How I Became Grandpa Don

Chapter 13

Lift Up Your Heart
 1978 - 1982

Recorded by Donald J Plefka (Grandpa Don) 
February & March, 2003

These five years were years of love and expansion of the family. Along with it there was some darkness and there was hope. An angel appeared ... but I did not see the angel.

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1978 1979 1980 1981 1982
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The early months of 1978 were filled with marriage preparations for Anne Marie. If you have had this experience, you know the drill. In addition to the usual, Dom and Anne Marie had found a small brick home in the neighborhood and made a bid on it in December of '77. The real estate agent told them that the owner had rejected higher bids but the property was vacant and had been on the market for some time. He called the following day to inform them that their bid had been accepted. Preliminary papers were signed and earnest money changed hands. Everyone was excited. The house needed work but they should be able to close the deal in plenty of time to clean, paint, and get things in order.

AMPshower01.jpg (56686 bytes) The Wedding Shower was in January of 1978
Dom & Anne Marie at the head table and sheltered from the "shower" of gifts.
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AMPshower03.jpg (68630 bytes) Cousin Chris Lawler and Dom watch as Anne Marie does all the work.
Guests at the shower included my Mom, and my Aunt Kate Snyder and Aunt Ella Simousek.
(Mom's sister and sister-in-law)
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Pictured here are Anne's Auntie El Kalabus and Her Mom
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Weeks dragged on, almost lost in the wedding planning. Then as the date got near, calls were made but the attorney for the seller kept making excuses. Dom finally called his cousin, an attorney, and asked him to do what he could to push things through. Five days before the wedding, it was revealed that the seller had not approved the offer but her attorney had forged her name to the documents, thinking he could convincer her to change her mind. She would not! The attorney, either convinced her or made up the difference and the closing was done on the day before the wedding. It was either that or possible disbarment for the attorney.  

March 11, 1978 -  Dom & Anne Marie are  married

Our daughter before the ceremony

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Anne Marie 
and her ladies in waiting

At the left is Jean Slattery, Sue Doran and Lynn Hofbauer.  On the right is Chris Lawler, Luann Walsh and Ellen Boss

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See the note about the names below.
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Anne Marie surrounded by
Dad, Mom. Dan & Tom

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Anne and our daughter

Me and our daughter

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The Wedding Party at Church

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At left is John Reilly/Jean Slattery, Dan Plefka/Ellen Boss, & Jim Richardson/Lynn Hofbauer. * To the right are Matt Perovic/LuAnn Walsh, Tom Doran/Sue Doran, & Tom Plefka/Chris Lawler

About the names of the girls:...some are maiden and some are married,  For the record the girls are: Jean Clifford Slattery, Lynn Hofbauer Stark, Ellen McNeill Boss, LuAnn Kazdal Walsh, Chris Lawler Titone, and Sue Doran (married to Tom Doran)

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It's Official!

And our family has expanded to four
We now have a daughter & three sons.

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At the reception

The Father 
The Mother 
of the bride

AMPwed09.jpg (104977 bytes) AMPwed10.jpg (95688 bytes) The Grandparents 
of the bride

The Lawler's -
Harry & Anne 

Sylvia Plefka

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AMPwed12.jpg (123909 bytes) The Parents of the groom

Dom & Rose Albano

Great Friends of the family

John & Carol Beuink
Jan & Dick Halford

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Life continued after the wedding. The newlywed's home was midway between ours and Anne's Mom an Dad's.  It was a good arrangement giving them a half mile of privacy and yet close enough to help when needed. 

The wedding photos remind me of an event that happened at the plant of one of our Kelso-Burnett customers. I was asked to meet with an engineer from a company that furnished a piece of equipment that was not functioning properly. When we met, he said, "I sure am glad to be meeting with someone with gray hair." It helps to look as if you have the experience of years in order to inspire confidence in business associates. It also helps if you actually know what you are doing. In this particular instance we were able to demonstrate that the problem was in the manufactured wiring of the machine and not in the connections made by our electricians. The bonus was that it was resolved in a friendly way and left the customer satisfied. 

