckily food stores, a Walgreens and Woolworths were all within walking distance, but your grocery shopping was limited to what you could carry back home.

My mother and I were returning from grocery shopping and walking down the footpath when we ran into Babe and Dukie.  They stopped and we chatted about the aftermath of the blizzard and Babe mentioned that her mother was in the Three Oaks Nursing Home four blocks away at Oakton and Asbury.  They were walking over to check on  Babe's mother because many of the staff at the nursing home were unable to get in to work.  Anyway, we chatted for 15 minutes or so - it was a nice conversation.

Later that year we read in the newspaper that Florence Dascombe McElroy had died on August 22, 1967, just short of her 91st birthday.  She was, of course, buried next to her husband at Rosehill:



Florence McElroy was an unusual person.  Although Babe and her brother Robert had each received bequests from their father, the bulk of Robert McElroy's fortune went to his widow.  Babe said that up until Florence McElroy's will was read, they did not know for sure that they had been left anything by their mother.  Florence McElroy had an unusual sense of humor, and she used to tell Babe and Robert that she was going to leave all he money to a shelter for homeless cats. 

Back in 1933 the US government forced all US citizens to turn in any gold coins or gold bullion they held.  One day Florence McElroy got a letter from the government telling her they were coming for her gold.  She did not want to be bothered, so she asked Babe to meet the treasury man at the bank where she kept her gold in a safe deposit box.  Babe told the man that her mother always kept $20,000 in gold in her safe deposit box.  This was during the Great Depression, and the treasury man said they heard stories like that all the time, but most turned out to not be true.  Well, the box was opened, and the treasury man apologized after he gave Babe a receipt for exactly $20,000 in gold.

Florence McElroy did end up leaving the bulk of her estate to Babe and Robert.  She set up a trust with the Northern Trust Company in Chicago, and after a lump sum payment, Babe and her brother received annual payouts for the next twenty years.

I really got to know Babe and Dukie during the summer of 1971.  The Murrays were gone for most of the summer on vacation and they asked me to take care of things while they were away.  So I was over at their house every day watering the garden or cutting the grass or picking up the apples that had fallen from the apple tree - a myriad of duties around the house and the yard.  Almost every day I would run into Babe and Dukie working in their yard or around their house.  My father had died the previous October and Babe told me later that they knew that I had been close to my father and wanted to see how I was getting along.  Babe told me that she had been close to her father so she knew what I was going through.

We talked about everything - politics, the economy, religion, current events - you name it, we talked about it over that summer.  One day we started talking about reading.  Babe and I both loved murder mysteries and when she found out that I was a Perry Mason fan, that sealed our friendship.

One day they asked me to come inside their house.  I don't remember why they invited me in, but I will never my first trip inside 1020 Harvard Terrace.  Although they lived in a bungalow, the inside of their home was filled with beautiful antiques - from the oriental rugs on the floor to the paintings on the walls.  I had never seen so many beautiful things in one place before.  I was captivated.  On her own, Babe's taste ran more to the modern, but the house was filled with beautiful pieces that had belonged to her parents that Babe took when they broke up the big house at 704 Sheridan Road.  There was a story behind each piece and Babe knew them all.

Days turned into months and toward the end of the year Babe asked if my mother and I liked to play cards.  Did we like to play cards?  I think my mother would rather play cards that eat or sleep.  We both enjoyed playing cards but my mother loved to play cards.  So, they invited us over to play canasta on January 2, 1972 and for the next twenty-seven years we played cards every other Saturday night.  

Canasta, unlike bridge, is a game you can play while chatting about other things.  By 1972 Babe was 70 and Dukie was 68.  He had retired at 62 because Babe said that she wanted to enjoy some time with him before he died.  Most of their friends were widows, having buried their husbands after retirement (or in the case of my father, before retirement).

You can imagine that in twenty-seven years of card games we covered any and all subjects in our chats between hands.  Very early on, my relationship with Dukie, and especially with Babe, developed into more than a casual friendship.  Perhaps they saw me as the son they never had (or in Babe's case had and lost) and I used my friendship with them to help fill the void that my father's death left in my life.  Our every-other-Saturday card games were supplemented with phone calls and frequent visits.  If Babe was having a particularly bad day she might call and ask me to come over that evening just to chat.  As we grew closer they began to tell me about the events of their lives - all of which I found extremely interesting (as I hope you are, as I pass them along to you).

Dukie and Babe c1975
 
Babe's daughter Florence and her husband George had settled in the Salt Lake City area and had five children of their own, but they were one thousand miles away and I was just across the street.

One of the many interesting things about Babe was that she had a wonderful memory.  I would say, "Tell me about the tornado that ripped through Wilmette in the 1920s" and she would proceed to tell me all about it - in detail.  Or "How did the stock market crash of 1929 affect your father?" and she would tell me in-depth, not only about how it affected her father, but would then tell me the stories of her father's friends who had lost everything and jumped out the window.  Talking to Babe was like having a live, historical encyclopedia.


50th Wedding Anniversary - 1980


One day in the late 1980s Dukie called to tell us that Babe had fallen in their backyard and broken her hip.  Babe was in her mid 80s at the time and I thought this was the beginning of the end (as it would be with my own mother, years later).  But I had under-estimated Babe.  By the time she died in 2004 she had recovered from five broken hips - three breaks on one side, and two on the other.

Another fascinating topic to discuss with Babe was investments.  She had started investing in the stock market in the 1920s and she and Dukie managed all their own investments until they turned the management over to the Northern Trust Company in the late 1980s.  Babe had an interesting investment strategy:  she invested 50% in stocks and 50% in US Treasury Bonds.  Some said her strategy was too conservative, but people who had lived through the Great Depression tended to be very conservative where money was concerned.  She felt that even if all her stocks were wiped out, she would still have half of her investments - and if US government securities were worthless then everything had gone to hell and nothing would be worth anything.

People who saw Babe as just a little old lady were in for a rude awakening.  One of her best friends through the years was Kate Jans, the widow of Matt Jans the golf pro.  One day Kate told Babe about a man she had met who worked miracles with investments.  He promised incredible double-digit returns on an annual basis and had the figures to prove it.  After Babe talked to the guy for 5 minutes she knew he was a shyster and told him so - and told Kate as well.  Kate was very insulted and things cooled between her and Babe, especially after Babe turned out to be right and Kate lost a lot of money.  Babe invested in nothing but blue-chip companies, and once she bought a stock she kept it.  When she finally turned her investments over to the Northern Trust to manage they could not believe the portfolio she had amassed without any professional investment advice.  

Time passed and by 1990 we noticed that Dukie was starting to have some memory problems.  He made mistakes when we were playing cards, and Babe said that she would send him to the store for something and he would return with something entirely different.  By 1990 Babe was 88 and Dukie was 86.  Babe said that she realized that age was catching up with them. 

The first radical change that took place for them was when they gave up their car.  After one scare where Dukie could not remember the way home on one of their drives, Babe realized that keeping their own car would no longer be an option for them. 

