Friday, August 30, 2013


When I was doing research for the article on William G. Edens, for whom the Edens Expressway was named, I came upon an interesting notation in one of the documents:

LOUIS FAHRBERGER, General Supt. of Arcole Construction Co., had been their oldest employee and intended to retire after the Edens Highway job was completed.

He started to build a new home in Skokie in which to spend the last years of life, when on June 13, 1951, he was killed by one of the Arcole trucks on Edens Highway near Emerson Street.

A wonderful man, esteemed by all who new him, and was considered the best paving man in this country.

He was born March 7, 1886, and passed away June 13, 1951.

It is not unusual for workmen to be killed working on major construction projects.  Five workers were killed building the Empire State Building, and eleven men were killed building the Golden Gate Bridge.  But those were projects "up in the air" whereas the building of a highway is work done "on the ground."  After reading this, I decided to find out the story of Louis Fahrberger, the only man killed during the building of the Edens Expressway.

Louis Fahrberger was born Alajos Fahrberger on March 7, 1886 in Burg, Hungary, to Francis Fahrberger (1857-1910) and Juliana, nee Fahrberger (1861-1905).  

Louis came to the United States on February 26, 1905, when he was just short of nineteen years old and settled in Chicago.

On August 29, 1908 Louis married Miss Mary Oswald st St. Aloysius Church in Chicago:

and they were blessed with their first child, a daughter Mary, on May 12, 1909.

The 1910 Census shows the young family living at 1532 N. Rockwell in Chicago.  I can't show you where they lived because the building the Fahrbergers lived in was torn down circa 1990 and replaced with a townhouse.  On the census form Louis listed his job as "Cement Worker."  1910 ended on a happy note for the Fahrberger family - their second daughter Josephine (1910-1972) was born on December 6th.

Like many immigrants of that era, the Fahrbergers were anxious to become Americans and they became naturalized American citizens on May 31, 1912.  Later that same year their son Louis (1912-1981) was born on October 1st.

Things had changed for the Fahrberger family by the time the 1920 Census was taken.  The post World War I building boom of the 1920s had not started yet, so Louis listed his occupation as "Car Repair" and the family lived in the rear of 2445 W. North Avenue in Chicago which is still an auto parts store all these years later:

2445 W. North Avenue, Chicago

By the 1930 Census, the fortunes of Louis Fahrberger and his family had improved substantially. They now owned their own home - a bungalow at 5452 W. Byron in Chicago:

5452 W. Byron, Chicago

Louis now listed his occupation as "Superintendent Building a Cement Road".

All was not well for the family when young Mary Fahrberger died suddenly on January 1, 1931 of complications from diabetes:

Even though the country was suffering through the depths of the Great Depression, Louis Fahrberger continued to do well.  By the 1940 Census the family was still living in the bungalow on Byron, but now Louis listed his occupation as "Executive - Construction and Asphalt." Things continued to improve for the Fahrbergers and by the time he registered for the World War II draft on April 27, 1942 Louis listed his address as 6523 N. Tahoma in Chicago:

6523 N. Tahoma, Chicago

He listed his employer as the Midwest Construction and Asphalt Company.

Another happy occasion took place on June 18, 1946 when Josephine Fahrberger married Stanton Frederick Reberg in Chicago.  

Somewhere along the way The Midwest Construction and Asphalt Company became the Arcole Midwest Corporation,

and it was under that name that they became one of the contractors involved with the building of the Edens Superhighway (as it was called then).

Edens Overpass over Cicero Avenue

As mentioned above, Louis Fahrberger planned to retire as soon as the Edens project was done - but he would be going out on top.  The Edens project was a Twenty-three million dollar project, and when it was completed it would be known as the "Most Beautiful Highway in the Country."  Fahrberger was excited to be working on a project of this size and scope - and right here in Chicagoland.  He spent every free minute supervising all aspects of the paving work.  Here he is talking with Alex Mariotti, one of the foremen on the project:

Construction on the Edens Superhighway started in 1946 and the highway was dedicated five years later, on December 20, 1951.  The end of the huge project was in sight when tragedy struck.  From the Chicago Daily Tribune of June 14, 1951:

What happened?  We will never know for sure.  Fahrberger instructed the driver to move the truck and was standing behind it when the driver backed up.  Maybe Fahrberger thought the driver would pull out instead of backing up; the driver surely thought that Fahrberger had gotten out of the way.  I could not find any record of charges being brought against George Will - it seems to have just been an unfortunate accident.  A tragedy for all concerned, but an accident nonetheless.

Here is Louis Fahrberger's obituary from the Chicago Daily Tribune, June 15, 1951:

Louis Fahrberger is buried in St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery in River Grove, Illinois:

He is buried with his wife Mary, his daughter Mary Ann, and his grandson L. Martin -

and with his daughter Josephine, son Louis, and Louis's wife Evelyn.

The next time you are on the Edens Expressway, if you seek the monument of Louis Fahrberger, look around you.

Louis Fahrberger

Louis Fahrberger, said to be the best paving man in this country - may he rest in peace.

And what about George C. Will - the man who was driving the truck that killed Louis Fahrberger?  As I mentioned above, there is no record of any charges being filed against Will - the whole episode was just an unfortunate accident.

Will went on to marry and raise a family - I couldn't find out whether he stayed in the construction trades or not.  Here's his obituary from September 1, 1983:

Finding Will's grave was a different matter.  St. Matthew's Lutheran Cemetery in Niles is tucked away in a residential neighborhood.  It's not too large - maybe six city lots deep by five city lots across.  It has alot of trees, and burials going back to the pioneer days - many of the old tombstones with German inscriptions.

The main wrought iron gates were padlocked, but the side gate was open, so in I went.  It took me two complete passes through the entire cemetery before I found George Will's grave.  His tombstone had been almost completely buried and was under some overgrown evergreens:

I brushed away the dirt and debris and here's the stone:

George C. Will died at the age of 64.  We will never know how he was affected by the accident that caused the death of the beloved Louis Fahrberger.  I would imagine not a day went by that he didn't think about the accident, and he probably replayed that day in his mind thousands of times - wondering why he did what he did.  We can only hope that George C. Will found peace in life and that he is resting in peace today. 

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