Anne was hurting, physically as well as in spirit. The diabetes was getting her down and I was too engrossed in my own world of work to be of much help. She put up a good front and always was there to support her family. Anne had started reading little inspirational books by this time. I wasn't aware of it at the time. They were sent bi-monthly for a donation to various Catholic religious organizations.  In February of 2003 during my usual prayer time (see Favorite Time) I discovered one of these books dated 1976. It was well worn as if it was used often and  several prayer cards were inside. I am led to believe that someone had given this booklet to Anne. Did someone recognize her hurt? Did she have a guardian angel in her life? I think so. Someone was moved to give her that first booklet. She must have found comfort in it for several years before subscribing to the series, copies of which I found later.  This is the cover and a sampling from that 1976 booklet:


Do not look forward to the changes and chances of this life in fear; rather look to them with full hope that, as they arise, God, whose you are, will deliver you out of them. He is your keeper. He has kept you hitherto. Do you but hold fast to his dear hand, and He will lead you safely through all things; and, when you cannot stand, he will bear you in his arms. Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow. Our Father will either shield you from suffering, or he will give you strength to bear it.


You can see how worn the cover is. It was used a lot. We both owe much to the person who gave it to her.

The rest of 1978 sped by. By the end of summer the project in Ohio was history and I went on to other projects which were not as stressful. One of the characteristics of Kelso-Burnett was the support given when you were in trouble. Everyone had an occasional project which was not profitable. It is the nature of the construction business. The culture of the company was to do a good job in spite of the problems in order to maintain the good reputation of the company and move on to better things. It seems to me to be a good attitude for an individual as well.

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Dan & Karen

Queen of Peace HS
 Senior Prom 1978

Anne with Jan
New Orleans, November, 1978

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The Plefka's
Enjoying Christmas 1978

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Tom was dating Cathy
Photo taken before a school dance.
The Big Snow

This kind of event got everyone out to help one another.

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Remember Carol Jones and her sister Jan? (Chapter 6) They lived next door to Anne and it was by way of Carol that I met Anne. Well, by now it was Carol &John Beuink and Jan & Dick Halford. We socialized often with dinners and cards at each other's homes. Carol's son John got married and the wedding took place in New Orleans. It was on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and Anne and I drove down, arriving on Thanksgiving day. Anne Marie was working at the Hilton in Chicago and arranged accommodations at the New Orleans Hilton. It was GREAT! It was our first Thanksgiving away from the family but we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at the Hilton. We were treated like royalty. Of course we noted that the dinner cost a king's ransom but we didn't care. Friday, we met with Dick and Jan and did Bourbon Street. We went a little wild and had a fantastic time. The wedding itself was a delightful experience. The plan was to depart on Sunday but Anne and I stayed and extra day to do some sightseeing. 

On the way home, we diverted to Evansville and visited Anne's Aunt El and her family. It was a shock to come back to Chicago and find snow on the ground. We came back to reality but the fantasy land had been terrific!

Shortly before Christmas of 1978, Dan and Karen became engaged. I have no idea where 1979 went. It was a blur. Tom was dating a girl from the neighborhood. Anne Marie and Dominick were fixing up their little home. New wedding plans were being made and I was busy at work. 

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A Wedding Shower of gifts for Karen

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1980 - April 19 - Dan & Karen Married

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Karen Buchler - The Bride

Tom McNeil, Dan & Tom Plefka, & Rich Kozik
(Gary Buchler joined them at the church.)

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Karen and her ladies in waiting.
 Left to right are Teri O'Connell (girlfriend), Sue, Karen, Anne Marie and Linda. The flower girl is Bridgette Dote

Giving away the Bride.

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Fr. Jack, A family friend, Presides

The Wedding Party

Gary Buchler, Rich Kozik, Tom McNiel, Tom & Dan 
Karen, Sue, Terry, Anne Marie & Linda
Ring Barer, Michael (Karen's nephew)
Flower Girl, Bridgette Dote (Karen's neighbor)

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Mr. & Mrs. 
Daniel J Plefka

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The Bride & Groom flanked by 
Don & Anne Plefka
Marylyn & Ted Buchler

Our family grows:

Anne and I with 
our three sons
& two daughters

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Anne Marie has a beautiful glow!

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She is 
"With Child"

Grandma & Grandpa Lawler

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Grandma Plefka & her sister, 
Aunt Kate Snyder

After a honeymoon trip to Hawaii, Dan and Karen took up residence in an apartment in Woodridge. Anne and I adjusted to life with only one teen at home. Tom was working part time for Tom McNeil's father in his engine shop. He bought a '57 Chevy that didn't run and proceeded to rebuild it in his spare time. Many parts (Engine, drive shaft, etc) came from other junks. The McNeil's sold it cheap but I think they made up for it in selling the parts to fix it. The project lasted years.