But what happened next almost ended the story for both Babe and Dukie.  In the fall of 1991 they arranged to have their furnace serviced as they had every year since they had bought the house.  The furnace man came, did his work, and told them that everything was fine.  After he left Dukie went downstairs to make sure everything was put away and turn off the lights.  After several minutes Babe realized that she didn't hear any noise coming from the basement and called out for Dukie - no response.  She called louder but still no response.  She walked over and started down the basement stairs only to find Dukie passed out on the floor in front of the furnace - carbon monoxide.  Babe dialed 911 and was able to open the front door for the firemen before she, too passed out.  They both were revived by the paramedics who insisted they spend the night in St. Francis hospital because of their age.  Although both appeared to have come through the ordeal in one piece, Dukie was never the same again.

In early 1993 Babe told me that they would have to give up the house.  She looked around, and after consulting with her attorney and the Northern Trust Company where she had her trust, decided on Lincolnwood Place in Lincolnwood, Illinois.  Florence had asked them to move to Utah where she and the grandchildren were, but Babe felt that they needed to keep some continuity in their lives, and so decided to stay in Chicago where they still had some friends and doctors, dentists, etc, they were used to.  And there were relatives here as well.  Although Robert McElroy Jr and his wife Ruth, nee Van Ness were both dead, their daughter Valerie and Val's husband Joe Hunley were still in the Chicago area and frequent visitors.

In the Spring of 1993 Babe and Dukie left Harvard Terrace and moved to Lincolnwood.  Babe got an apartment in the Independent Living section and Dukie was put into Managed Care.  This was the first time they had been separated for any length of time since they got married in 1930, and it was very hard for both of them.

Lincolnwood Place

Time passed, and Dukie slowly but steadily declined.  In late 1997 he could no longer feed himself, and although mentally alert he could not communicate much beyond "yes" or "no" answers.

One night years before, when my mother and I were over at Babe and Dukie's for a card game, they asked me if I would be their Medical Power of Attorney.  They both had filled out and signed Living Wills and they wanted to make sure that all their affairs were in order for "when the time comes."  Their daughter Florence would have been the logical choice but she was in Utah and I was just ten minutes away.  When I agreed to be their Medical POA I asked them what their final wishes were.  They were both adamant that they wanted nothing done that would prolong their lives unless there was hope of a recovery.  We discussed food and water as well, and again both were adamant that under no circumstances did either one of them want a feeding tube - ever. 

Back to early 1998.  Dukie could no longer swallow much beyond ice cream, and finally not even that.  Their doctors suggested that Dukie have a feeding tube inserted so he could continue to receive nourishment.  Babe told the doctors that Dukie had always said they he did not ever want a feeding tube.  It was cruel the way the healthcare professionals tried to "guilt" Babe into approving the feeding tube,  Every day when she went to see Dukie, they tried to get her to allow it.  They even said things like "We thought you loved your husband.  Do you want to see him starve to death?"  Finally I had had enough.  By this time I was stopping by every day to check on them and make sure everything was OK.  I arrived to find Babe in tears after she had spent another day being bullied by the healthcare staff and the doctor.  I said, "Let's settle this once and for all - let's go ask Dukie."

We went downstairs (Dukie was now in the nursing home part of Lincolnwood Place),  and found Dukie in bed watching TV.  The minute Babe walked into his room Dukie brightened up.  I sat on the side of the bed and said "Dukie, do you know who I am?"  "Yes."  "Are you in any pain or discomfort?"  "No."  "Do you need anything?"  "No."

Dukie, they want us to agree to having a feeding tube put into you so that you can receive nourishment."  The minute he heard "feeding tube" he said "NO!", loud and clear.  "Well," I told Babe, "there's your answer."  Then I went and told the staff that under no circumstances were they to even utter the words "feeding tube" around either Babe or Dukie or they would have more trouble than they bargained for.

I understand where they were coming from - healthcare workers have a duty to prolong life - but we should have the ultimate say about the health care we receive.

In the afternoon of January 14, 1998, Babe called to tell me that the nurses said the end was near, and early in the evening Dukie slipped away at the age of 93.  As I mentioned before, they had been married just short of 62 years!

Florence came in from Utah, and the three of us, plus Babe's caregiver, attended his funeral.  Babe felt that if anyone else was there it would be ever harder for her, so it was just the four of us.  There was a short service at the William H. Scott Funeral Home in Evanston, and then Dukie was cremated.  His ashes were placed in the plot in Section S at Rosehill, with Babe's father and mother.



At this time, Babe was 95 years old.  Although she had slowed down somewhat, and used a wheelchair for long distances, she still walked unaided and mentally was sharp as a tack.  Every morning after breakfast at Lincolnwood Place, she joined a group of fellow residents who did the crossword puzzle in the Chicago Tribune.  Each did the puzzle separately and competed with the others to see who could finish the puzzle first.  Babe was the winner of that competition on more than one occasion.

Although it wasn't home, Babe enjoyed living at Lincolnwood Place.  The food was excellent and she quickly made friends among the residents.  One of the first friends she made was Margaret Rockola, the widow of  David Cullen Rockola, the founder of the Rock-Ola Manufacturing Corp, manufacturer of classic jukeboxes for homes and businesses.

In addition to her daily crossword puzzle competition, Babe also participated in frequent bingo games, sing-alongs and even the Catholic Mass offered at Lincolnwood Place every week.  These activities were supplanted by yearly visits from Florence to celebrate Babe's birthday and Mothers' Day, frequent visits from her niece Valerie and Val's husband Joe, and of course, our every-other-Saturday night card games.  After one of her falls, Babe decided that she did not want to be alone, so she made arrangements for round-the-clock caregivers to look after her.  Once Dukie was no longer able to play cards, Babe would teach her caregivers how to play canasta, and the caregiver would take Dukie's place in the card game.

Florence and Babe - May, 1998

Next week I will finish the story of Ailzia M. Drake, the most unforgettable woman I ever met, by telling you about her 100th birthday celebration and her declining health which led to her death in 2004 at the age of 102.  Believe it or not, there are still stories that remain to be told about the twilight years of this fascinating woman. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

THE MOST UNFORGETTABLE WOMAN I EVERY MET - Ailzia M. Drake - Part Two

We pick up the story of Ailzia McElroy ("Babe") in the spring of 1929.  She is living in Reno, Nevada, having just been granted a divorce from Phillip Francis Harper.  She has her five year old daughter Florence living with her.

Babe was perfectly content to stay in Reno after her divorce.  She had had to establish residence there to be eligible for a quickie Reno divorce, and during that period she made a lot of friends.  She had no desire to return to Chicago to the "I told you so"s of her family.  For the first time in her twenty eight years she was not under anyone's watchful eye, and she loved it.  She had no interest in getting involved again with anyone romantically - at least not right away.  But she did enjoy being taken out on the town by young men, especially a particular dentist she had been spending some time with.

