My sister Eileen finally succumbed to the multiple myeloma she’d been battling for the past three years late Saturday afternoon, Dec. 22. My sister Elaine and I had both visited her about an hour before she passed away, so we had fulfilled one of our family Christmas traditions. Since my folks’ death, the three of us had gathered around Christmas time for our own, smaller, family get-together.
Eileen graduated from eighth grade at Church School out in Wheatland Township. She was the only person in her grade level during seven years at Church School. She went on to Oswego High School where she was involved in just about everything there was to be involved in before her graduation. Then she entered the old Copley Hospital School of Nursing in Aurora, where she earned her Registered Nurse degree. Her marriage to Dick Neely was eventful but not necessarily happy. Dick was a well driller who had unexplored depths. After living in Batavia for several years, he moved his family to a house on Lake Minnetonka near Minneapolis, Minn., and later to the desert of Saudi Arabia where he worked to supply water along ARAMCO’s oil pipeline. Eileen taught the pipeline workers’ children in school, did her monthly shopping in Beirut (these were the years before the Middle East went totally and completely nuts with violence), flying in on ARAMCO’s DC-3, and shopped in the local souk. The marriage survived awhile after they returned, but not very long.
She got her job back at the Dreyer Clinic and began steadily moving up there. And she remarried, this time to Lou Bacino, a Chicago native, Sears furniture salesman, and World War II veteran. They soon built Eileen’s dream home on the family lots across the street from the Matile Manse, right on the Fox River. If you look at the photo on historyonthefox’s front page, you can see her homesite, ca. 1902. It’s the tilled field just to the left of the Parker Sawmill and Furniture Factory.
Eileen loved her house on the river and watched the changing seasons, and dealt with the increasing numbers of annoying Canada geese. And then in 1996 came the Great Flood. Our area got nearly 14″ of rain in a relatively short time, and the Fox River became a raging torrent. But her house did not flood; the crawl space even remained dry. However, the lawn furniture in her backyard was starting to float away when she awoke that morning, which was totally unacceptable to her. Lou was stunned and didn’t know what to do, other than watch it float away. Not Eileen. She grabbed my dad’s lariat and like the farm kid she was, headed out to the backyard and, much to Lou’s near total amazement, made a pretty neat job of lassoing the floating chairs and the hammock.
After Lou’s death, Eileen continued to live life to the hilt. When one of our nephews got married in a ceremony at a Jamaica resort, she traveled there, and much to my sister Elaine’s consternation, went parasailing at the age of 72, explaining that she’d probably never have a chance to do it again and that besides that, it was really FUN!
Today, the family is holding Eileen’s visitation and funeral at her beloved Wheatland United Presbyterian “Scotch” Church (where both she and Elaine were confirmed and married), and I expect to see lots of our friends, relatives and neighbors from those days out on our Wheatland Township farm, as well as all the others whose lives she touched. We plan to give her a really good send-off.