Edith Konieczko leaves this world a better place


Edith in the Polish Triangle in 2013

It was Easter morning, 30 years after her husband George passed away when Edith Konieczko took her last  breath in the Pulaski Park home where she experienced most of her life's journey. 

The only child of Frances Langvinis and Joseph Jankus, Edith was  born on November 22, 1931, in Chicago's Holy Cross Hospital. Her death on April 16, Easter, was a result of cancer. According to her church, if you pass on Easter Sunday, it's a direct trip to heaven and your soul has special grace. 


Edith with her parents in 1934

Made of "sturdy stuff," Edith faced many challenges in her life but took them all in stride with commitment and determination as she assured everyone that, "It is ok...it is going to work out in the end."

"As an only child she had all these lifetime friends," explains her youngest daughter Francine. "They may not have seen each other all the time, but when there were life events like births, graduations, deaths...they always supported each other. They were there, they did what they had to do and then moved on…they were of that generation." 


In 1956, Edith sits in a kitchen

Included among those friends, since the age of five, is Edwina Eurich. "I remember every house they lived in. Her mother made this wonderful Lithuanian cold beet soup." Also remembering their young lives is Edwina's sister Carol Dombrowski. "I remember all of us going to the Lincoln Park Zoo together." 


Edith and George at their 1957 wedding

Honing her character, Edith clearly became more adventuresome in her early teen years. For example, with a security guard in pursuit of Edith and friends as they trespassed on the Bloomingdale Ave. railroad bed (now The 606) and a Chicago Police detective sitting in an unmarked car on Damen, they jumped off the embankment onto the roof of the detective's car, slide down the windshield to the street and took off running. "They had no idea it was a police car," explains Francine. 

Those teen years were WWII times and Navy Pier was a Federal military site and the River at North Ave. was home to Coast Guard or Navy boats. Teens and military were looking for fun. For Edith and friends, some of whom were up to four years older, sneaking on to the Pier and playing softball with the military was just wholesome fun. 

"There was a tugboat stationed along North Ave., where Home Depot is now," says Francine. "When the commander was gone, one of her friends made a whole spaghetti dinner for the guys and another wrote her name and the number of the family bar in the log book." 

While having fun was always a treasured activity for Edith, she took on the role of caregiver early in life for family and friends.   

Though her immediate family was small, the breadth of her family tree is massive. The many branches of  the family along with her many friends and neighbors have embraced her for eight-and-a-half decades as she worked hard for all. 

"Mom was a Cub Scout den mother and Cub Master from 1968 through 1979," explains daughter Natalie. Her older brother Gregory was what prompted Edith's involvement. 

"She did Girl Scouts from 1975-ish to 1988 or so. And she was active in the Mothers Club at St. Stan's, holding offices from 1962 through 1982 when we were in school." Her commitment to St. Stan's continued throughout her life with regular fund raising events. 

At home, she had her three children, Gregory, Natalie and Francine. As time passed Natalie had son Nathan and Francine had son Aaron. Gregory spent 28 years of his life as a teacher and coach at Wells High School, while his sisters pursed their interests. 

"Many of us got involved with the Pulaski Park Seniors club about 18 years ago," says Delores Pienzak.


Edith, Agnes Stelmach, former Pulaski Park Seniors President and Delores Pienzak in 2008

. "For five years we would walk all over the area every weekday morning. Now we still meet, make trips to the Jewel and elsewhere. On Sundays, she and I met at church and I stopped at her house afterwards for tea.  We were like family, talked everyday…I am going to miss her." 

Others in their club, such as Agnes Stelmach as well as great nephew Adam Housley, who heads the Wicker Park Dog Park, were seen enjoying each other and some of  the fun at Tuesdays at the Triangle.


Edith sitting (left} with friend Agnes and others in 2013 at Polish Triangle

"Edith was always involved with the community. Whether being interviewed for an oral history project, playing bingo at St. Stan's, or hanging out at the Polish Triangle on Tuesdays, she was a neighbor we will dearly miss," says Kapra Fleming, long time involved Pulaski Park resident who is Secretary of the Polish Triangle Coalition. 

"Mom loved all kinds of music," comments Francine. "She loved going to the Polish Triangle and the music series in Wicker Park." 

"We will all miss incredible Edith - her smile -  the BEST comic and story teller. She made us all smile and THINK STRAIGHT," says Doug Wood, with whom she worked for many Wicker Park Advisory Council and Garden Club events. 

"Edith was a character, straight shooter, a super hero who was all about faith, family, friends and what is true," comments Susan Fontana, who is also part of the Wicker Park Advisory Council and Garden Club. 

Confirming Edith's connection and influence on family, Erve Chovanec explains, "Aunt Edith is my mother's father's brother's wife. "She was an icon of the neighborhood when I was growing up. She didn't beat-around-the-bush. She said what she thought. I admire her for that, though she did scare me when I was a kid!" 


Edith, in red, is front center in this 2017 Polish Dinner with Cousins. Son Gregory is behind her, Natalie is in red tee-shirt left and Francine is in red tee-shirt right

"She wasn't one to say, 'I love you' but if she was yelling or correcting you, you knew she cared," he told Natalie. Natalie's friend Therese calls Edith's straight forward comments Edithisms. "You felt the love," she explains. 

Teacher and Assistant Principal at Holy Trinity High School, Barbara Heyrman wrote a poem that Natalie describes as an "accurate touching poem that is 'Mom to a T.'" Natalie read it at Edith's funeral. 

Edith and Character 

I have heard said that Edith
was a character.
By that, I assume that Edith
stood somewhat
Outside the norm; that she
was somehow
Oddly different.


I suggest, however, that
Edith HAS character.
There is a profound

Edith stood tall
She knew the ground
she stood on
She claimed it,
She defended it,
She loved it.

She took what life had to offer,
Wrestled with it,
Enjoyed what could be enjoyed,
Enjoined others to do the same.

Edith spoke, out loud and with conviction.
Edith spoke her truth and had no guile
So she could be trusted.

Edith shaped lives
By word and deed and prayer.
Her children, themselves,
forces of nature
in their own right,
raised children in the same tradition.
Her circle of influence is wide,
Wider than she would have believed.

Edith lived up to her name
From two old words:
Richly blessed and war.
Edith was richly blessed
Edith was not afraid to
stand for the right. 

God, family, neighbors,
opera, laughter.
Life lived deeply and well.

Edith Konieczko was one of those too rare community people who always asked, "What can I do?"  When told, she did it! 

Thank you Edith...Rest in peace.



Edith's tribute

Thank you for your words of kindness. Mom was indeed one of a kind. She helped where she could and always advised those she thought needed it. She was humble and would be shocked, I think, at the out pouring of love and appreciation. To her, one just did what needed to be done.

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