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Anne Wallingford, WordSmith

People to Meet

Roseanne Jones Wallingford
Roseanne Jones Wallingford

Roseanne Jones Wallingford was born in Chicago, IL, on March 12, 1921. We always joked with her that she should have been born on March 17th, St. Patrick's Day, because of her tremendous love of Irish music.

Her father, Ernest Jones, came through Ellis Island from England when he was a young boy. Her mother, Pauline Schmid, was born in Chicago, the daughter of German immigrants. Roseanne used to tell about the way her parents met—Pauline's dad owned a farm, and Ernie worked on a neighboring farm. Ernie used to walk over every week to court Pauline, whom he called “Polly,” but she wanted nothing to do with marriage.

Unfortunately, Pauline's father fell out of an apple tree and broke his neck. Ernie continued to work the farm for Pauline, and she agreed to marry him.

 Ernest Jones, Pauline (Schmid) Jones
Ernest Jones, 44, and his wife Pauline (Schmid) Jones, 45
July 1, 1928

On Feb. 1st, 1914, Roseanne's older sister Frances Jones (Berger) was born. The Jones family was living on the Schmid family farm in South Haven Michigan at the time. All the while Pauline was pregnant, she was responsible for cooking meals for a hungry work crew every day. But in order to support his family, Ernie left his the farm and came into the city (Chicago) to work. Until his family could join him in the city, Ernie frequently returned to the farm.

Jones family on farm
Jones family members on the Family Farm
South Haven, Michigan, 1917
(From left to right) Ernest Jones, Frances, Uncle Charley,
Grandma Schmid, Aunt Polly, Uncle Henry

Seven years after Frances was born, Pauline found herself pregnant once more. She was often sick during this pregnancy, and drank Green River soda constantly to settle her stomach. When the apartment where they were living was sold, and the new landlady told them they would have to move, Pauline prayed to St. Anne for help—her statue of St. Anne is still in Roseanne's bedroom—and the Jones family did find a place to live. The new landlady's name was Rose. When the baby girl was born, she was christened “Roseanne.”

St. Anne statue
Pauline's statue of St. Anne

By the time Roseanne was four years old, she had lived in several apartments. One summer, wishing she had a pet, she made “friends” with a spider that lived outside her bedroom window. It's hard to believe this, because in her later years, Roseanne was deathly afraid of spiders! (Just last year, Rose was sitting on the sofa reading when a spider dropped down and landed on her. She screamed! Her cat, Taffy, thinking something was wrong, jumped down from the bookshelf and attacked. Fortunately, the cat was chased away, the spider was smooshed, and Rose recovered from the dual attack. But she was careful never to scream at spiders again if the cat was around!)

During those frequent childhood moves, Roseanne learned to make friends with the different landlords. In one place, the landlady's four-year-old daughter and Rose became good friends. At another place, the landlady, Mrs. Blair, not only let Roseanne borrow books to read, she let Roseanne use her player piano. These were happy childhood memories for Roseanne.

Rose (age 8), Roscoe St.
October 18, 1928
Rose (age 8), Landlord's white dog, Landlord & his Family
Standing in front of house on Roscoe St.

Unfortunately, Frances became sick and the doctor's advice was to take her out of the city. Since Ernie had to remain in the city to work, Polly took both her daughters to the farm owned by Ernie's brother, Frank. Frank was a stern man, but his wife, Millie, who was Polly's sister, was a kind and caring person. Although food was scarce, Aunt Millie would sometimes sneak the toddler Roseanne a tomato.

During their stay on the farm, Frances became healthy in the clean, country air, and it became time for the Jones family to return to Chicago. Roseanne had fallen in love with the kittens on the farm, and cried about leaving them behind. As she and her mother boarded the train to return home, Aunt Millie handed Roseanne a box tied-up with string. It wasn't until the train had left the station and strange sounds began coming from the box that everyone realized it wasn't a boxed lunch that Aunt Millie had given them, but a kitten! The conductor glared at them, but since the train was already moving there was nothing to be done except keep the kitten in the box and take it home. Roseanne christened her new pet “Bootsie,” and though she had many pets throughout the years, Bootsie was always the favorite.