As I mentioned before, Babe was very athletic and especially enjoyed golf, tennis and swimming.  She used to play doubles tennis with the dentist and another couple on his free days.  One day they were missing a fourth for doubles and happened to spy young Terah Herschel ("Dukie") Drake (1904-1998) by himself along the sidelines.  "Will you join our game?" they asked, and when he said "Yes" it started a chain of events that would change his life, as well as those of Babe and Florence, forever.  Here's a photo of Dukie around the time he met Babe:

T.H. Drake - c1929

Terah Herschel Drake was born October 5, 1904 in Goodlettsville, Tennessee to Wesley Terah Drake (1879-1964) and Sudie, nee Galbreath (1884-1953).  Dukie was the oldest of seven children.  His parents went right to the Bible when they deciding what he should be named.  When he was a teenager he left home because his family was very poor and he felt they would be better off with one less mouth to feed.  After wandering around the west for a while he taught himself Morse Code and got a job as a telegrapher for the Southern Pacific Railroad in Reno/Truckee, Nevada.   On his day off he used to play tennis, and he was immediately taken with the athletic divorcee and her young daughter.  Babe used to bring Florence to the tennis courts in her stroller and put her on the sidelines so she could watch the games.

Dukie got his nickname because there was no way a railroad man was going to use a name like "Terah".  His family called him "Herschel" but the railroad men started calling him "Drake" and then "Duck" which evolved to "Ducky" and eventually to "Dukie".  Babe was pretty taken with the handsome young telegrapher. 

An aside about Dukie - he had very little formal education but was one of the most intelligent men I ever knew.  He was a voracious reader and could converse (and debate) on a myriad of subjects from history to politics to religion to economics.  He was also gifted with a strong dose of common sense.  Intellectually he was a good match for the classically-educated Babe.

Dukie was taken with Babe right away.  She was very pretty, had a killer figure from all her athletics and could match Dukie drink-for-drink whenever they went out on the town.

Babe was attracted to Dukie because he was handsome, but also intelligent, athletic, and level-headed.  But most of all, Dukie was not the least bit impressed with Babe's family money or her fancy education.

Babe and I were talking about it once, many years later, and Babe admitted she was attracted to Dukie at first because he was so unlike Phil Harper, or any of the other boys she had dated.  So after the tennis match when Dukie asked her out, she accepted.

Dukie told me years later that he knew that if he wanted to win Babe he had to woo Florence.  He knew that Babe would never stay with a man that Florence didn't like, so he set out to win the affections of a little six year old girl.  It worked.  Within a short time both Babe and Florence were in love with Dukie.

I mentioned before that even after her divorce, Babe stayed friendly with Phil's sister Helen Harper Graf.  In the 1970s Phil asked Helen to ask Babe if he could get in touch with Florence.  Neither Babe nor Florence had any contact with Phil since the divorce.  Phil said that he was getting older and wanted to restart his relationship with his daughter, as well as get to know his grandchildren.  Babe said that she would ask Florence, although Babe had an idea of what Florence's answer was going to be.

Florence said to tell Phil that "Dukie is my father, and that's that."  She said that since Phil had no time for her when he was young, that she had no time for him now that he was old.  

So, Babe and Dukie (and Florence) started dating.  As things began to get serious Babe told her parents about the dashing telegrapher and they told her (without ever meeting him) that Dukie was only after Babe's money.  Babe's father said to tell Dukie that he would not be supporting them financially if they went through with the marriage.

Babe felt she had a "keeper" this time so they traveled back to Chicago to give her parents a chance to get to know Dukie, as well as see their granddaughter Florence.  Although Babe's parents liked Dukie they were still against the marriage because they still felt that Dukie was after Babe's money.  This was a legitimate concern, because by this time, Robert McElroy was a Vice President and member of the Board of Directors of the Standard Oil Company.  The McElroys were very well-to-do.

Babe again asserted her independence and she and Dukie were married in downtown Chicago by a judge on January 20, 1930.  (When Dukie died on January 14, 1998, he and Babe had been happily married for just short of sixty-eight years!).  Here's their marriage license:


They returned to Nevada where they took up residence in a small house at 543 Humbolt in Reno:

543 Humbolt, Reno, Nevada

Strangely, the 1930 US Census (taken on May 9, 1930) reports Ailzia "Drake" as living with her parents in Wilmette.  They listed her marital status as "Divorced" and no sign of Florence.  Just goes to show that you can't always believe what shows up on the census.

Time passed and the Great Depression hit.  Dukie was still working for the Southern Pacific Railroad as a telegrapher but was finally laid off in 1933.  He was the youngest man in the Reno operation and he had the least seniority, so he was the first to go.  Job prospects were very grim in Reno, so he and Babe had to get creative to be able to earn enough money to live on.

Babe had always been an excellent bridge player, having played from an early age. She had an excellent memory and used to say that after everyone bid she could almost tell you exactly what cards they held.  So, whenever funds were getting low, Dukie would put Babe on the train and she would travel back and forth across the country hustling bridge for 1/4 of a cent per point.  Dukie still had a lot of friends on the railroad, so Babe could ride for free.  She would ask if anyone was interested in a bridge game and pick out her mark - and off they would go.  She said that it was her bridge hustling that paid their bills after Dukie lost his job.

But even that tapered off after a while, so finally Dukie, Babe and Florence packed up and returned to Chicago.  Babe had decided to swallow her pride and ask her family for help.  They took what little savings they had and rented an apartment at 1636 W. Juneway Terrace in Chicago:

1636 W. Juneway Terrace, Chicago

After getting settled in, they went to see the McElroys to ask for help.  Robert McElroy let them know that financial help would not be forthcoming from him.  He reminded Babe that he and her mother were against this marriage, as they had been against her first marriage.  He also reminded her that he had said previously that he would not support them, so he did not understand why she was asking.  This was a real blow to Babe.  She had always been very close to her father, and she could not understand why he was unwilling to help.  After all, there was a nationwide depression, and that certainly was not her or Dukie's fault.  Reminiscent of Mr. Harper's refusal to help so long before ("You made your bed, now you can lie in it.") Robert McElroy's advise was just as pithy: "Ailzia, live fish go upstream and dead fish go downstream.  Now go out there and find a job."  Rough advice when the national unemployment rate was 24.75%.

Babe and Dukie talked it over and decided that they had the best chance of finding work where there was the highest concentration of jobs:  in downtown Chicago - the Loop.  So every day after breakfast they took the El (elevated train) downtown.  Each day they picked a new street - Babe took one side and Dukie too the other and they went into every single business on that street asking for work.  They went into every ground level store and every high rise office building.  Day after day they "swam upstream" as hard as they could.  Finally, a break.  Babe got a job in a doctor's office because she had taken some nurses training long ago after she left St. Mary's.

Dukie had always been adept at working on cars, and he finally got a job at a Standard Oil gas station at 6601 N. Sheridan Road in Chicago.  There is a parking lot on that site today.   

