Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dorothy Del Favero’s 100th Birthday

[from billlifka, posted with his permission]
Dorothy Del Favero has achieved every woman’s dream. She’s reached an age where all listen to her talk, but she can’t hear them.

A balanced diet and strenuous exercise routine are the secrets to her longevity.

She eats sweet rolls, cookies, chocolate candy, mountain dew, deep fried onions and baked potatoes with a stick of butter and three ounces of salt. Each of these foods provides an antidote to some particular pill prescribed by her doctor.

As for exercise, can you bend from your waist to use a hand broom and dust pan on the floor?

Dorothy does a lot of walking; from her nap on the sofa to her nap on the recliner to her nap in bed. She carries her four-point cane at shoulder level so as not to impede her passage. She still clears the dinner dishes. The juggling of dishes from table to sink is an entertainment highlight. She still empties the dishwasher. We hope to find most of the dishes some day.

To be honest, Alice [her daughter, billlifka's wife] is the drill sergeant in charge of food and exercise and deserves the credit for Dorothy’s survival. Of course, Dorothy wasn’t always a senior senior.

She was born in the Friesland province of Holland, birthplace of old English. Her maiden name was Bijvoets which means, “by foot”. This suggests her ancestors walked into the Low Countries at the time family names were assumed. Her Bijvoets side is traced back 500 years to a tinsmith in Antwerp. In her early grammar school years, Dorothy’s family nearly starved during World War I. Her father was an archetypical entrepreneurial immigrant to America. After the war, it took him three tries before he finally established himself making sinks for Pullman railroad cars on Chicago’s south side. Then he brought his entire family to live with him in the new world. Dorothy was 17 at the time, the 6th of 12 children.

He started a business tinning implements for the Chicago stock yards. In time, this broadened its scope in plating processes. When Dorothy’s father died, the business was willed to his 4 sons and continues in the Bijvoets family. The 8 daughters were bequeathed the family home and, before that, encouragement to find good husbands. About a year after her arrival, Dorothy met a hunky young man at a Lake Michigan beach. Mario Del Favero had emigrated from Northern Italy in his teens to join an older brother successfully employed as a carpenter in Chicago. Photographs at the time suggest he was the kind of guy who attracts bathing beauties. As luck would have it, Dorothy qualified as a bathing beauty. I’m guessing they didn’t really share a language when they met. That may have contributed to their 58 year marriage. Mario died in 1987.

Mario and Dorothy produced Alice, Tom, John and Richard. Present count is 9 grandchildren, 16 great grandchildren and 1 & 8/9 great-great grandchildren. None are in jail and all are gainfully employed or doing well in school. Until recently, Dorothy could speak knowledgeably about each of them without being prompted. She still can with a little help in getting started.

I think she’s had a satisfying life far beyond her expectations when she left her mother country as a girl, full of apprehension. Hers has been a classic American immigrant story similar to most of our family stories. In celebrating Dorothy’s life, in a way we celebrate the America that was and the America that shall come again. Happy 100 years, Dorothy!

1 comment:

Ira Glickstein said...

Thanks billlifka for your humorous and touching writing about your mother-in-law. Please add my "Happy 100th Birthday" to those of others.

In a separate piece, you wrote about what my grandparents called "Americans by CHOICE":

"Dorothy is American because her father sought the many advantages of America over European societies. She married Mario, who had reached the same conclusion as a teenager. My ancestors felt the same a generation earlier. All of these great people came to America with little more than the clothing they wore. They raised families, bought homes, owned cars and lived their lives free from Kings, Kaisers or Central Party Chairmen controlling their lives."

In some ways, Americans by CHOICE are even more American than we Americans by BIRTH. I am second-generation born in the US. I lived with grandparents from both sides who immigrated here. I wonder if later generations, who never knew their immigrant ancestors, can ever fully appreciate our wonderful Country and the great gift of having been born here?

Ira Glickstein