After returning to the city, Pauline developed serious eye problems, and was virtually blind for several months. Although Roseanne was only eight, she would take her mother downtown on the train to the doctor. It was also Roseanne's job to do the grocery shopping. Sometimes, Roseanne would go into the corner grocery store to buy milk, start to walk out of the store, then act as if she'd forgotten something and go back and buy a loaf of bread. Roseanne had learned that by buying the items separately, she could save a penny on the sales tax.

Roseanne also had her share of childhood diseases. After her tonsillectomy, all Roseanne wanted to eat was a tomato. She would take a bite out of a tomato and then pull the covers up over her head and hide until the pain subsided. Then she'd take another bite of tomato. Each time she had a bite of tomato, she'd hide underneath the covers. But she ate the whole tomato!

Roseanne also had a serious bout with scarlet fever. In those times, patients were kept in isolation. Ernie had to sleep in the basement and Frances stayed at a friend's house. Pauline stayed with her sick daughter. One of the doctor's rules was that Rose was not to eat anything. But being a sick little girl, she grew fretful—and hungry. Her mother would bring her a few animal crackers to play with, with strict instructions not to eat them. After Roseanne tired of playing with the animal crackers, she ate all their legs. But she never ate the entire animal cracker!

Roseanne and Frances grew up during the Depression, and money was always tight. Every time the rent was raised, the family had to move. Sometimes, too, they moved because Pauline didn't like the landlady. The frequent moves were often hard on Frances and Roseanne because they had to keep changing schools.

Rose's happiest school year was sixth grade, when she attended St. Alphonsus. She made two very close friends, and really liked her teacher that year. And like other young girls, Roseanne had a dream for her future—to write. Her nun that year encouraged Roseanne, and this love for writing stayed with Roseanne for her entire lifetime. As an adult, Roseanne would write a summary of the day's activities in a spiral notebook. She did this every day for years, and now there's now a trunk filled with her journals. In fact, when someone in the family needed to verify a date or happening, they would mention it to her and she would look up the information in one of her journals.

While in high school, Roseanne also discovered she enjoyed music and acting. She played the clarinet for a while, and she never forgot the time she played Ophelia in Shakespeare's “Hamlet.” She could still recite her lines all these years later.

For fun, Roseanne and her sister would go to the movies every week. Sometimes, their mother went along, too. She never lost her crush on Clark Gable, and just last week she watched It Happened One Night on video.

Roseanne was still in high school when Frances married Frank Berger. She felt badly that she had to wear her eighth-grade graduation dress to her sister's wedding, but there was no money for her to buy a new dress. For that matter, she only had one dress to wear to school, and she wore it daily.

Frances (Jones) and Frank Berger
Frances (Jones) and Frank Berger

Shortly after Roseanne graduated from high school, Ernie went to one of the “big bosses” at Britten, a major meat-packing firm on Fulton St., and managed to get his daughter her first job. At first, she hated going to work every day, not because she disliked her job, but because all laborers knew who she was, and she felt shy around them. As she walked down the street each morning, they'd call out to each other, “There's Jonesy's Girl!” Roseanne would have to walk past hanging carcasses of beef, rabbits, and chickens. Once, when she ducked to avoid a side of meat swinging past her head, she ended up sitting on a crate of eggs!

After an altercation with his supervisor, Ernie quit Britten and went across the street to work for the meat-packing firm, Armour & Co. While there, Ernie heard that one of the office managers, Lester Wallingford, was looking for office help. In those days, there were no human resources interviews and Ernie simply talked to Lester about his daughter. Lester, who had seen Roseanne going to work at Britten, hired her. This was in 1942, during the start of World War II, and Roseanne was the first 'girl' to work for the Fulton Street branch of Armour & Co.