And so, by the end of 1933 both Babe and Dukie were working in Chicago.

Life went relatively smoothly for Babe and Dukie until about 1937.  Robert McElroy, Babe's father had always enjoyed good health.  He was a big man - about 6'-4" and had a robust constitution.   But starting about 1937 people began to remark that he was losing weight, and he seemed to have lost all his energy.  When the diagnosis finally came it was a shock - cancer.  Babe took her father's illness especially hard.

Babe and Dukie were happily married, and there had been a reconciliation of sorts with Babe's family.  They could not help but like Dukie, and once they saw that he was not a fortune hunter, and that he was taking good care of their daughter and granddaughter they relented. 

By the beginning of 1938 Babe realized that her father was dying.  When Robert McElroy checked into Henrotin Hospital for a long stay, Babe and her mother dealt with the crisis in exactly opposite ways.  Florence McElroy stayed away from the hospital, going about her life as if nothing at all was wrong.  Babe, on the other hand, stayed by her father's bedside morning and night - some nights even sleeping in her father's room at the hospital.  To pass the time, Babe took up knitting, and after awhile she said she had knitted blankets for almost the entire hospital staff.

But Robert McElroy was terminal, and he died at Evanston Hospital on June 25, 1938 at the age of sixty-one.     

Here's his obituary from the Chicago Daily Tribune of June 27, 1938:


Florence McElroy bought ten graves in Section S of Rosehill Cemetery.  Why ten graves?  She said she did not want to be near anyone else.  Robert McElroy is buried in front of a beautiful monument of Vermont marble:
        
The Grave of Robert H. McElroy
 
 
Babe took her father's death very hard.  After the funeral she took to her bed where she stayed day after day.  She wasn't interested in eating or anything else.  All she did was stay in her darkened bedroom and cry.  Dukie and Florence tried everything to get Babe to start living again with no success.  Finally Dukie called their family physician, who had also been the doctor for Babe's father.  After checking Babe over he sat down on the bed and gave her a good talking-to.

The doctor told Babe that her father would be horrified at her behavior, had he known.  The doctor reminded Babe that her father was dead, and nothing would change that - but that she had a husband and a daughter who were alive, and she owed it to them to get out of bed and get on with her life.  He told her he wasn't leaving until she got up and got dressed and went out into the living room.  Babe told me later that she was so overwhelmed with her grief that she didn't realize what it was doing to those around her, so she took the doctor's advise and got out of bed, got dressed, and started living again.
 
Here's a photo of Babe and Dukie from about 1940:
 
 
The years passed - Florence entered Northwestern University in 1939 at the age of sixteen, but soon became bored with the structure and discipline, so she pulled a stunt that even topped her mother - she ran away from home and started following Frank Sinatra around the country.

Eventually the excitement of being a Sinatra "groupie" wore off and Florence returned home.  She wasn't interested in returning to school, so she shocked everyone when she enlisted in the US Marines Corps. While serving in the Marines, Florence met her future husband, George F. Wurster (1923-2007) of Shamokin, Pennsylvania.  George was a devout Catholic so Florence took Instructions and became a Catholic before their marriage in 1945 in Philadelphia.

So now Babe and Dukie were "empty-nesters."  By the early 1950s they decided that their apartment was too big for just the two of them and decided to start looking around for a small house.  Babe had inherited some money from her father, and always lived frugally - a habit she acquired during all those years with Phil Harper.

Babe and Dukie were on very good terms with Babe's mother.  Although Florence McElroy was fiercely independent - she stayed in that big house on Sheridan Road all by herself until the 1960s - as the years passed she began to rely more and more on both Babe and Dukie.

Babe's brother, Robert McElroy, Jr. had married and had a family of his own and was available to his mother, but was busy with family and career responsibilities.  A success story in his own right, Robert McElroy Jr worked his way up to Vice President of the Pure Oil Company.  He was not interested in riding his father's coattails, and when he started his career even used an assumed name so no one would know of the connection.

When Babe and Dukie told Florence McElroy that they were looking at houses, she picked out one for them and offered to pay for it as a gift to Babe and Dukie.  The home Florence picked out for them was a magnificent home on Lunt Avenue in Chicago overlooking Indian Boundary Park.  They refused her offer.  Dukie told me years later that he felt if they accepted the house as a gift, that they would feel they were beholden to Babe's mother, and that was a situation he did not want to be in.

Instead they found a cute little two bedroom bungalow at 1020 Harvard Terrace in Evanston, that they bought with $20,000.00 of their own money:

1020 Harvard Terrace, Evanston

Hey - what about me?  I thought this was a story about the most unforgettable woman I ever met.  So far I have covered 50+ years of the story and I am still not in the picture.  Well, my friendship with Babe and Dukie didn't really blossom until about 1971, so we'll just say that I came along "in the last act."  So to find out "the rest of the story", as they say, come back next Friday and I'll tell you all about it.

You didn't really expect me to cover 102 years of living in just two installments, did you??? 

Friday, September 12, 2014

THE MOST UNFORGETTABLE WOMAN I EVER MET - Ailzia M. Drake - Part One

The phone rang at a few minutes after 5:00 AM on the morning of October 28, 2004 - never a good sign.  I answered with a sleepy "Hello" and the voice said "Mr. Craig, this is Lincolnwood Place.  We are calling you about Ailzia Drake.  We had a report from her caregiver that she passed away a few minutes ago."  "But she was doing better last night when I called," was my response.  "Oh well, I'll call her nurse."

I dialed the number and the nurse answered, "Jim?" "Yes," I responded, "what's up?"  "It's Mrs. Drake.  I think she's dead," the nurse replied.  "You think she's dead???," I said.  "You don't know for sure?"  "No," the nurse replied, "but I think she's dead."  "I'll be right over," I said as I hung up the phone.

When I entered her apartment at Lincolnwood Place in Lincolnwood, Illinois, I could see why her nurse made the comment she did.  Mrs. Drake looked like she was sleeping.  Other than the fact that she wasn't breathing she looked calm and peaceful.  

With that, the long and storied life of Alizia McElroy Drake came to an end, 102 years after it began.  Looking back now, almost ten years after her death, I can say that she was a dear friend, but more than that she was a very interesting woman.  In fact, I can safely say that she was the most unforgettable woman I ever met.  So settle back and let me tell you a fascinating 102 year story about a fascinating woman.

Ailzia Lathrop McElroy was born May 6, 1902 in Chicago to Robert Hemmington McElroy, Sr. (1877-1938) and Florence Queen, nee Dascombe (1876-1967):

R.H. McElroy
Florence McElroy

 
She joined her big brother Robert Hemmington McElroy, Jr. (1898-1969)  The first interesting fact about Ailzia was her name.  Her father, who chose her name, said that years before he had been on a trip to Canada where he saw a professional swimmer named Ailzia Frank.  He liked the name so much that he said if he ever had a daughter he would name her "Ailzia" and he did.  Her middle name "Lathrop" was because she was a direct descendent of Wisconsin pioneer William Henry Lathrop.  She used to say that Lathrop Hall at the University of Wisconsin was named for her family.

