One of her worst memories washed through the mind of Jeannette Thomas Ensinger when she returned to Maryville 70 years after she first arrived.
“I was begging for milk (money) on the South Side when the police picked us up (Jeannette Thomas, and her brother, Henry Thomas, and sister, Marie Thomas),” Jeannette recalled on a recent visit to the Des Plaines campus, tears welling up in her eyes. “They took us to St. Vincent De Paul, first, and then here. I was six.”
An older sibling, Teddy, was already here when the three youngsters arrived in 1942. Jeannette remembers being greeted at St. Cecelia Hall 35 by Sisters Martina and Charlotte Marie.
“All of us were undernourished. The nuns made us eat; they put stuff on your plate and you’d better eat it, otherwise you didn’t get dessert. Cake was Friday and bismarks were Wednesday,” she said. “We used to call them (nuns) black and white crows.”
As Jeannette recalled childhood memories, her son, Martin listened. He wheeled his 76-year-old mother through Mulcahey and other parts of the campus on a visit in early May. Sister Gerard still sticks in Jeannette’s memory.
“I hated her, I hated her, I hoped I’d never have her. We couldn’t eat if your hands were dirty; they would check and if they (hands) weren’t clean, they would send you back,” Jeannette recalled. “Sister Gerard was just a novice then, but I found out she was really great; she taught me how to knit and to sew. After I left Maryville, I would come out and see her.”
Jeannette left Maryville when she was 18 and went to work as a nanny for a family in River Forest until she got married. From that marriage, she had two children, Martin and Bridget. Jeannette now resides at the Devonshire of Hoffman Estates.
As she recalled more than seven decades of her life, she again grew misty as she described her 12 years at Maryville.
“This was my home.”
Thanks for the visit and the memories, Jeannette.