Harriet couldn’t cook anymore.
They are a steel family. Not only did many family members work for the steel mills in southeastern Chicago, but their commitment to their faith, their family and the value of hard work are made of steel.
Harriet is 97 years old, but still insists on dressing up for visitors, an echo of her past as a cosmetologist and fashion designer. She still retains her Alabama drawl although having 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 a house they owned on the southside. Soon the boys would join their fathers at the steel mills, working as ladle operator, machinist and lid man. It was hard, but honest work and paid well. Her daughter became an insurance executive downtown, but unfortunately succumbed to an aneurism when she was just 66 years old. Harriet’s beloved John Lee passed away in 2004 after 64 year of marriage. But Harriet is surrounded by a large family with more than 20 grandchildren and almost 10 great grandchildren.
“We have 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 is funny to think that somebody is packing my Meals on Wheels for me to eat. What comes around, goes around.”
About five years ago, the woman who supported her family for all those year, 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 to you for supporting 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.”