Lathrop Hall

Her big brother Robert couldn't get his mouth wrapped around the name "Ailzia" so from the very beginning he called her "Babe" and that's the name that stuck.  And so, for the rest of this article, except where it is not appropriate, I will call her Babe.

When Babe was born, the family was living at 602 (now 1750 W.) Pratt in Chicago:

1750 W. Pratt

By the 1910 US Census the McElroy family was living in Wilmette, Illinois at 1607 W. Lake Street:

1607 W. Lake Street, Wilmette

Robert McElroy Sr. lists his job as "Traffic Expert" with the Standard Oil Company.  Robert McElroy Sr. is a success story in his own right, and will be featured in a future article in this blog.  He started his long career with Standard Oil in 1906.  Florence, Robert Jr, and Ailzia were all listed as not having an occupation.  Babe used to say that her family moved to Wilmette "right after the Ouilmette Indians moved out."

To say that Babe was a hellion as a child is an understatement.  She used to laughingly say years later that she was kicked out of some of the finest schools in Chicagoland.  She told me that among the many schools she had attended was Evanston Academy, the prep school division of Northwestern University. 


The Evanston Academy closed in 1917, so her father then decided to send Babe to a school where she would experience a little discipline:  St. Mary's Academy, Notre Dame, Indiana.


Although Babe was not a Catholic her father decided that the structure and discipline of a Catholic girls' school would be good for her.  Robert McElroy had been raised a Scots Presbyterian; Florence Dascombe came from a High-Church Episcopalian family.  Neither Babe nor her brother received any formal religious education after their baptism as infants.

Although Babe chafed at the structure of St. Mary's, she loved it there.  Back in those days there were so many nuns that each student had a nun assigned to her as a mentor/guide/buddy.  Babe's assigned nun was Sr. Clare Assisi, who she came to love like a blood sister.  Those were the days when nuns wore full habits but that did not stop Sr. Clare Assisi from playing tennis or golf, or many other of the athletic activities for the students.  Babe said that Sr. Clare Assisi had come from a very well-to-do family and was very highly educated.  She had given up a life in Society to become a nun and teacher.  Babe said that she used to love the long talks that she and Sr. Clare Assisi used to have as they strolled around the beautiful campus at St. Mary's.

While Babe was still at St. Mary's, Sr. Clare Assisi died suddenly.  As was the custom then, she was waked in the school chapel.  Coming from a non-Catholic background, Babe had never been to a wake before that featured an open casket.  Babe said that all the girls were to line up and file slowly past the casket.  When it was her turn, Babe took one look at Sr. Clare Assisi in the open casket and fainted dead away.

Although Ailzia McElroy is prominently featured among the graduates in the 1920 St. Mary's yearbook,

 
that is not exactly what happened.  Babe was kicked out of St. Mary's prior to graduation because she had been caught smoking a cigarette and had "bobbed" her hair.  In 1920 long hair was considered the sign of a "good" girl; whereas if a girl had short hair she was called a "flapper" and the implication was that she was a person of loose morals.  And, of course, "good" girls did not smoke cigarettes.  So Babe topped off the list of schools she had been kicked out of, with St. Mary's of Notre Dame.

(An interesting side note:  When she was in her 80s, Babe returned to St. Mary's for a visit.  She was ushered into the office of the principal who asked her what year she graduated.  She replied that she was Class of 1920 but that she had been kicked out prior to graduation.  "What did you do to get kicked out?", the nun asked.  "I got caught smoking a cigarette and bobbed my hair," was Babe's response.  "Oh my goodness," the nun said, "the nuns here today do worse things than that.")

It is interesting, however to take a look at Babe in the 1920 St. Mary's yearbook.  I did not find this yearbook until after Babe was dead, so I was never able to ask her anything about it, but it does provide an interesting insight into the Babe McElroy of 1920.  Here is an essay she wrote on Booth Tarkington that was included in the yearbook:



         
From the yearbook Class Prophesy:


In about 1915 her father bought the beautiful home at 704 Sheridan Road in Wilmette:

704 Sheridan Road, Wilmette

Babe had the front bedroom and during the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918 she used to sit in her bedroom window and watch all the horse-drawn hearses bringing the dead soldiers back from Fort Sheridan. 

If she looked in the other direction from her bedroom window, she could see the Bahai Temple being built:

Bahai Temple, Wilmette, Illinois

So now it's the spring of 1920 and Babe is back home in Wilmette with nothing to do.  According to her she spent each day at the parks and beaches with her friends.  Gilson Park in Wilmette had not been built yet, so Babe could walk out her back door about 1/2 block and be at the shore of Lake Michigan.  Babe was very athletic and an expert swimmer.  She spent her days with her friends swimming, playing tennis (more about that later) and dancing.  And her love of dancing would take her into the next phase of her life.

(Another side note:  It's about this time that Babe became one of the original "Polar Bears" a group that would break the ice and go swimming in Lake Michigan on New Years Day each year.) 

The February 27, 1921 edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune featured the following article:


The Tribune notwithstanding, that's not exactly how it happened.  According to Babe, Phil Harper was part of the crowd she hung around with.  Phillip Francis Harper (1899-1980) came from a well-to-do French Canadian lumber family.  The Harpers had a big home on Sheridan Road in Chicago and undoubtedly Babe and Phil's paths would have crossed as they moved in the same social circles.  

Years (75 years to be exact) later, one day Babe and I were talking about her marriage to Phil.  "What made you marry Phil Harper?"  I asked.  "He was a good dancer," was her response.  She admitted to me then that when she married Phil she really didn't know him very well.

Anyway, they decided to "run away and get married" on Valentine's Day, February 14, 1921.  The Tribune said they had gotten married on a Sunday.  In those days Catholics would not have marriages on Sunday and February 14, 1921 was a Monday.  I suspect this was a story the families came up with for public consumption.  

I used to tease Babe every Valentine's Day with a hearty "Happy Anniversary."   To which she would respond, "There's nothing happy about it."  She snuck out of the house early that morning in 1921 and met Phil at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Wilmette. 

St. Francis Xavier Church, Wilmette.

Babe wasn't a Catholic so they could not be married (in those days) in church with a Mass.  They had to be married by the priest in the rectory.  Then they went off on their honeymoon and cabled the news to their respective families.  

The families were not all that happy about the elopement.  Their first questions was "Why so fast - do you "have to" get married?"  (They didn't).  Robert McElroy Sr lamented that his only daughter would not have the big church wedding he had always planned.  "And what about all those gifts I have given to everyone's children over all these years?" the pragmatic Scotsman asked.  "This was my only chance to tap them for a generous gift in return."

