Meet Harriet – 30 Faces of Meals on Wheels Chicago
Harriet’s family is a steel family. Many of her kin worked for the steel mills in southeastern Chicago, and they commit to their faith, their family, and the value of hard work with steely resolve.
Harriet is 97 years old and insists on dressing up for visitors, an echo of her past as a cosmetologist and fashion designer. She retains her Alabama drawl though she moved to Chicago in 1943. “I was born in Marion Junction, near Selma. There wasn’t much for us there, and my husband, John Lee, had a cousin who could get him a job at Inland Steel. It was good money, and we were just starting a family. We said goodbye to our cousins and moved north.”
In Chicago, Harriet and John Lee built a life, raising three boys and a girl in their southside home. Soon, the boys would join their father at the steel mill, working as a ladle operator, machinist and lid man. It was hard but honest work, and it paid well. Their daughter became an insurance executive downtown, but, unfortunately, succumbed to an aneurism at 66. Harriet’s beloved John Lee passed away in 2004 after 64 years of marriage. However, Harriet is surrounded by a large family with more than 20 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren with another on the way.
“We’ve always believed in earning your living. None of my boys ever just hung out on the street getting into trouble, not when there is work to be done. After the kids were in school, I went to work, too. First, in a packing housing and then for Nabisco, where I packed mini doughnuts as fast as I could. It’s funny to think that somebody with Meals on Wheels is packing my meals for me now. What comes around, goes around.”
About five years ago, the woman who supported her family for so many years could no longer cook for herself. “I just can’t move
around like I used to and standing over the stove hurts my back so much.” Harriet’s children convinced her to sign up for Meals on Wheels. “I really like Leon, my driver, he is so friendly and positive. Every time he comes, he asks me to say a prayer with him. It means so much to him and to me.”
Harriet likes the meals Leon brings. “I like the meatballs and spaghetti, and the chicken and dressing. The meals are really healthy. Maybe that’s why my blood pressure is so good.”
Harriet is grateful for all of you who support Meals on Wheels Chicago. “I may never meet the people who help me, but I want them to know that I certainly appreciate their kindness. I thank them for allowing me to stay in the home that John Lee and I built.”