An Anniversary

On Saturday, 25 May 1935, 80 years ago today, at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh Babe Ruth hit his 714th home run, and in Chicago my parents were married.

Christ English Evangelical Lutheran Church, at the intersection of Wilson Avenue and Spaulding Avenue in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood, about a mile from their house on Avers Avenue, was the church my mother’s family attended for many years. It is where she was confirmed, and it formed a large part of her community through her youth. The wedding service was officiated by Rev. George Lottich, who founded this church in 1911 in what was then a new, sparsely populated neighborhood, and served as its pastor for 59 years.

Lillian and Steven

Lillian and Steven Helfer, 25 May 1935

This winter my niece Zoë graciously gave me the wedding booklet pictured below. [Click on the images below to enlarge them.]

Wedding Book Cover

Wedding Book Cover

The bulk of the booklet consists of the typically romantic poetry associated with weddings, but it also contains an official record, “This Certifies that …”, of the wedding, plus pages for guests’ signatures.

The record indicates that my father, Steven F.F. Helfer, was “of Rochelle, Illinois” rather than “of Chicago, Illinois”, although he had lived in Chicago nearly his entire life at that point. When Dad received his law degree from DePaul University in 1933, he had already decided not to practice in Chicago. Instead, he bought a practice from a retiring attorney, Sherburn Wirick, in Rochelle, then a small community in farming country 80 or so miles west of the city. I don’t know when Dad moved to Rochelle, but it was probably some time in 1934. Mom remained in Chicago until after they were married. On 25 May 1935, my father was about a month short of 25 years old and my mother was about a month short of 24.

Wedding Record

Wedding Record

I find the “Guests” pages interesting, partly because they include so few names. I know the reception was held at my mother’s family’s house, and must not have been large, but was the ceremony really that small? Or did only some guests sign the book? In either case, all the names but one are familiar to me.

Guest Book 1

Guest Book 1

Guest Book 2

Guest Book 2

The wedding party signed at the top of the first guests page.

“Evy” is Evelyn Jacobsen, my mother’s sister and maid of honor.

“Teddy” is Theodore Olson, my father’s best man. This is the only name that wasn’t familiar to me before I saw this booklet, and I know nothing about him or how he came to be my father’s best man.

Next are the bride’s maids: “Tillie”, my father’s younger sister Mathilde Helfer, followed by “Char”, my mother’s younger sister Charlotte Jacobsen. Then come the groom’s men: “Otto” is Otto Eck, soon after to be Evelyn’s husband, and Emery Brechel, Charlotte’s future husband.

The next section holds the signatures of the parents of the bride and groom: Julius and Kathren Helfer and Nick and Anna Jacobsen.

Then come the rest of the guests, beginning with Erna M. Helfer, my father’s elder sister, and Arthur Jacobsen, my mother’s then 14-year-old brother.

At the top of the second page is Laura L Wirick, the widow of Sherburn Wirick, who had died at the end of 1934. I think it was particularly gracious of her to attend — maybe my father needed someone to drive from Rochelle with him.

Next is Mrs. Fred Tschabold. She was my mother’s mother’s cousin, Julia, a daughter of my grandmother’s father’s sister Gunvor and her husband Thor Tollefson of Minnesota. She was married to Fred Tschabold, whose signature is last on the page.

Then comes the rest of my father’s family — my father’s aunt Elizabeth Schnur, wife of my father’s mother’s younger brother Frank Schnur, whose signature appears lower on the page; my father’s brother Eugene Helfer with his wife Violet; and my father’s eldest brother Julius Helfer, Jr., with his wife Josephine. My father’s remaining brother, Lewis Helfer, is missing from the list. I believe he didn’t attend because he had begun a medical residency in New York after receiving his M.D. from the University of Illinois in 1934.

The Wedding Party

The Wedding Party

The wedding party in the backyard of the Jacobsen home on Avers Avenue, left to right: Emery Brechel, Otto Eck, Theodore Olson, Steven Helfer, Lillian Jacobsen Helfer, Evelyn Jacobsen, Mathilde Helfer, Charlotte Jacobsen.

And so Steve and Lillian moved to Rochelle, but maybe Lillian not until April 1936.

Steve and Lillian arrive in Rochelle

Steve and Lillian arrive in Rochelle

Rochelle's population increases

Rochelle’s population increases


One thought on “An Anniversary

  1. Thank you for posting this. Nice memorial. I vaguely remember meeting Ted Olson, though the memory gives me few clues to who he was. I think he may have been in law school with dad but I could be remembering wrong. There appear to be several Ted Olson’s passing through DePaul law school about the same time.

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