I developed a very painful and swollen big toe. It was Gout! Anne hopped that I would be told to stop drinking and cut back on rich food. The Doctor disappointed her by putting me on a medication (for life) and said, "With these pills, he can eat and drink anything he wants." I found that while many things including food and alcohol  can aggravate the condition, it is a hereditary blood disorder which deposits uric acid crystals in the joints. Of course, when it wasn't bothering me, I didn't take the pills. Then I would get attacks at the most inopportune times. It took me a while to learn and even then it would get me. I now take a much improved medication all the time and have no problems with it. 

Anne was busy "mothering" Anne Marie, soon to be a mother herself. In addition, her mom and dad's 50th Anniversary was coming and we decided to have a party. Anne Marie Montrym (Montrymas) was a 16 year old girl of Lithuanian heritage and Harry Daniel Lawler was half Irish and half Bohemian when they ran off to Crown Point, Indiana in 1930 and got married. Everyone said it wouldn't last. (Years later they were married in the Catholic Church so they could receive Communion when Anne received her First Communion)

Tom arranged to get the use of the chapel at Marist High School and a Marist priest to preside at a small gathering of family. The party itself was held in our basement. Several Marist Brothers put together a beautiful liturgy and we were honored by their presence at the party. It was a grand celebration. 

Harry & Anne Lawler - Married 50 Years.

"Little Grandma"
Aunt Kate 
& a very happy 
"Big Grandma"

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Grandpa Lawler,
A Marist Brother,
Rose & Dom Albano

Tom Plefka with 
Bro. Frank Kelly 
and Bro. Hammer.

Tom with Frank& Hank 

On August 16, 1980 Dominick Albano was born - Our first Grandchild! - Our first Grandson!

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The Albano family grows.
Dominick II holding Dominick III

Great Grandpa Lawler with little Dominick

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Now we have a 
"Big Great Grandma" 
and a "Little Great Grandma".

The (still) glowing Mom looks on as Dominick is anointed with oil at his Baptism.

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Anne & Don
Christmas 1980

On August 16, 1981 Dominick Joseph Albano, III was born. We were thrilled! The family now spanned four generations. It was a joyous Christmas and Anne spent a lot of time with our daughter and grandson. 

In February of '81, Dominick was sick. Maybe a bad cold? He was having a difficult time breathing and Anne convinced Anne Marie to take him to the Doctor. She suspected pneumonia and the doctor agreed. He was taken to Christ Hospital for tests and pneumonia treatments began. A chest x-ray revealed that his heart was enlarged! A specialist recommended he be transferred to University of Chicago Children's Hospital. We were in a state of shock and terror! 

He had a narrowed aorta, a defect of birth. Normally, they would wait until he was older before surgery but he was critical. A cot was placed in his room and Anne Marie lived there. She commented that the nurses there knew more than the doctors at Christ Hospital. The surgery that followed, opened a slit in the wall of his aorta and a plastic patch was sewn in place to provide sufficient passage for the blood to flow. We did a lot of praying, ... especially Anne. Our first grandchild survived heart surgery. Our daughter and her husband survived a major and unusual introduction to parenthood. We were amazed at their strength and her maturity. The doctors said that, with luck, the small section of tissue in the aorta would grow as he aged and maybe the operation would not need to be repeated when he was a teen. (It did and the second operation was not needed.) See Dominick And, as his body grew. it would catch up with the size of his heart so that would not be a problem. 

And all the while,
Our "baby" 
was growing and maturing too.

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Marist Sr. Prom
With Cathy.

Tom's graduation

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They don't get much healthier than this!

The summer of '81
You can see the love in their faces.

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I don't know why, but I was extremely depressed on my 50th birthday. I felt like I was getting old! Things were going well but what has logic to do with anything? Dominick was a normal little boy with no restrictions placed on his activities with the exception of frequent trips to the doctor to check his progress. 

In Spring, Tom graduated from High School and had been accepted to Southern Illinois University. He started there in the fall. Anne and I both thought it was a beautiful campus and I wished I could go to school there. 

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Dominick Albano on his 1st birthday
His uncle Tom loves to hold him.

In the Fall of '81 
Tom is off to College.

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After taking Tom to school, Anne & I took a few trips there just to vacation.

