Though I only made it through 5 of my ancestors initially… I’m back at it! I took a break while I was super busy with work and The In-Depth Genealogist. Now’s the time to resume the No Story Too Small challenge. This week I am going to introduce you to my Great Grandmother, Antonia “Tony” Jeannette Engel. She is the mother of my maternal grandmother, Shirley. She died before I was born, but after reading my grandma’s biography I could see what a special person she was and how she helped shape my grandma into the woman that she was. Here’s what I’ve learned over the past few years about Tony.
Antonia Jeannette Engel was born on 24 May 1889 in Chicago, Illinois to Dora Flekman and Samuel Hirsch Engel. She was the second child and the first born in the US. Her older brother, Otto was born in Presov, Slovakia in 1888. On 19 October 1896 the family became Naturalized citizens of the United States. I am the fortunate keeper of the original certificate that he received upon naturalization. The certificate was framed and for many years hung in the upstairs hallway of my grandma’s house. It now hangs in my upstairs hallway.
The family eventually settled in South Bend, St. Joseph County, Indiana. In 1901, Sam was listed in the city directory as living and having a shop. Their listing states. “We sell only men’s and boys’ specialties in boots and shoes. The best in the city. When in want of first-class repairing call on us at 222 1/2 S. Michigan” By 1905 they were no longer living in the same building as their shoe store and had purchased a home at 126 E. Bronson.
My grandmother shared some insight into her mother’s life in a biography written for the family. Here is a snippet of her story:
As the first daughter, she was helpful and a sweet little girl who was a little shy. Her family began to call her Tony (with a y) and she was very good with the other children as they arrived. Mother was a pushover for babies. Her other siblings were Jacob, Harry, and Blanche–all born in Chicago. The family moved to South Bend after 1900. I do not know why South Bend was chosen, but soon Mother found friends in the Hurwich girls, Jenny, Goldie, and Minnie, as well as Anna Freedman, and Etta Gilbert.
As much as she liked to read, she had to give up school after the 8th grade because her mother was sick and she had to help in the house as well as help in her father’s shoe repair shop where he also sold shoes. I feel she was very upset about this, so she was sure that all of us children went through school and college. One time Etta Gilbert Levy told me that mother received the name Tony because she was rather High-Tone. I told her my mother’s name was actually Antonia and that was her nickname, and my mother was shy rather than snobbish.
As she grew up, she had a beautiful face, complexion was flawless and light against her dark hair. I tried on her wedding dress years later, and it fit me. She had weighed only 98 pounds when she married my father. Michael Shon and his cousin, Myer Krueger, came to South Bend to meet some Jewish girls. Lottie Rosenberg and my Mother were the ones they chose. My father Myer and Mother married June 28, 1910. Dad had lived with his cousin for a while and worked for his cousin, Harry, who was not the best person to trust. Anyway, after Tony and Myer were married they lived in a house on Spring Street in Michigan City and Dad began working for a department store. Mother had Fern on April 7, 1911 and they were very happy. She bobbed her hair after the twenties when very few had done this. After my brother Marvin was born in 1913, Dad did look into getting his own store. Mother always kept herself neat and her home immaculate. She cooked kosher food for Dad since he practiced Orthodox Judaism and attended Adath Israel Synagogue. Our meat came from South Bend or our Michigan City when there were enough people to keep a kosher butcher going. My mother had always been obedient for her parents and she always tried to please her husband who was very devoted to her and the children.
On 28 June 1910, Tony married Myer Krueger and moved to Michigan City, LaPorte County, Indiana. I was fortunate to find their marriage applications which were full of great information that I helped confirm some of what I already knew.
With each of her three children she returned to her parents’ home to give birth and have assistance for the first few days. Her first daughter was Fern, then came Marvin, and last my grandmother Shirley. Growing up each child was encouraged to get their education and take lessons in music, dance, and drama. I actually found my grandmother’s yearbook with a photo of a play she was in- she played an old lady! Grandma shared a bit about her lessons:
My mother inspired us to try all sorts of lessons. A baby grand piano was bought by our parents–that was prestige to have one. So all of us tried our hand at it. Fern took for several years, then Brother, then I for three years from Evelyn Moritz whose family were all musical. Their mother was a singer; Hortense a violinist; and Evelyn, the pianist. She often had to yell at me because I did not practice enough. Later I took from Ethel Leusch, who I really liked. Fern then went into Dramatic Art and was excellent at readings. She later taught it. I used to watch her taking dancing lessons from Lillian Schiller and I would try to dance along with them. Mother felt I was going to like that better, so at age 4 I was the ballerina and was encouraged to do toe, tap, acrobatic as well as ballet. Mother was so proud of her children and their talents and was pleased when we were asked to perform and her friends would say we were very good.
My mother and father were very devoted to each other and we all felt loved and loving. They quarreled very little and Mother had what she wanted without Dad telling her she couldn’t. Of course, they both were very conservative and tried to give us all they missed. Dad had finished high school, but he wanted more for us.
In 1934 she suffered a great loss. Myer chose to commit suicide and eventually succeeded. Tony was left with two children in college, a business to run, and a high schooler. Somehow she pulled through those tough times. My grandmother says it best:
They were married almost 25 years when Dad committed suicide on Nov. 1 and died on Nov. 3, 1934. I was only 16 years old and I lost my true pal. He figured his insurance would see us through college. Mother felt it had been cowardly, but later felt he had done it for his family. The Depression was upon us for several years, but Mother ran the shoe business and it did improve. I n the meantime my brother quit school at U. of Michigan and transferred to Notre Dame where he could live with our grandmother.
In 1939 she married Ben Horowitz and she moved to South Bend.
Five years after Dad died, she met Ben Horowitz, from South Bend, whose wife had died. They were married May 1939, but she had to decide about the house and store. My sister Fern came that summer as Mother wanted her to have her baby in Michigan City. Marcia was born in September and then my mother moved to South Bend with most of the furniture to Ben’s home on Miami St. The house was sold and Marvin ran the store until he could get it sold so he could do his law work.
Mother was happy in South Bend because her mother, sister and brothers lived there. She made friends with former girlfriends and Ben ran his store–grocery. I was married and so was Marvin in 1940 and we all moved from Michigan City. Mother and Ben had a visit in New York. But 5 years later, a year after Grandma Engel died, my mother died of Leukemia. Mother had been home in her beloved South Bend, made everyone love her with her beauty and sweetness and I do cherish many memories of her. She was always generous with me and loved to see me enjoy myself and dance.
I can’t help but think that Tony must have been very proud of her children. They all graduated from college and found wonderful partners with which to have a family. I wish that I could have met Tony as I think she would have been a wonderful great grandma. As it is, she gave me my grandma and I certainly can’t complain about that!