Letter of Recommendation
Rose's Letter of Recommendation from her first boss at Peter Britten & Sons

Rosie worked long hours at her new job, standing in a small room called “the cage.” Meat buyers would come up to the window to make payments, workers would come to cash their paychecks, and always there were long columns of numbers to be added and subtracted. There were no calculators or adding machines back then, so Roseanne did all her figuring with pencil and paper, or in her head. As her son-in-law, Dave, remarked, “She was a human calculator.” (And age did not slow down her mental acuity. After her husband died, Rose balanced her checkbook manually, and entered all her monthly expenses in a spiral notebook. She kept small scraps of paper at hand for her calculations, and always checked her columns of numbers two and three times. No arithmetic errors in her work! And until the day she died she was as sharp as a tack.)

It wasn't long before the men at Armour began playing pranks on “Jonesy's girl.” One time, someone put a baby mouse in her cash drawer. The fellows were disappointed, though, when she didn't scream. She calmly caught the little mouse and turned it loose outside. Roseanne was an animal lover, through and through.

Sometimes, those around her were challenged by Rosie's desire to “see what would happen.” Back in fourth grade, when the classroom teacher threatened to take away the next paddleball she saw, Roseanne took out her paddleball and started playing…just because she wanted to see if the teacher would really take away her paddleball. The teacher did.

Another story that Rose told her grandchildren was about an incident that happened while she worked at Armour & Co. She threw her coffee mug down a flight of stairs on a dare!

Just before he left for war, her friend Bill told Rose that she was doing excellent work and she should ask for a raise. When Lester asked his boss for Rose's raise, Lester's boss was not very happy. But Lester got her the raise. (Bill returned home safely from the war, and he and his wife stayed friends with Rose and Lester until Bill's death a few years ago. Afterwards, Rose still stayed in touch with Bill's sister, Evelyn.)

When Lester purchased a two-flat at 1648 W. Nelson St., Rose and her parents were going to move into the first floor apartment. Instead, on April 18th, 1945, Roseanne and Lester went down to City Hall on their lunch hour and were married. Rose's only splurge was that she bought herself a new pink hat.

Lester in Wedding Suit
Lester wearing his wedding suit
(Standing in front of the garage on Nelson St.)

On the very next day, Rose and Lester moved themselves and her parents into their new home. For the first time in her life, Rose was a homeowner, not a tenant. And until the day she died, she proudly remained a homeowner.

Nelson St. home
Rear view of Nelson St. home

Much to Rose's surprise—the doctors had long told her she would never have children—she found herself pregnant. Her dad, Ernie, bought her a large size dress to wear because maternity clothes were not available. Many years later, when her daughter Betty was expecting her first grandchild, Rose related how the only way she could learn about pregnancy was by going to the public library and checking out books from the adults-only section. The book she found most helpful was Dr. Dick Grantley's book about childbirth—the same book Betty read so many years later.

Whenever Rose wanted to learn about something she didn't know, she read up on it. In the last few years, she would even ask her daughter, Anne, to find things on the Internet for her and print it out so she could read it.

Rose and Les had four children: Daniel, her firstborn, then Anne, Elizabeth (Betty), and Kathleen.

Les with Dan
Les with Dan, Spring 1946
Anne, Christmas 1949
Rose with Betty
Rose with Betty, Early Spring 1956
Betty with Kathy
Betty with Kathy, Winter 1960

The house on Nelson St. grew right along with the family. An enclosed back porch was turned into a bedroom, a room was built in the attic, the pantry was knocked down so the main bedroom could be expanded, and finally, a paneled bedroom was built in the basement for Rose and Les. This paneled room was Rose's all-time favorite.

During these years, Rose often nursed family members through various crises. When her mother, Polly, fell and broke her hip, Rose nursed her round the clock. The doctors thought for sure Polly would go to a nursing home, but Roseanne took such wonderful care of her mother that Polly never developed any bedsores, even though she was bedridden for several months. When Polly's brother, Charlie, became ill, they found him a home in a Catholic nursing center.