Babe admitted that they eloped for the adventure of it.  But then life caught up with them.  They moved in with Harpers in the big house at 6821 N. Sheridan Road and Phil had to give up his dream of going to college.  (6821 N. Sheridan was razed in 1964 and an apartment building built on the site.)  Phil had a wife now, so he would join the family lumber business.  Babe always felt that Phil's parents never really liked her (they probably didn't).  Mr. Harper, Phil's father, insisted that only French be spoken at every meal because he was afraid the family would lose their French-Canadian roots.  Babe did not speak a word of French and had a very hard time at meals.  But, young people are resilient and she quickly became fluent in conversational French.

Mr. Harper decided that the best thing to do was to get the newlyweds out of town, so he sent them to Mexico City where Phil would oversee the Mexican lumber operations of the Harpers.  Phil spent all his time in the small towns and rural areas of Mexico; Babe was stuck in Mexico City.  She did not know a soul, and did not speak a word of Spanish (she had enough trouble with French).  To keep her company Phil bought her a beautiful collie dog which she used to walk all over Mexico City.  The dog was so well behaved that she started walking him off the leash, thinking it was not necessary.  One day the dog ran out in front of a car while chasing something, and that was the end of the dog.  Babe felt like she had lost her best friend (she had).

On a happier note, Babe found out in the Spring that she was going to have a baby.  She was due in December.  To all the nosy people who were counting (including her own parents) she passed the test.  She had not been pregnant when she and Phil were married.

Unfortunately she had a very difficult pregnancy.  She had terrible morning sickness compounded by the gastric problems many people have in Mexico.  She was alone, thousands of miles from home,  and horribly sick.  She begged Phil and her parents to let her come back to Chicago and they finally relented.  

Babe gave birth to her son Phillip Harper on December 8, 1921.  He died December 10, 1921 from a congenital heart defect.  The walls between the chambers of his heart were not fully developed and therefore his heart could never function normally.


Because the Harpers were Catholic, Babe had agreed to raise any of their children as Catholics, so little Phil was baptized shortly after his birth. 

After the baby had died, the chaplain from St. Francis Hospital came in to see Babe and Phil.  The priest said that they were lucky that the baby had been baptized before he died otherwise his soul would not have gone to heaven.  Although as a cradle Catholic this would not have been news to Phil, he was so enraged that he vowed never to set foot in a Catholic Church again, and as far as Babe knew, he never did.  

Babe told me Phillip Harper (the baby) was buried "in the Harper Family Plot" at Calvary Cemetery in Evanston.  Years later when the Harpers moved to California they sold the big plot at Calvary and had little Phil's and one other grandchild's body moved to another section of Calvary.  They are there in an unmarked grave to this day.

When Babe and Phil moved back to Chicago before the baby was born, they did not want to move back in with the Harpers, so they rented an apartment at 6004 N. Paulina Street in Chicago:

6004 N. Paulina, Chicago

Life went on for Babe and Phil.  For awhile Phil worked for his father in Chicago but in about 1922 Mr. Harper transferred Phil to the Harper offices in Rochelle, Illinois.  It is here in Rochelle, that their daughter Florence Dascombe Harper (1923-2012) was born:

 
In accordance with the vow he made when little Phil died, Florence was not baptized, and received no formal religious training. 

Babe actually liked the rural, small town atmosphere in Rochelle.  She had never experienced life in a small town and she liked the fact that all the neighbors looked out for each other.  Years later, Babe and Florence were reminiscing about their days in Rochelle and their neighbor lady who raised chickens.   

But life was not all idyllic in Rochelle.  Phil Harper developed a gambling problem.  It got so bad that Phil would not come home on payday.  He would disappear, and then turn up days later, once he had gambled all the money away.  Every time, Phil would vow that he would never do it again, and the next payday the episode took place all over again.  Babe knew that her parents wouldn't help, so she got in contact with Mr. Harper and asked him for money so Babe could "feed his granddaughter."  Mr. Harper was unsympathetic.  He reminded Babe that she and Phil had run away and gotten married and that neither set of parents were too happy with news of the elopement.  Mr. Harper said he would help Babe just once, and after that she was "on her own."  His exact words were, "You made your bed, now you can lie in it."

The only bright spot was that the Harpers had a winter home in Pasadena, California and every year the Harpers would send Phil, Babe and Florence train tickets to come to Pasadena for the winter.  Babe said that she loved those days in Pasadena. 

Babe told me that Phil had a lot of friends in Los Angeles and once they were invited to an infamous "Hollywood Party."  There was a casket of cocaine sitting on the mantelpiece and anyone who wished could help themselves.  Neither Babe nor Phil partook of the cocaine.  Babe said she was too afraid of it.  At one such party Babe was feeling so good she called out "I feel like such a fairy tonight," and Phil slapped her.  He said she embarrassed him in front of all his friends.  

Life back in Rochelle was getting worse and worse.  Phil was disappearing for longer periods, and Babe had to beg, borrow and steal to get money to feed herself and Florence.  By the fall of 1928 Babe decided that she had to take action. 

In those days, the place where you could get the fastest divorce was Reno, Nevada, but you had to establish residency there.  During one of Phil's disappearances the train tickets to Pasadena from the Harpers arrived.  Babe cashed in the tickets and bought a ticket for her and Florence to Reno, and by the time Phil finally returned, his wife and daughter were gone for good.

Ailzia McElroy Harper filed for divorce from Phillip Francis Harper on October 26, 1928 in Reno.  Here is the notice from the Reno Evening Gazette:


The decree of divorce was granted October 29th.  Phil Harper's sister Helen Harper Graf (1897-1987) actually came to the trial in Reno and testified on Babe's behalf.  When he granted the divorce, the judge said that he had never had a case where the husband's sister testified on behalf of the wife.  Helen and Babe remained lifelong friends until Helen's death in 1987.

After her divorce was granted, Babe participated in the custom of throwing her wedding rings into the Truckee River in Reno from the Virginia Street "Bridge of Sighs."

Now Babe and Florence were free to enjoy life.  One day when Babe went to play tennis, little did she know that her life and Florence's would change for the better starting that very day.

We will take up Part Two of the story of Ailzia McElroy Harper Drake next week in this blog.  Stay tuned!

Friday, September 5, 2014

HIS LOSS IS TOO PROFOUND TO DESCRIBE - Moshe Menora, z''l

My early morning routine is fairly consistent.  As I am shaving in the morning I listen to the news on the radio.  This keeps me up to date on everything that's happening around the world.  I don't pay close attention to what they are saying on the radio unless I hear something interesting.

That's the way it was on July 14, 2010.  But all of a sudden I heard something that caught my attention:

"A private plane has crashed in Mackinac Island, Michigan, killing a 72 year old man from Skokie, Illinois and 3 of his grandchildren, leaving another one in serious condition."

"How sad," I thought, but I didn't think it was anyone I knew...until I heard the radio again:

"Mr. Moshe Menora, of Skokie, Illinois, was killed while flying in a private plane. Mr. Menora was flying with his grandchildren, who were visiting from Israel for the summer, when the plane crashed briefly after take-off shortly after 5 p.m. in St. Ignace, Michigan, near the I-75.

