A 2020 Note from the Great Depression: Marion’s Story

We are working on a final push to bring holiday cheer (and funds!) to our programs before taking a much-needed break to close out 2020. It has been a challenging year. Receiving this letter about Marion’s family, who went to Onward House for help during the Great Depression, is a reminder that our Good work has a lasting impact on the families that we serve.

The full story is shared with permission from the author, Marion’s daughter Bobette:

December 17, 2020

Dear Onward House,

I’m writing this letter in memory of our loving mother Marion Tummillo Varsalona.

She grew up on Ohio & Leavitt during the depression and was 1 of 7 girls in their family. She passed away in July of this year at the age of 90.

All my life she talked about her loving Onward House and what they did for her & her family.

Five of her sisters were named after women that worked at the House. She called it her safe place when things at home were not safe. The Ridge Farm she went to as a child to help her gain weight, oddly she moved within 1 mile of the farm later in life and took us there to show us the property.

No story was ever told without tears. Every year on her birthday I would take her to the old neighborhood to see Holy Rosary Church where they were married, their old apartment, and the last stop was always Onward House.

Our last visit was special. It was the July before it was torn down but luckily we were able to go inside to see the place. Mom’s dementia was getting worse but she knew exactly where we were. Again tears were rolling down her beautiful face.

This picture was taken on our last visit.

Please accept this donation knowing the impact it had on her family’s life and the memories I will always treasure.

Keep up the Good work,

Bobette & Kathy Varsalona
In Memory of Marion Tummillo-Varsalona

Ms. Varsalona referenced our history post, and asked if we could find any additional information on her mother in our archives at UIC or The Chicago History Museum. If you know your way through Chicago’s history archives and want to help uncover more about this story – please contact us.

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