Polly and brother Charlie
Polly, and her brother, Charlie, holding their Infant of Prague statue

All through these years, Rose continued working at Armour & Co., as well as caring for her family. Only now, instead of working on Fulton St., she worked at the company office on George St. And for many of those years, Lester was still her boss!

When times got rough financially, she also worked at the Lincoln Ave. Wieboldt's Department store, in the gift-wrap department. Two of her daughters followed in her footsteps and also worked at Wieboldt's. Anne worked part-time in gift wrapping, and Betty became the store's customer service manager.

Off and on through the years, Rose also sold Avon. The mothers of Dan's grammar school friends became her customers, and her friends. She kept in contact with many of these women , through the years, and in fact, spoke with Elsie H. during this past summer. Being an Avon Lady has also been passed down in the family. While in high school, her oldest daughter, Anne, took over Rose's route so Rose could work at Bulko Petroleum's office on Ashland Ave.

Bulko Petroleum
Rose was hired for this job after just one interview.

The job of selling Avon was later picked-up successively by both Betty and Kathy, and it's quite likely that one of Rose's granddaughters will be the next Avon lady in the family.

Finally, though, the day came when the house on Nelson St. had to be sold. Her parents were no longer able to live alone in their apartment. Rose and Les bought a large house at 2152 W. Sunnyside Ave. so everyone could live in the same house, not just the same building.

But no matter in which home Rose lived, Sunday afternoon was the day for listening to records. The Clancy Bros., Frankie Lane, Marty Robbins, and Elvis Presley—those were her favorite singers. (But one record album that she played frequently was one her daughters thought was really weird: one song on the album was about Irish children in Belfast blowing themselves up with nitroglycerine, another song was about a condemned man singing an angry refrain “Damn your eyes”, and there were several other similar, gruesome-sounding songs.)

Rose never lost her love for Irish ballads and country-western music. She especially loved listening to the singing of the folks who came to Betty's song circles. Jesse, Rob, Gary, David, and Bob were her favorite singers.

Rose was also an eclectic collector, but her collecting was dictated by what she liked, not an item's value as a collectible. She collected Indian dolls, Barbie dolls, baby dolls, stuffed animals, tea set miniatures, cat figurines, bunny rabbits, music boxes, and roll top desks. She didn't just collect the items for display, either. The dolls were played with—very carefully—by her grandchildren, the stuffed animals rotated each season on the 'entertainment center' in the dining room, and in every room the roll top desks held an assortment of treasures meant to be handled and played with.

From the time Roseanne had her first cat, Bootsie, dogs and cats seemed to know where they would find a good home. She often told stories about her pets to her children and grandchildren.

Her cats were: Mellody, a stray kitten found near Hawthorn Mellody farms; Inky, a black Persian who would flop down and refuse to move—and he was too heavy to push aside lightly; Shaun, another black Persian was a very laid-back cat who had been living in a pet store cage for his entire life, and adored Rose after she adopted him; Princess was a prima donna who remained aloof unless she was ill; Pixie was a black-and-white pixie; and then there was her last cat, Taffy. Taffy ruled the house!

Taffy, waiting for breakfast

Her dogs were: Taffy, a border collie who adored young children; Heidi, a white German Shepherd who hated the mailman; Bruce, a mixed-breed dog who weighed 90 lbs. and did anything Les asked of him; Duke, a gentle watchdog; and Pepper, a stray who knew a good thing when he saw it and jumped at the chance, literally. Rose and Les often took car rides, and were parked near a city park with the car doors open. Pepper came from out of nowhere, jumped into the car, and made himself at home. And then there were the “grand-dogs” who often came to spend the day with 'grandma.'

 Pepper, Heidi & Bruce
Pepper Heidi Bruce

Rose liked all animals, even the squirrels that caused her to put new roof on her house last year.