Mr. Menora and three grandchildren did not survive.

One other grandchild, a 13-year-old who was ejected from the aircraft, is in critical condition."

Oh no!  Not only did I know Moshe Menora, he was a friend and a colleague of mine.  I stood in stunned silence and then went for the internet to get more details.  Unfortunately the internet did not have much beyond what was on the radio.  I also checked http://www.vosizneias.com/, a website that specializes in news of the Orthodox Jewish community but there was not much there either.

Before we relate the circumstances of the tragic death of Moshe Menora, z''l and three of his grandchildren, let's look at his life, and how I came to call him a friend.

Moshe Menora was born on April 27, 1937 in Haifa, Israel to Rabbi Shloma Yosef Menora and Rachel (maiden name unknown).  After his childhood in Haifa and Tel Aviv, he came to the United States, settling first in New York.  It was here in 1958 that he met the love of his life, Sema Chaimovitz (1939-2014), one of the twin daughters of noted Chicago Rabbi Louis Chaimovitz of blessed memory, and his wife Lillian.  Sema had been living in New York while attending Yeshiva University's Stern College for Women, and Moshe was running a kosher meat market there at the time they met.

Moshe Menora and Sema Chaimovitz were married February 25, 1960 in Chicago where they decided to make their home.   Their first home in Chicago was at 5300 W. Quincy:

5300 W. Quincy, Chicago

After settling in Chicago Moshe Menora started his long and successful career as a real estate developer.

Moshe and Sema Menora were blessed with three children: Miriam (b. 1961), Sholom (b. 1963), and Kelly (b. 1965?).

I first met Moshe Menora in about 1980 but I had heard of his reputation before that.   At that time I was working in the Investment Department of Washington National Insurance Company (WNIC) in Evanston, Illinois.  I was responsible, among other things, for problem real estate in the Company's portfolio - mostly properties the Company acquired after foreclosing on the mortgages they had held.  It seems that Moshe Menora, in the opinion of the executives of  WNIC, was a miracle worker when it came to problem real estate.

WNIC had foreclosed and taken title to a 55 unit apartment building at 5220 N. Kenmore in Chicago:

5220 N. Kenmore, Chicago

Menora approached WNIC with an offer, but an offer where Menora would make a down payment, and WNIC would loan him the money to completely renovate the building.  Menora already had a track record of turning around problem properties.  He had purchased the SRO known as the Royal Beach Hotel at 5523 N. Kenmore in Chicago.

5523 N. Kenmore, Chicago

Within a short time Menora had renovated the hotel from top to bottom and filled it with tenants.  He performed the same miracle with the building he purchased from WNIC.  Once it was renovated and fully leased, he refinanced at a significantly higher value with a new lender and paid off WNIC.  It was a win-win scenario all around.

I came to meet and work with Moshe Menora over an apartment building at 5727 N. Winthrop in Chicago  (Winthrop is the next street west of Kenmore in Chicago).

5727 N. Winthrop, Chicago

This is a 4-story, 55 unit apartment building.  To get around having to install an elevator they call it a "3-story with English basement" building.  Back in the condo conversion craze of the 70s-80s investors bought this building to do a condo conversion.  They obtained their financing through Washington National.  Well, the bottom fell out of the condo market before these guys had a chance to do their conversion, so they walked away and WNIC foreclosed.  Now it was my problem.  When the investors first bought the building, they kicked out all the tenants.  A vacant building can deteriorate very rapidly.  To protect their investment they hired a service that provided German Shepherd guard dogs who roamed through the building at will.  By the time that WNIC finally acquired title and I was able to get into the building, I was horrified.  There were piles of trash and dog excrement everywhere.  To even be able to go through the building I had to wear my oldest clothes and heavy rubber boots to be able to walk through the muck.  And in the summertime, you can imagine the smell. 

After my first walkthrough I came to the conclusion that the building was not salvageable.  I started talking to wrecking companies figuring that the building would have to be razed.  Then one of my associates said, "Why don't you give Moshe Menora a call?  He's done great work with these types of buildings in that very neighborhood."  And so that's how I got to meet Moshe Menora for the first time.

He was impressive by being unimpressive.  He had on dress pants, an open shirt, and the ever-present cigarette hanging from the side of his mouth.  I warned him what he would be seeing, but I think even he was shocked.  But, he liked a challenge.  He said the building was structurally sound; all it needed was a little "sweat equity."  So, he bought the building from WNIC for $38,000 (I still remember that after all these years), and then the insurance company loaned him $200,000 on top of that for renovations.

How he handled renovations was one of the secrets of his success.  He told us that he imported craftsmen from Europe and Israel and put them to work in his buildings.  I remember meeting one man who did nothing but restore stoves and refrigerators.  He took them apart, replaced any missing or broken parts, put them back together and then cleaned them from top to bottom.  By the time this craftsman was done, the appliance looked like new - and was better quality than what was currently being sold.  Menora told me that every appliance, mechanical piece, hardware, or window/door that he salvaged he did not have to buy - meaning that he did not have to spend any money for what could be restored/reused. 

I will never forget the day Moshe Menora invited us down to see the finished product.  He was so proud - and rightly so.  He gave us a "grand tour" from the roof to the basement, and what a transformation!  He was able to turn that building around from being ready for the wrecking ball to being ready for new tenants.  The building was, in a word, beautiful.  Moshe Menora the miracle worker had done it again.  Within a short time the building was fully leased and generating a substantial cash flow each month.

Over time, through working with Moshe Menora, I began to see some of the other side of the man.  One year at Christmas time, the receptionist in our office called and said we had a delivery to pick up.  We went downstairs and found fruit baskets - and what fruit baskets they were!  Each one was addressed to a member of the Mortgage and Real Estate Division that had dealings with Menora, and each card was signed "Moshe Menora and Sharon Leahy".  Moshe Menora and his fruit baskets soon became the talk of the office.  Every year Sharon called to make sure she had everyone's name, and every name spelled correctly.  They checked and double checked to make sure they didn't forget anyone - and they never did.

During this period as I got to know Moshe Menora, and ultimately his family, they were living at 6052 N. Sacramento in the West Rogers Park neighborhood in Chicago:

6052 N. Sacramento, Chicago

One day early in 1986 a heavy envelope arrived at my home.  Inside was a beautiful engraved invitation in Hebrew and English inviting me to the wedding of Moshe and Sema Menora's daughter Kelly to Mr. Zevy Klein of New York:







Attending that wedding I got to see yet another side of Moshe Menora.  Not only did I get to meet his family, I had my first exposure to Menora as an Orthodox Jew.  The wedding was impressive from start to finish, and no one was smiling wider than the proud father of the bride.  And through it all, Menora's faithful assistant Sharon Leahy was explaining everything for all the non-Jews (and many of the Jews) who were in attendance.  It was an experience that I will never forget.  It was magnificent! 


