Amelia Saccaro, 95, died peacefully in her favorite chair, with her new perm, after having spent a full day with all the family members, including the new great-grandson she had recently met. She believed that “education is the key.” She herself was only able to graduate from eighth grade from the one-room Katz Corners School in south Chicago, despite pleas from the high school principal to her mother to allow her to continue her schooling. Instead, she went to work at the age of 14 during the Depression to help support the family after the death of her father, and after they were evicted from the farm. 

Full of energy and up to any challenge, she shared her love of life, always with a smile. She challenged the cultural norms of the day and at 19 married an Italian whom she met on a blind date. She worked in various factories during World War II, and ran a truck stop as cook, waitress, and dishwasher. She later earned a G.E.D. and took and passed as many allowable college degree credit exams as she could through the College Level Examination Program. 

Her professional career ended as the only female industrial engineer at Aldens Corporation in Chicago. She then served school District 97 as a custodian at Emerson School and the district office, a job she loved because of her interaction with the staff and the students. She adored her grandchildren, Mikkin and Nick, and shared many adventures and hilarious moments with them. She loved to send greeting cards with “a couple bucks for coffee,” calling to sing Happy Birthday, feeding the birds and squirrels (especially Cookie), and meeting and chatting with those who came down Roy Avenue and stopped by her “little cabin,” which she proudly purchased on her own. She took no medication, other than a baby aspirin every day, and had seven teeth pulled but would not take a Tylenol because “it messes with your mind.” 

She answered a casting call for those who “looked Russian” and appeared in the opera Petruska at the Civic Opera House in Chicago. She was a holdout for direct deposit but could use Google correctly in a sentence, delighted in taking selfies with the family, and was proud to have a rotary phone on the wall. She loved to talk politics with anyone, religion with Mikkin’s husband, Pastor Karl, and she played the lottery with the same numbers for years because “someone wins.” 

A woman of great wisdom, empathy, and common sense, she was very well read. Her coffee was undrinkable by mere mortals, and her lasagna and bricole were unmatched. She was 29 at every birthday because “a birthday is just a number.” She sang and danced to Elvis and Neil Diamond, both of whom she saw in concert, belted out Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash, and did her RBG exercises. She lived each day to the fullest with a glass never half-empty. Her daughters have paid tribute to their mom by earning several advanced degrees and choosing careers in education to provide more opportunities to children and adolescents because as we know, “Education is the key.” 

There was no one quite like Amelia Lenore Grakauskas-Saccaro. She lived life with great passion, resilience, humor, loyalty, and a streak of independence that served her well for 95 years.

Amelia is survived by her daughters, Lynne, Bonnie Steltenkamp (Joe); her grandchildren, Mikkin Helvig (Karl) and Nick Steltenkamp; her great-grandchildren, Tobiah, Esther, Naomi and Asa Helvig; her sister, Frances Hoffman; her companion, Patton; her grand-dogs, Knox and Jobin; her grand-cat, Zekkers; many nieces and nephews; and her special young friends and dear neighbors. She was preceded in death by Quinn, her husband of 44 years; and her siblings, Joseph, Anna, Josie, Stanley, Alice, Helen, Bernice, Phillip and Elizabeth. 

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