Rose had a knack for adopting stray people, too. Through the years, many were on the receiving end of her kindness. There were co-workers struggling through hard times, lonely people, children whose home lives weren't too happy. Ruby, Florence, Charlotte, Charlie, Peter, Nina, Kathy, Mike & Beth—these are just a few of the people that became “part of the family” through the years. Rose had a genuine love of people, and never made anyone feel indebted to her.

And Christmas! Rose loved Christmas. She loved giving gifts to those she loved, and every year the presents were stacked deep underneath the Christmas tree. One year, she stayed up until 3 a.m. on Christmas Eve, after working all day at Wieboldt's, wrapping the family's presents. No slap-dash wrapping job, either. The packages for her family were decked out with ribbons and fancy bows so that the Christmas tree would look special when the children awoke.

 Rose on Christmas
Rose enjoying Christmas Day

Rose had a very close, loving relationship with her sister. When Fran's husband Frank took ill, Rose and Les took Fran to see him at the hospital every day. After Frank died, and Fran developed multiple sclerosis, Rose and Les went to see her every day. They'd do her laundry, run her errands, and be her support. Rose and Fran talked on the phone every day for years, and they brought her over to their house for a visit every week.

Lester, Fran, and Rose
Lester, Fran, and Rose

But most of all, Rose loved her grandchildren and all their friends. She told imaginative stories to the grandkids whenever she babysat. With Michael, there were fish tales. With Danielle, she “went to the cornfield” to bring back bananas and jelly bread sandwiches. Joey and Danni, Kathy's stepchildren, were welcomed with loving arms into the family, and given cookies whenever they came to visit.

When the oldest granddaughter, Sarah, went off to college, Grandma regularly sent her care packages of toilet paper. (Grandma also collected toilet paper.) As a teenager, Erica would bring home the latest young adult books, and after reading the books she would pass them along to Grandma to read because they had discovered that they shared the same taste in morbid stories. And Adrienne? Well, she was the youngest, and every night she and Grandma would have a visit and talk about the day's adventures. Adrienne considered Grandma to be her best friend.

When she babysat, she would always sing, You Are My Sunshine to her grandkids.

And just like in her younger days, Grandma wasn't averse to doing a few things with her grandkids that weren't quite in keeping with the rules. Grandma Rose would sit Sarah on the kitchen table (which was not allowed) and feed her rice cakes and yogurt. To this day, Sarah thinks it unfair that her sisters got cookies, and not rice cakes, just because they came along later. And on her last shopping trip, Grandma Rose picked out a special necklace just for Danielle, even though she knew Danielle's mother would have a fit. The necklace had one word on it: Sexy.

All the grandkids brought their friends over to visit grandma, too. As Becky said, “She was my grandma, too. I could always sit on her lap and get a hug, and she had a special smile for us.”

A very special day for Rose was her 54th wedding anniversary. They stayed home to celebrate, but all the family gathered to share their happiness. Their special song was Let Me Call You Sweetheart.

Les and Rose on their 54th Wedding Anniversary

April 18, 1999
Les and Rose on their 54th Wedding Anniversary April 18, 1999

Faith was the foundation that gave Roseanne her strength. She kept a small book of prayers next to her in the living room, and every day for years she wouldn't go to bed without saying all the prayers and her rosary. She kept many little quotations in her desk, but this one best sums up her beliefs:

Prayer is the Key to Heaven
But Faith Unlocks the Door.

Roseanne's faith and prayers gave her strength throughout her life.

After Lester died four years ago, Rose wrote down this little poem that she heard over the radio. How fitting it is for us as we remember her today.

Grief is the price we pay for love.
We could call it the grief shuffle, or dance.
One step up,
One step back,
Two steps sideways,
We all fall down.
No one can walk the path for us.
We are not only grieving the person who has died
But also the life we lived with that person.

Roseanne always appreciated what others did for her, and was very tolerant of human weaknesses. She truly believed in looking for the best in everyone. Those that came into contact with her called her “kind,” “sweet,” “generous,” and “wise.”

She has left a wonderful legacy for everyone whose life touched hers.

- Anne Wallingford

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Saturday, October 11, 2003 11:45