During this period, Menora's company, called "Tri-United Management, Inc." was located at 4055 Main Street in Skokie:

4055 Main Street, Skokie

Time passed, and unfortunately my path did not cross Moshe Menora's path as often as it had.  The insurance company was sold, and all the employees were let go, so I did not have occasion to do business with Moshe any more.  I did hear through the grapevine from time to time that he and his family were thriving - I was not surprised.

I will never forget the last time I saw Moshe Menora in this world.  It was at the wedding of the daughter of a mutual friend.  I was working my way through the crowds of guests when I spotted a familiar face in a black suit and black hat - Moshe Menora!  I quickly moved over toward him and he greeted me with a big bear hug.  "How are you doing?" I asked, "You look great."  "I gave up smoking" he said with pride in his voice.  And he had a reason to be proud.  He had been a heavy smoker.  I never saw him without the familiar cigarette hanging from his mouth unless we were in an area where smoking was prohibited.  I told him what I was up to and we both agreed to look into the possibility of doing some more business together.  We parted with another handshake and a hug and went away with the same warm feeling I had whenever I saw him.

I did hear that in about 2000, he and Sema bought a house in Skokie - and what a house.  It is at 4100 Grove Street in Skokie:

4100 Grove Street, Skokie

That brings us to the terrible day July 13, 2010 when Menora's private plane crashed after takeoff in Michigan.  Killed in the crash were Moshe Menora, Kelly and Zev Klein's daughter Sara (17), and Sholom and Sima (Fogel) Menora's daughters Rivka (17) and Rochel (15).  Thirteen year old Nathaniel Joseph (Yossi) Menora survived the crash but was seriously injured.

I don't want to relate anything more about the accident.  If anyone wants to learn more, the internet has an abundance of information.

There were two funerals for Moshe and the girls.  The first one, for friends and family in the US was held July 14th at 7 p.m. at Congregation Or Torah in Skokie.  I attended the funeral at Or Torah along with over one thousand other mourners.  I knew that I would have to arrive early to get a seat and I was not mistaken.  By the time the service started, every seat was taken and people were three-deep in the aisles.

There were several eulogies given by noted rabbis recalling their interactions with Moshe and his family.  Again and again stories were told about his tremendous generosity but each one recalled Moshe's one caveat:  "If you tell anyone where this money came from, you'll never get another dime from me."  That was the essence of Moshe Menora. Thoughtful, caring and unbelievably generous, he did not want any earthly recognition of any kind.  There are no buildings, sanctuaries, or monuments dedicated to Moshe Menora - he would not permit it.

But it was not just about money, charitable or not.  It was disclosed that Moshe Menora was the behind-the-scenes initiator of the Daf Yomi shiur at Or Torah, a chaburah of 15 men that had finished Shas twice.

Eulogies were delivered by, among others, Rabbi Yosef Posner of Lubavitch Chabad of Skokie, Rabbi Baruch Hertz of Congregation Bnei Ruven, and Rabbi Zvi Engel of Congregation Or Torah. Here are some photos from the first funeral, in Skokie:




 
I will never forget following those four hearses down Dempster Street.  The Village of Skokie had closed Dempster Street from Or Torah west to Crawford to allow us the opportunity to walk in procession behind the hearses. The procession was stopped at Crawford as the hearses sped on to O'Hare airport for their last flight back to Eretz Yisroel.

The funeral for Rikki and Racheli Menora was held first.  Here are some photos:






Sholom Menora, father of the two girls



After the girls' burial at Eretz HaChaim Cemetery in Beit Shemesh, came the funeral for Moshe and Sarah Klein at Har HaMenuchot Cemetery in Yerushalayim:

 















 

Moshe Menorah and Sarah Klein are buried in Area (Gush) 35, Section (Khalka) 2, Row (Shura) 27:




























פ"נ 
Here is buried
(פה נקבר)
(of blessed memory) 
ר' משה מנורה
MOSHE MENORA 
בן הרב שלמה ויוסף ז"ל
Son of Rabbi Shloma Yosef and Rachel (of blessed memory) 
שיקגו סקוקי אילינוי
Chicago Skokie IL
מסור היה למשפחתו
He was devoted to his family
    אוהב ואהוב לצאצאיו
Loved and beloved by his descendants
שוועת עניים וכושלים שמע
He heard the cries of the poor and those falling
   חכם לבב ואמיץ כח
Brave of heart and courageous
החזיק ותמך במוסדות תורה ויהדות
Held and supported institutes of Torah and Judaism
    בקהילתו ובעולם
Within his community and in the world
הצניע לכת במעשיו
Was modest in his deeds
    וזכה להערכת ידידיו ומכריו
And earned the respect of his friends and acquaintances
נולד בשנת תרצ"ז
Born in 1937
  עלה בסערה השמימה
Ascended to heaven in a storm
ביום המר ב' מנחם אב תשע
On the bitter day 2 Av 2010


אשה יראת ה' היא תתהלל
A God-fearing woman will be praised (Prov. 31)
פ"נ – פה נקברה
הנערה שרה קליין ע"ה
The girl SARAH KLEIN, the peace be on her, is buried here
בת יבלחט"א (יבדל לחיים טובים אמן)
Daughter of Ephraim Zeev-may he be excluded for a long life Amen
ר' אפרים זאב שליט"א (שיבדל לימים טובים אמן)
רבות בנות עשו חיל ואת עלית על כלנה
Many daughters were virtuous but you were above them all (Prov 31)
שפכה כמים לבה נוכח פני ה'
He poured her heart like water before God (based on Eicha)


Profound thanks go to Dr. Wilfred and Chana Stein for the dramatic photographs and especially for their perseverance in finding the graves - and to their son, Rabbi Moshe Hoshen for translating the epitaphs. 

Sema Chaimovitz Menora was niftar 18 April 2014 in Yerushalayim.  She is buried between her husband and granddaughter:


No article about Moshe Menora would be complete without mentioning his right-hand-woman Sharon Leahy.  She worked for him for over 35 years, and was as devastated, if not more so, than the rest of us, by his tragic death.  Here's what she told Forbes Magazine about working for Menora:

SHARON LEAHY, WORKS FOR:
MOSHE MENORA, CHIEF EXECUTIVE TRI-UNITED COS.

You must be able to think like a chief executive. It’s a meeting of the minds. He calls me the boss. I call myself a tiger lady. I’m as close to the seat of power as I choose to be, which means if I wanted to run a company on my own I could. I’m in charge of all the banking and have my name on his line of credit, which can exceed two commas. I even fired my own husband, who used to work here. Many people say this is a dead-end profession, but it’s all in the mind of the beholder.

Already fighting terminal cancer at the time of Menora's death, she held on as long as she could to help ease the transition.   Sharon lost her fight on April 30, 2011 - not even one year after the death of her beloved boss.  Sharon is buried in Westlawn Cemetery in Norridge, Illinois:


What can I say about Moshe Menora that has not already been said?  I was privileged to call him a colleague and a friend.

May he rest in peace.