Tuesday, April 24, 2012
A MOTHER'S DOUBLE SACRIFICE - Anton and Jesse Duschanek
I was in Bohemian National Cemetery in Chicago recently doing some genealogy research. There are many elaborate monuments at Bohemian National including a replica of a vine covered wall from Wrigley Field (containing cremation niches)
and the family mausoleum of the martyred mayor of Chicago, Anton Cermak, who will be the subject of a future post.
As I was strolling around the winding roads I came across a monument that made me stop in my tracks. It was a simple square gray stone monument but it was topped with two dough boy hats from World War I. This stone marked the final resting place of two brothers who gave their lives in the war and its aftermath: Anton and Jesse Duschanek.
Anton Sr. and Mary Duschanek were immigrants from Bohemia. According to the 1900 census they were naturalized American citizens and all of their children were born in Illinois: Ida in 1886, Jesse in 1887, George in 1891 and Anton Jr., the baby, in 1896. The census did not recognize Bohemia as a country, so Anton Sr. and Mary were listed as being from Austria, as were most of their neighbors. Anton Sr. was a cigar maker, as were my ancestors on my father's side (Craig Brothers Cigars - Lacon, Illinois). The Duschanek family lived at 1161 South Irving Avenue in Chicago's famous 10th Ward on the west side of the city.
Ida, at the age of 14 was listed as a seamstress - the rest of the children were "at school". In other words, the Duschanek family was a typical Chicago immigrant family of the time.
Anton Sr. died in 1911 at the age of 47 - life was hard in those days.
Ida went on in 1906 to marry Sidney Dini. George Duschanek disappears after the 1900 census - he may have "Americanized" his last name.
Jesse and Anton, Jr. were in the military in World War I, like the good American boys they were. We don't know whether they enlisted or were drafted, but we do know that they did not come back alive.
Anton Jr. was a corporal in Company L of the 131st infantry. Company L was in many of the worst battles of the war: the Somme Offensive, Picardy, Lorraine, and the battle that cost Anton Duschanek his life: Meuse-Argonne. He was killed in action October 10, 1918. The armistice was declared just 31 days later: November 11, 1918 - not that that did Anton Duschanek any good.
Mary Duschanek had already sacrificed one of her sons for her adopted country. I'm sure she breathed a sigh of relief on November 11th. At least her son Jesse would be coming home.
Jesse Duschanek was a cook in the Transportation Corps. Napoleon Bonaparte said that "An army travels on its stomach" so Jesse's job was as important as his brother the infantryman. Jesse did survive the war, only to die on February 28, 1919 in Monteu Chaume Indre, France. Jesse's cause of death was not recorded, but I would bet that he died of the Spanish influenza, as so many did who survived the war only to succumb to the flu.
Mary Duschanek, buried between her martyred sons, is almost an afterthought. She died in Chicago in 1937.
The Duschanek family plot can be found in Section S, Block 5 of Bohemian National Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois.
Stop and say a prayer for the Duschanek family - immigrants who made this country great by the shedding of their blood. Mary Duschanek sacrificed not one, but two of her sons, for her adopted country. We will never be able to adequately thank the Duschanek family for their sacrifice. May they all rest in peace with the prayers of a grateful Nation.