It is hard to believe 
that this is Illinois
"The Garden of the Gods"
Not too far from SIU

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Christmas, 1981

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Uncle Harry & Aunt Carol

Cousins Mat, Chris, & John

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Anne studies a Christmas wish

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Karen & Dan

Anne's Brother and 
their Uncle George Lawler

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Anne's Mom & Dad

Grandma Lawler & 
Grandma Plefka

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"Big" & "Little"


Dick Halford liked working with wood and had constructed a grandfather Clock. I was impressed and early in 1982 Anne and I selected a kit and brought it home. This was an ambitious project for me but I had most of the needed tools and some time to dedicate to it. All the wooden parts were cut to size but had to be sanded smooth, glued and nailed or screwed together. Part of the assembly was done each evening and clamped for the glue to dry overnight. After several weeks it was time to apply the finish.

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This was the part that worried me the most but Anne was there for me. She selected the color and coached me in the application of the stain. Nylon stockings were used to apply and wipe the stain.  Again, it was the application of a coat, let it dry and the next day, sand it and do it again. Some parts were burl and required less stain than the rest. I was amazed at the results. After the final assembly of the door and panels, the pre-assembled clockworks were put in place along with the chimes, weights and pendulum.

After some adjustments it came to life. I was so proud of my work, I vowed to make two more so each of our children would have one some day. That never happened but the clock is part of my home to this day. The accompanying photos were taken in March, 2003. 

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Also see
Grandfather Clock

Anne's Mom fell at home and broke her arm. Of course she walked around for a couple days before admitting it was broken and went to get it set. She would resist being sick at all costs and did not want anyone to know she had fallen. It was a sign of weakness! That was the major difference between Anne's mom and mine. And, the difference contributed to Anne's problem with my Mom. Where Anne Lawler would suffer anything to avoid inconveniencing anyone, Sylvia Plefka demanded attention and sympathy for the slightest problem. Anne's mom was the servant of everyone. Mine was the suffering one who needed attention. The truth is that I felt Ann's parents were closer to me than my own mother.

May of 1982

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Dom & Dominick

Anne Marie looks on

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With "Little" Great Grandma

With "Big" Great Grandma

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Dominick with his Great Grandpa

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Proud Grandparents

Grandma Anne

Grandpa Don

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Halloween, 1982 

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In 1982 Kelso Burnett replaced the SYS/3 with an IBM System 38 Model 5 computer. At this time we were introduced to the CRT terminal for data input. The company purchased a Commodore "PET" computer and I took it home to design the "input" screens which would be used by the estimators to replace the "Estimating Machine" and it's paper tape. I soon discovered that the "Pet" was very dumb and spent many evenings learning to program it. Anne was very upset because although I was in the same room, I was not there (for her). She would often shut off the TV and go to bed, leaving me to work for hours with the computer. I found a new love and Anne was hurt. I didn't understand. I didn't go out with the guys or even spend weekends on the golf course.   (Also see K-B Computer History)

In October '82 Tom went to a house party with some friends. Diane Marx was there waiting for her date to show up. They saw each other, (... One enchanted evening, across a crowded room ...) and met. Later in the evening Tom left to take his friends home but he told her that he would come back to the party. When he returned he met Diane's date outside, not knowing who he was. When he saw her expression as they entered, he excused himself and left. They were able to obtain each other's phone number through mutual friends. Diane called him and a friendship started.

This five year period saw the Church with a new Pope and the invention of the cellular telephone in '78.  In '79 AIDS was diagnosed for the first time and the US eliminated polio within its borders. Mount St. Helens, dormant for 123 years, erupted in 1980 and computer technology grew like a weed. In 1981 former movie star Ronald Reagan became the 40th president of the United States, the Pope was shot, and the artificial sweetener aspartame was born. The breakup of the giant AT&T telephone monopoly occurred and a man got an artificial heart.  There were many advances in science, the music was changing as usual and politics was politics. Oh yes, there was turmoil in the Middle East, but when has there not been turmoil there.

We leave 1982 with Anne Marie pregnant for the second time. This chapter included many happy events in our lives. There were weddings, a birth, and other normal family happenings. But, my failure with the construction project in Ohio was a blow to my ego. Yes, I survived it but the survival was more due to others than myself. Then there was the near tragedy of little Dominick. I had a feeling of total helplessness. There was nothing I could do but try to say words of comfort to Anne Marie, Dom and of course Anne. There was another thing I could do and I did, probably for the first time in my life. I really prayed, and I meant it! I asked God for His assistance. I was helpless and I needed God. 

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