Stadalsky: ‘Fed on memories and love’
By Kris Stadalsky firstname.lastname@example.org June 15, 2012 2:52PM
Marjorie (Wilson) Meade, shown with her youngest of six daughters, Sister Gemma, celebrated her 95th birthday on June 7. | Kris Stadalsky~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 19, 2012 6:04AM
Driving along the long, gravel private road leading to the Meade family farm in unincorporated Channahon is a little like a trip back in time. Passing the fading red barns, tractors that haven’t seen a field in more than a few years and fenced-in pastures that still enclose a herd of cows from time to time, it’s not hard to imagine the kind of life the Meade family had.
In the same living room where her six children once played, Marjorie (Wilson) Meade reminisced about her life and her recent
95th birthday celebration at Chapin’s East in Minooka.
Meade came to Minooka in 1939, a fresh graduate from Normal University, now Illinois State University, from Bloomington. She was hoping to land a job with a Minooka school district, but first she had to meet with a few school board members.
She drove out to the country to meet with one. The interview took place while the board member worked on his car, and he never came out from under it.
“All he saw of me was my legs and feet,” Meade said. “Anyway, I got the job. He must have been impressed.”
She taught first through third grade at what is now the Minooka Primary Center. All the students were in one classroom. She would again pick up her teaching career, after her last child went off to school, at Channahon School District 17.
It was at St. Mary’s Church in Minooka where she met her husband to be, Francis Meade, a local farmer. “He was very handsome,” she said.
The two were married for 63 years before he passed away. It was a life with a good man, she said, someone patient and affectionate. “He was a sweet man,” she said.
They first lived in a small apartment on the corner of Mondamin and West streets, now an office building and formerly DeLaine’s Florist. The Meades shared a bathroom with the family who owned the home and paid $20 a month in rent.
Later they rented a farm on Route 52 and then lived on Tabler Road. They moved to their farm in Channahon Township in 1954 where they raised their six children.
While Marjorie Meade grew up in a small town, Minooka’s size of about 325 people was even smaller in comparison. A person could stand in the center of town, look out two blocks in any direction and see out of town, she said. Minooka was known for its churches.
Channahon, on the other hand, was known more for the number of taverns it had and the smaller homes, she said.
“People are people and I have always loved all people,” she said. “What I like about this area is I never had trouble making friends.”
On the farm, Meade learned how to clean and dress a chicken, how to render fat and how to clean out a foul-smelling chicken coop. The hardest part, she said, was getting used to and caring for the animals. But she said she loved it all.
Meade has many memories of her life including the first night
she had to spend alone on the farm.
“I had never been all by myself on a farm. I thought, ‘I can either be frightened and put up a fuss or brave it out.’ I decided to brave it out,” she said.
She said her husband wanted her to learn to drive a tractor, but she had a good excuse not to because she was pregnant.
“I had twins later that year,” she laughed. “It was a good thing I didn’t get on that tractor.”
To celebrate her 95th birthday, Meade had a big bash at Chapin’s with at least 200 guests in attendance. They included not only the 55 people in her immediate family (children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren), but family from both of her parents’ sides as well as her husband’s relatives.
She said she worried a bit about spending money for a new outfit and a special Swedish cake all the way from Chicago, but son Tom reminded her she would only be 95 years old once in her lifetime.
“I pulled out all the stops,” she said.
The party also included the 85th birthday celebration for Meade’s younger sister, Elizabeth Westfall from Bloomington. She was presented with a corsage and the sisters celebrated their milestones together.
Marjorie Meade may have just turned 95, but she has a better outlook on life than most people I know. Maybe it’s her years of wisdom, or maybe it’s been her wisdom that’s helped her through so many years.
She summed it all up with a comment on her party, which she will remember as long as she lives.
“You aren’t fed on food alone,” she said. “You are fed on memories and love; that’s why it’s important to get family together.”
Reach Kris Stadalsky at email@example.com.