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Sis before the convent; Sis and friends; Sis in the convent; Sis after the convent
Letters written to her in the convent 1932: Letters
On this page, below the box, is her mother's baby book entry and reminiscences by her sister and brothers.
She is mentioned posthumously in the following letters: 1956 Aug 31 Irene, 1969 Jan 20 Larry
Her husband, Dick Heagberg, or his 2nd wife Millie, mentioned in the following letters (more to be added as they are transcribed): 1954 Jan 5; 1955 Jan 15; 1956 Mar 23 Irene; 1956 Oct 18 Irene (also mentions his children); 1957 Jan 2
Irene Hildegarde "Sis" Wachdorf Heagberg
11-8-1912 to 1939
1910-Edward Wachdorf Jr.
after Sis died, he remarried
Sis first intended to become a nun, and entered the novitiate in September 1932. By December she had contracted TB from another novice and had to give up the calling.
Her maternal grandparents:
Her paternal grandparents:
Her maternal aunts & uncles:
Her paternal aunts & uncles:
1883-Clara Roster & Henry; 1884-Kitty Hochertz & Tony; 1886-Harry H. Wachdorf & Dell; 1892-Joseph Wachdorf & Jessie; 1895-Lettie Myers & Harvey; 1897-Mae Wachdorf; 1899-Frances Stevens & Frank; 1902-Madge Wachdorf
Her great-grandparents: Frank Grimm & Katerina Lukner
Jean Pfleger & Katharina Walter
(Wachdorf ancestors unknown)
Her great-great-grandparents & more in Pfleger Family tree
To go to photos, click one of the following links:
Sis before the convent
Sis and friends
Sis in the convent
Sis after the convent
From the Baby calendar of her mother, Irene Pfleger Wachdorf:
Nov. 8, 1912 Irene H. Wachdorf born Tuesday at 2 p.m. weight 9 and a half pounds. Nov. 24, 1912 (Sunday) Irene H. Wachdorf was christened by Father Epstein in St. Martin's church, godparents Oscar Pfleger and Hilda Grimm. April 24, 1913, Irene H. Wachdorf cut first tooth lower one on left side of mouth. (Note: Tuesday's child is full of grace. Note also: all of Irene's children except Larry and Dolores were born at home.)
1920 census, 649 87th Place, 9th Ward (Township: tract Ag. 5 bounded by 84th St. Cottage Grove 88th Place and precinct line State St.--this was out in the country at the time. They even raised chickens):
Edward Wachdorf, 31, office manager for oil manufacturer
wife Irene, 32
Son Edward, 9
Daughter Irene, 7
Son Harry, 2
Son Gerald, 4 months
mother-in-law Mary Pfleger, widow
sister-in-law Adele Pfleger, 35, dress maker in a general merchandise establishment.
1930 census, 334 W. 54th St.:
Edward J. Wachdorf owns home value $6000, has a radio. 41, married at 21, occupation: agent for Sinclair Refinery.
Wife Irene, 42, married at 21.
Son Edward, 19, shipping clerk
daughter Irene, 17, doing bookkeeping for a stationary company
son Arthur, 15, no occupation
son Henry, 12
son Gerald, 10
son Francis, 7
son Lawrence, 4
daughter Dolores, 11 months
sister-in-law Adele Wachdorf (no longer Pfleger), age 45, married at 40 (though husband Harry Wachdorf is living down the street with his parents), occupation: seamstress for Dept. Store.
To go to letters from 1932 written to Sis, click here: Letters (The tuberculosis that eventually killed Sis was given to her by another girl at the Milwaukee convent. These letters accidentally record when that happened. They are also filled with references to the effect the Great Depression was having on her extended family.) Sis herself saved all the letters she received, and after her death her mother saved them, and after her mother's death, her sister saved them.
Cook County marriage license, groom Richard F. Heagberg, age 24 and bride Miss Irene H. Wachdorf, age 22, married 6-1-1935 by Father FJ Schikowski in St. Martin's Church (note the marriage license was obtained 4-24-1935)
In 1940, on the one year anniversary of Sis' death exactly, her mother took out a health insurance policy on surviving daughter, Dolores (who was three when Sis first got TB, and ten when she died). The form asks, of the person to be insured, "Have you, during the past year, resided with or been associated intimately with any person suffering from tuberculosis? If yes, give the particulars and precautions taken." Irene answered, "No." Technically this may have been true, since Sis stayed at Dell's while she was in the last phases of her illness (according to her sister's memory). However, the next question is, "Have any of your parents, brothers, sisters, or any member of your household now, or ever, had tuberculosis, cancer, diabetes, insanity, or any hereditary disease? If yes, give particulars." Irene again answered, "No." (Despite many deaths besides Sis of TB in the family). Later in the form she listed that Dolores had 6 brothers living and one deceased sister, dead at age 26 of "childbirth and infection."
This is primarily the version of events as recalled by her sister, Dolores, who was only three years old when Sis got sick, and ten when she died. Here and there an extra comment was added by her brother, Art.
Dolores did not have much beyond her own memory to go on about Sis, because she was loathe to bring up the subject with anyone else. It made them cry to speak of Sis, so she avoided the subject. She recalled that Sis played the piano like an angel, and also sang.
By her memory, Sis left the convent after getting TB and never went back. She wasn't sure if this was because the Catholic church could not accept anyone in frail health (being a nun was a strenuous life) or because Sis herself made the decision not to return. Her brother, Art, recalled helping out when the TB was at its worst. The thinking at the time was that it would "rest" a lung if it could be collapsed, letting the other lung do the work. He remembered helping to put weight on her chest, to collapse a lung. He said she stayed at their Aunt Dell's flat while she was sick.
Sis' dream was to be a nun, but if she could not be a nun, she wanted to be a mother. Two and a half years after leaving the convent she married her brothers' friend, Dick Heagberg.
In 1938 she became pregnant, and had a baby boy in January. Dolores was told that the baby was born healthy, but that a nurse left it by an open window in the hospital, where it caught pneumonia and died (this is likely a softening of the truth. Is TB transmitted from mother to unborn child?). She remembered that Sis' baby was laid out for his wake in the living room of their home, and she thought it was so beautiful, so perfect. She remembered a newspaper at the time carried a story of a baby found abandoned in a trash can.
Two months after the death of her son (who was never named that Dolores remembers), Sis herself died. Though she officially died of tuberculosis, the family said she died of a broken heart. Her baby boy is buried at her feet in St. Mary's Cemetery in Evergreen Park. The grave has no tombstone at this time (2007). It can be found by locating the empty site by the grave of Father Schikowski.
When asked if Sis ever expressed anger toward God about the circumstances of her life, Dolores said that her mother told her one morning, years after Sis' death, that she'd had a dream that Sis finally left her coffin and went to heaven. That her mother should think a person as virtuous as Sis had spent so long in purgatory meant, she thought, that Sis must have said some angry or bitter things about the way God had treated her.
Dolores also recalled that every Sunday from Sis' death onward they went to St. Mary's cemetery and visited the gravesite.