I first met Mr. Giuse (pronounced Geese) during the summer of 1952. He was working in the Grissoms’ backyard, which was next door to us and on the north. I was working in our backyard, so when he took a break, he came to the fence and introduced himself. I told him about myself, and he told me what his job was in the neighborhood.
Mr. Giuse said he was hired by the Grissoms, Dunnes and Bournes to do yard work, make minor house repairs, and maintain their respective cars. He knew he wouldn’t be needed for yard work at our place. I told him my uncle Gene took care of the cars, and I helped with home repairs. Even so, he gave me some tips regarding lawn and garden maintenance. He gave me this kind of advice frequently, and it always proved valuable.
As we got to know each other, he told me he worked in Oak Park and River Forest from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday-Friday, April-October, and then went to his 4-midnight job at Illinois Bell in the city where he was a truck mechanic. He told me he worked in our neighborhood two or three days a week.
I learned he had been a member of a transportation unit in Europe during World War II, and that is where he developed the skills needed to work at Illinois Bell.
During the summer of 1953, my family decided we needed a barbeque grill. The job was given to Gene and his loyal assistant — me. Gene was an engineer, so he drew plans and decided that the structure should be made of red brick and be situated 6 feet from the Dunnes’ fence, which bordered our yard on the south. When Gene had a two-week vacation in July, we went to work.
When Mr. Giuse worked for the Dunnes and took a break, he would come to the fence and watch us work. He asked enough questions to lead us to believe that he would like to build a grill in his own backyard, and because he was so interested, Gene explained exactly how we built the grill and gave him a copy of the plans. By early fall, Mr. Giuse told us he had successfully built his backyard grill.
When I was growing up, kids never called non-relative adults by their first names, so although Mr. Giuse’s first name was Andrew, the kids who knew him called him Mr. Giuse. In fact, I always heard adults address him in the same manner.
Mr. Giuse worked in our neighborhood until the late ’50s, but by then I was away at college, and during the summer months, I worked outside of our home, so I rarely saw him. However, whenever I did see him, we always spent some time catching up on what was happening in our lives. The last time I saw him, which was in 1964, he told me his kids were married and living away from his home, and he was planning on retiring and moving to Georgia.
Mr. Giuse was a guiding figure in my life. Not only did he teach me about maintaining the yard, he also taught me valuable life lessons. Mr.Giuse taught me about reliability, industry, initiative, and respect for all people, no matter their station in life. I have tried to follow these lessons to the best of my ability throughout the years since I knew him.