Louise “Ella” Casazza Gruenberg, 95, of St. Charles, formerly a longtime resident of Oak Park, died on June 29, 2019. Born in Chicago, she lived in a typical two-flat, which played a significant role in finding her Mr. Right.
Ella’s birth is listed as June 24, 1924. Her mother, Luisa Schiappicasse Casazza said she was born on June 22, but the doctor who attended the homebirth didn’t get the paperwork in on time.
She began work as a teen at the Palmer House hotel. A favorite guest would pop into the kitchen and request two prunes each morning. She always snuck them to him. Family lore says it was Conrad Hilton.
She next took the streetcar out to Mars Candy. She raved about the cleanliness and loved that she could eat chocolate every day. She was a lifelong fan of Milky Way bars.
Post WWII, she met her future husband, Wesley Gruenberg, when he rang the wrong doorbell in response to a room for rent sign. When they applied for a marriage license in 1950 she obtained a copy of her birth certificate and discovered at age 26 that her first name wasn’t Ella!
In 1965 a larger home was needed for the growing family of six. They found their French Normandy Tudor on Fair Oaks in Oak Park and a short while later a fifth child completed the family.
A longtime friend and Mars co-worker, Irma Odachowski, couldn’t believe that Ella lived in Oak Park and didn’t know about the Economy Shop. This introduction eventually led to her volunteering in the “Better Dresses” room for a quarter century where she folded and bagged purchases and treated customers to a listening ear and an easy smile.
Vascular dementia forced this 50-plus-year Oak Parker to relocate — first to her daughter Mary’s and then to Inspirations in St. Charles, where she peacefully passed.
Her sister-in-law Margaret confided that Ella and her siblings, who grew up in the Depression, did not have even one toy, so Ella happily distributed books, wood puzzles, games, and dolls — first to her nieces, nephews, and godchildren, then to her five children, their schools (Hatch received early edition Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries in the 1970s) and eventually to 10 grandchildren. By the time her nine great-grandchildren were born, Ella’s health no longer allowed her the delight of shopping for them.
Ella was predeceased by her parents, Luisa and Eugenio Casazza; her husband, Wesley Ivan Gruenberg Sr.; her sister, Teresa Casazza Ferrero (Frank); her brothers, Eugene (Margaret Conti Casazza) and John (Marie Caprini Casazza); her son-in-law, David Walwark Sr. and her daughter-in-law Diana “Dede” Massaro Gruenberg.
Surviving children: Wesley Jr. (the late Dede), Louise (the late David), Carl (Cyndi Beste Gruenberg), Mary (Honora English), and Laura (John Woods). Grandchildren: Louisa Walwark Kwasigroch (Nick), Wesley Gruenberg III (Brigitta Ruggiero), David Walwark Jr., Kirsten Gruenberg Hughey (Richard), Ashley Gruenberg Cecchetti (Andrew), Gretchen Gruenberg, Carl Gruenberg Jr. (Lilli McGinness), James Walwark, Amelia Woods, and Eleni Woods. Of Ella’s great-grandchildren there’s one named after her — but Louise rather than Ella.
Services will be held at St. Joan of Arc Church, 820 Division St., Lisle, on Saturday, July 6 with visitation at 10:30 and Mass at 11:30, followed by interment at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.
Donations to CADC (via http://www.communityadultdaycenter.org) or the Economy Shop in Oak Park.