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The Burgermeister's Daughter

Maria Redek Radovan Zupan



   She was born, we understand now, in the Austrian province of Krain (Carniola), what is now modern Slovenia, on January 5, 1878. Her father's name was Franc REDEK, and family tradition has it he was the Burgermeister of the village and the owner of vineyards.  Maria (Marija, in Slovenian spelling) married a John RADOVAN and bore two children:  John (Janez) Howard on March or April 1893 or '94 and Louis (Alois) James on May 14, 1897 in the town of St. Peter.  After Radovan left her, she brought the boys to America, sailing from Bremen on the Kaiser Wilhelm and arriving in New York City in June of 1905.
    She and her sons may have intended to join a so-called brother-in-law named Gaspar Niklich in the mining town of Thomas, West Virginia, at least according to the ship's passenger list. We may never know if they actually made the trip.
   Arriving in Chicago, Maria worked at or eventually ran a boarding house in Chinatown in a building on 23rd Place between Wentworth and Princeton Streets. She had a reputation as an excellent cook.
   April 19, 1911, at the age of 32, she was married to 35-year old Anton ZUPAN, a fellow Slovenian immigrant (whose last name is sometimes written ZUPANC or ZUPANCIC, among other variations.)
By 1920 she and Anton owned and operated another boarding house and tavern at 10069 Avenue N, where John also lived with his family. ( John worked as a machinist in the nearby shipyards, had married a girl named Valentine and had a son, Ernest.) Louis also lived there until moving out on his own.
     Anton died January 28, 1921.  Maria herself became ill with cancer, and had surgery to remove a tumor at St. Bernard's Hospital.  Her doctor told her sons that she "had lost her will to live" and she died on March 15, 1922 at the age of 44.  She was buried at St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery in Evergreen Park, Illinois.

Louis RADOVAN and AliceLouis RADOVAN and Edith OLSON
     As far as Louis was concerned, the family's Slovenian roots had been forgotten -- suppressed, actually, as Louis all his life claimed that he'd been born in the U.S.A. Louis took his part of the inheritance and bought a car. He married Edith OLSON, our maternal grandmother, in September of 1922.

They lived at the boarding house for a year or so. While they lived there, our mother Alice Marie was born (February 10, 1923) at St. Bernard's Hospital. Soon they had a new bungalow of their own built over at Avenue L, and Louis worked at the steel mills. He and Edith divorced when Alice was 8 years old, and she was raised by her grandparents John and Mathilda OLSON for three years. When she came back to live with Louis around 1934, he enlisted the help of Dorothy Brennan, a divorcee from Superior, Wisconsin with a small child of her own. Louis and Dorothy eventually married, while Alice spent her teen-aged years with her mother and new step-father. The boarding house on Avenue N, as a Mexican restaurant ca. 2005 In 1943 Alice married Raymond Heinrich ZIEMER, and raised three children on the South Side: Barbara Lou(MCCAFFREY)b.1943, Raymond Gene (the author) b. 1948, and Susan (BOUMA), b.1957.

Alice Marie survived her husband by fourteen years. She passed away at the age of 87 years in June, 2010. (SEE Tribute to Alice).

When the boarding house* was sold, John also bought a bungalow, at 8407 Llewellen in the South Shore, and moved there with his new wife Augusta IDEN. John worked as a machinist in the mills, and later at the Commonwealth Edison plant. John and "Gussie" had three more children: Beatrice (WALDRON), born 12/10/1922; Howard, born 3/15/1924; and Edward, born 6/12/1927. The Waldrons raised John, Dennis, and Hollis.   .


*As a footnote, that boarding house was featured in the news when mass killer Richard Speck was traced there the night before he committed his gruesome murders in 1966. The building was razed about 2007.

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