Friday, March 14, 2014


"Mowing the rows" in Jewish Waldheim Cemetery last fall I came upon an elaborate monument.  One side was filled with Hebrew lettering,

 but the back side had the following in English:

To Our Mother

Tho Ne'ermore
In Life We'll Meet
Our Thoughts
Are With You Ever
And When To That
Great Beyond Our Feet
Shall Stray Our Souls
No One Shall Sever

In Memory of
Our Dearest Mother
Who Passed Away
That Cold and Dreary
Jan. 17th 1918
From Her Children

The Hebrew side of the monument indicates that it is for Ida Malawsky who died January 17, 1918 at the age of 58.  I thought that she might have been a victim of the Spanish influenza, but most of its victims were young.  No matter what she died of, her children have left her a beautiful monument, so let's see what we can find out about Ida Malawsky and her family.

Ida Okercsik was born in Russia about 1860.  We know that she was the daughter of Simon Levy Ockersik, but that's about all we know about her roots.

We know a little more about her husband, Louis Malawsky.  He was born in Minsk, Russia on September 15, 1859, the son of Reuben Malawsky. He came to the United States in 1892 when he was 34 years old.  He became a US citizen on October 10, 1904.

The Hamburg Passenger Lists show that 3 members of the Malawsky family came to the US on March 18, 1892.  They came on the SS Leith via Glasgow, Scotland.  They are: 33 year-old Nissen Malawsky born in Minsk, Russia in 1859, his wife Liebe, also 33 years-old and their 5 year-old daughter Rivke.  Nissen gave his occupation as "Arbeiter" (Worker). Everything fits here but the first names.  Usually after coming to the US, immigrants changed their names to more American sounding names, but the new names they chose were most often close to their names in the old country.  Nissen and Rivke are not at all similar to Louis and Ida, although Rivke is closer to the name of their eldest daughter Rebecca. So, the Malawsky family on the passenger list might be them, or it might not be.

The Malawsky family did not appear to participate in the 1900 US Census, however the 1900 Chicago City Directory shows them living at 642 N. Milwaukee Avenue (now 870 N. Milwaukee Ave,) in Chicago. The apartment building currently at 870 N. Milwaukee was built in 2001. The directory shows Louis' occupation as "Cigars".

On October 10, 1905, the eldest daughter Rebecca (1888-1953) married Edward Max Waterman in Chicago.  

The Malawsky family did participate in the 1910 US Census.  They were still living at 870 N. Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago.  They listed four children living with them:  Lena (1893-????), Harry (1895-1981), Frieda (1897-1994) and Sarah (1899-????).  By 1910 Rebecca was married and living elsewhere with her husband.  Ida told the census taker that she had given birth to 7 children, however only 5 were still alive in 1910, so that lines up with what we know about the children.  

Ida Malawsky died on January 17, 1918 at the American Hospital in Chicago.  She was 54 years old.

She went into cardiac arrest when she was having a procedure known as a cholecystostomy where a tube is inserted into the gallbladder to drain off some of the fluid to reduce the pain and swelling from an inflamed gallbladder.

Even though this was almost 100 years ago, things like this still happen. Just last week, Rabbi Daniel Moscowitz, the regional director of Lubavitch-Chabad in Illinois died from cardiac arrest during gallbladder surgery.  

Since her tombstone referred to the day she died (January 17, 1918) as a cold, dreary day, I thought it would be interesting to look up the weather report on that day.  On January 17, Chicago was just recovering from a 14.9 inch snowfall that had occurred on January 6-7. The Chicago Daily Tribune noted for the 17th "Partly cloudy and continued cold, snow flurries, colder at night."  The high was 16 degrees above zero, the low was 6 above.  A typical cold, dreary Chicago day in January.

Ida Malawsky was buried at Gate 54 - Order Brith Abraham at Jewish Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park, where her children erected that beautiful monument as a tribute to her.  I can say without hesitation that you never get over the death of your mother.  My own mother has been gone almost eleven years, but I still think about her every day.  The other day when we were having a bad snowstorm I had a fleeting thought "I better call mother to make sure she's OK".  Old habits die hard.  I'm sure that when Ida's family took her to the American Hospital on January 15th they didn't possibly think she would be dead two days later.

It is safe to assume from the beautiful monument they erected for her, that Ida Malawsky's family loved her very much.  It is impossible to adequately thank our mothers (or fathers, for that matter)  for all they do for us, but Ida's family wanted to publicly acknowledge her love for them, and their love for her.  A beautiful tribute to a beautiful mother.

Ida Malawsky

Ida Malawsky - devoted mother - may she rest in peace.

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