An extraordinary life: Centenarian always had energy, adaptability
BY DENISE M. BARAN-UNLAND Correspondent August 25, 2013 9:42PM
Maty Roquet McCabe and Lawrence Santini are pictured at the dedication of the state historical marker at Cardiff on Aug. 26, 2007. They both were born in Cardiff. | Supplied photo
Updated: September 27, 2013 6:03AM
If someone had asked Lawrence Santini of Shorewood the secret to longevity, he might have answered, “Be adaptable.”
Lawrence, who died Aug. 11 at the age of 101, certainly practiced it.
“My dad survived the 1917 flu epidemic. He was sick six weeks but he survived it,” said Lydia Massey of Plainfield, Lawrence’s daughter. “He survived the Great Depression. He survived his loss of livelihood when the wallpaper mill closed, so he went into construction and started painting commercial displays.
“Everyone called him ‘The Amazing Mumford’ because he had so much energy. If there’s such a thing as senior ADD, he had it.”
Lawrence was born Nov. 8, 1911 in Cardiff, Ill., nearly four months after his father died in a coal mining accident, leaving behind his pregnant wife Orselina and four children, said Jim Ridings, author of 20 books on local history, including two on Cardiff.
Orselina eventually sent her lone daughter to live with a Carbon Hill family as Orselina was moving to downstate West Frankfort to run a boarding house, an environment that was no place for a girl, Massey said.
At that time, Ridings said, strikes, riots and Ku Klux Klan attacks on minorities — including Italian immigrant miners — frequently occurred. During one riot, Orselina (who had married Charles Santini, one of the boarders) and Lawrence fled from the house and into a field.
“As they ran, Orselina was shot in the leg,” Ridings said. “She survived the shooting and the family moved to Joliet.”
Before becoming a resident of the Timbers of Shorewood eight years ago, Lawrence lived 60 years at 1620 W. Jefferson St., the site of a brewery during the Great Depression, Massey said.
“McDonald’s was just a field,” she said, “and you could ice skate where Kmart was.”
Lawrence was a Navy veteran and the past president of the International Wallpaperers Union. As a founding member of St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Joliet, Lawrence helped construct its rectory.
At 85, Lawrence — while still trimming his own trees — fell off a 25-foot extension ladder, broke his pelvis in four places and learned to walk again, despite doctors’ opinions that he would not. At 88, Lawrence helped his son-in-law, Craig Massey, re-roof the house.
Lawrence always celebrated his birthdays with a breakfast birthday party in Hammel Woods in Shorewood, although he’d show up at 5 a.m. to walk the dog. Each year, attendance at those parties grew; no one minded chapped faces, Lydia said.
“He was just a man that loved life and he would tell others to do the same,” Massey said. “Live life to its fullest: That seemed to be his unspoken goal. He also told people to save their money. He was a laborer and an artist but he was ‘self pay’ his entire life.”
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