Former Mount Prospect neighbors reunite at Wheeling senior living community

Across the street was a field of tomatoes. On south Maple Street in 1955 Mount Prospect, there were two handsome brick farmhouses standing alone surrounded by farmland and promise.

The Chicago and Northwestern Railroad station was just a few blocks' walk to the north. There was a new Catholic church and school just up the road. That tomato field was destined for a big town park. What better place to raise growing families?

That summer, Barb and Frank Tangney moved their three kids (and one on the way) out of Chicago's Northwest Side to 404 S. Maple St., right next door to John and Marie Pope at 400 S. Maple.

The Popes had moved there a year earlier from Washington state. There was plenty of room in the new house for their own growing brood. In 1955, the Popes had five at home, and their sixth would come the following year.

Barb and Marie had a lot in common. Both devout Catholics, both can-do, self-reliant optimists with strong senses of right and wrong who believed in the powers of hard work and fresh air. Before marriage, Barb earned a degree in dietetics. Marie worked for Air Canada and moved from her native London, Ontario, to Chicago in 1946 to help open a branch office.

Every morning, the Tangney kids (eventually seven in all) and Pope kids - over the years joined by the Halas, Fisher and Mann kids as Maple Street filled in - would walk the five blocks to St. Raymond's School.

After the kids were off, Barb often would sit in Marie's kitchen for a cup of coffee or two. The two bargain hounds loved to shop together; coming home empty-handed was beside the point.

The families did nearly everything together. Once Lions Park was built, they swam there in summer and sledded (on Folgers Mountain) in the winter. The kids joined the Mount Prospect Speed Skating Club. Both families' properties had an extra lot, which provided plenty of room to play endless games of kick the can, red rover, four square, baseball and a homegrown game they called ditch.

They watched Main Street Fourth of July parades as a group. The Tangneys had pear and apple trees. The Popes a big and fruitful mulberry tree.

Even if it meant bringing the baby buggy to the courts - which it often did - Barb and Marie were devoted tennis players and had a schedule of regular games at Lions Park with other like-minded moms.

Dressed in their tennis whites, their shouts from the court (nothing saltier than "Oh, Barbara!" or "Oh, Marie!") could be heard around the neighborhood.

The two women started a women's jogging club - even went so far as having sweatshirts made - but were less devoted to actually running.

As the rest of South Maple Street filled in, 400 and 404 became the sites of block-party traditions. A favorite was the annual corn roast in late summer, taking advantage of the bounty of local fresh corn. Corn would be soaked then roasted on an old bed spring laid over a bed of coals in the Popes' yard. On the Tangney driveway was the keg of beer and every flavor of Arlington Beverage Co. soda pop on ice.

As next-door neighbors in Mount Prospect, Barb Tangney, left, and Marie Pope, second from right, were devoted tennis players and kept a schedule of games at Lions Park with friends such as Sue Douglas, second from left, and Betty Alseits, right. Courtesy of Terri Tangney Fleming

Years went by. The kids grew, left for college and started their own families. The best friends' shared history grew deeper. The couples and their network of friends had time for excursions, such as weekends in Wisconsin to cross-country ski or snowmobile.

With fewer responsibilities at home, Barb Tangney turned to volunteering at Holy Family Hospital. Marie Pope worked in the office at the Mount Prospect Fire Department, learning to use a computer. Tennis together was a mainstay.

Grandkids came into the picture and provided much joy. As of September 2020, Barb has 15 grandkids and 11 great-grandkids, while Marie has 17 grandkids and seven great-grands.

Sadly, Frank, who retired in 1982 as treasurer of Putman Publishing Co., died at age 76 in 1996. John, who retired as a pharmaceutical rep from E.R. Squibb, died at 90 in 2008.

Soon after Frank's passing, Barb downsized and moved into an apartment in Arlington Heights. Marie and John had moved to Prospect Heights in 2002.

The women stayed in close touch despite time and distance. If Barb was at her vacation home in Colorado or Marie visiting her kids, they stayed in touch the old-fashioned way: by letter.

When they were both home, they carpooled to St. Raymond's 7:30 a.m. Sunday Mass then dined together at Le Peep Cafe.

Fast forward to 2020. Sharp-as-a-tack Marie - now 104 - resides in an independent living apartment in Wheeling's Addolorata Villa senior living community. Barb, who until the pandemic hit was a YMCA water-aerobics regular, celebrated her 95th birthday in June.

She found herself ready to make a similar move. When asked where she'd like to go, Barb recalled that Marie and other friends were happy at "A.V." Why not there?

Call it luck, call it divine providence or call it a reward for lives well-spent, but when Barb moved into her A.V. apartment on Sept. 19, there was Marie, right next door again, continuing a circle that started 65 years ago.

Their first day back together, they attended 3 p.m. Mass then walked down the hall for dinner in the cafeteria.

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