Gilbert Cayetano Huesca (1915 – 2009)
Frank Waples (1901 – 1993)
Fern (Lawton) Waples (1899 – 1961)
|My darling father, Gilbert Huesca, at
the home of Frank and Fern Waples,
Chicago, Illinois. Circa 1952 – 1954.
Some time around 1950, my father, Gilbert Cayetano Huesca, set out to find a new room to rent in Chicago. He had lived for several years with his good friends, Louis and Theresa Algarin, since arriving in the United States, and he had started his own business, Lakeshore Printing, on Lakeshore Drive in Chicago.
We don’t know why he decided to move. Did the large Algarin family need the space for other children or grandchildren? Or did my father want to be closer to work? At that time, he did not have a car and had to rely on public transportation, so this would have been a good reason to move. In any case, the Algarins were sad to see him go, but my father’s friendship with them remained strong and endured through two generations.
When he saw a sign in a two story home on Chicago’s South Side advertising a room for rent, my father called the number on the sign and arranged with the lady of the house, Fern (Lawton) Waples, to view the room. When he arrived, he was impressed by the meticulous cleanliness of the room and the rest of the house, which was quite large.
|Frank and Fern Waples, dear friends of my father’s, at
their home in Downer’s Grove, Illinois, Memorial Day, 1957
Being fastidiously clean, my father minced no words but asked Mrs. Waples whether her house was always this tidy or had she cleaned up because she knew he was coming? She was not put off by the remark but proved herself equally picky when it came to renters. “Young man,” she said, “I should be insulted, but instead I can see that we think alike. The room is yours if you want it.”
Frank and Fern Waples were about fifteen years older than my father, but they treated him like a son, much as the Algarins had.
Frank had worked in various positions, from land appraiser to railway worker to insurance agent. He was an affable man who seemed happiest when he was surrounded by family and friends. He and my father spent hours talking about everything under the sun. He loved nothing better than hosting a large circle of family and friends at the Waples home for summer picnics and celebrations. It was Frank who taught my father the art of the barbecue.
|Gilbert Huesca, age 36, Chicago Illinois, January 20, 1952
Fern, a private school teacher, was charming and direct. She noticed how much my father missed his family and friends in Mexico and took him under her wing, helping him with his English and coaching him on American culture and customs. She was always encouraging him to meet new people and experience new things. My father recalled that Fern was a stylish dresser who rarely went anywhere without her trademark pearl necklace and earrings. She loved a good sale and was the person you went to when you wanted to know where to find that “something special.” This special knack of hers would one day change my father’s life.
From what he told us, the big house was usually bustling with young people – the grown-up Waples children and their friends. The family’s relaxed nature and constant activity made him feel right at home. When he wasn’t playing chess with Frank or testing Fern’s baking, he was taking one of their daughters to the museum or the movies.
I was only 6 years old when my father told me that Mrs. Waples, as we knew her, died. It was the first time I knew someone who had passed away. I recall my parents driving with my two sisters and me to the funeral home for the wake. (I couldn’t figure out why they called it that when we knew she would never wake up.)
The sky was overcast, and a light rain was falling. My father parked a short distance away from the funeral home. He and my mother took turns watching us while the other went inside to pay respects. They were very quiet all the way home.
Frank retired some time after that. He moved to San Marcos in Southern California and marred a second time to a lovely lady named Katie. They later moved to Arizona, where he died in 1993.
Still, the memories of those happy times with the Waples family would remain with my father all of his life, always sure to bring a smile to his face and a story to his lips.
Copyright © 2012 Linda Huesca Tully