Elgin woman celebrates 103rd birthday
"I just love life and having fun," said Sue Izzo of Elgin, who recently celebrated her 103rd birthday.
Izzo, who is still quite healthy and lives at home with the help of family, has a life that spans growing up on a farm west of Elgin to living in one of the city's finer mansions -- with quite a bit packed in between.
Izzo, born in 1912, grew up in Udina, a small unincorporated area located along Route 20 just west of Elgin. This was the same year as the sinking of the Titanic and five years before the U.S. entered World War I.
Locally, a new Elgin High School had just been completed and new buildings for the Elgin National Watch Company with its iconic tower were just a few years old. Area citizens had their choice of eight coal dealers, five livery stables and three blacksmith shops, while new car dealers offered Hudsons and Cole 30s for sale.
By comparison to some rural families, Izzo's was small and included just her parents, William and Mae Evans, and her sister Emma who was three years older.
"I was little and they called me the 'runt,'" Izzo recalled with a smile.
Though her given first name was actually Roseanna, she said her friends often called her "Roseanna banana" to make fun of her. One day a boyfriend of her sister said, "You look like you should be called 'Sue,'" and the name stuck.
Izzo's parents eventually left farming and moved to the east side of Elgin. Her father took a job at the Elgin National Watch Company and her mother baked for a local hotel.
Izzo attended Sheridan School -- now Ron O'Neal Elementary School -- where she boasts that she once won a districtwide broad jump and high jump contest.
"I was no good at baseball," she said. "I couldn't hit the ball."
Two of her favorite things to do as a child were to play "Jacks" and "One, Two, Three, O'Leary" -- both games played with a bouncing ball.
"I loved roller skating so much it was hard for my mother to get me to come in the house when I needed to," she said.
As she grew older, Izzo said, "I was always on the go." This included the Prohibition years.
"One of my favorite drinks was the Stinger," she said. "This was a mixture of brandy and cream de menthe."
"Usually, I went out with a girlfriend of mine."
But, her memories of the time are also tangible. Folded up and placed back in their envelopes are dozens of old love letters from the 1930s written to her from former boyfriends.
"She's let me look at them and they're just lighthearted fun to read," said her daughter Lynda Quindel.
Izzo said she tried her hand at different jobs throughout her life, including selling toasters and stuffed animals. She also worked as a switchboard operator, a hairdresser, and a real estate salesperson at one time or another.
"Many people would remember me as Mrs. Santa Claus at the Spiess department store in downtown Elgin," she added. "My job was to take photo orders for the kids visiting Santa."
It was a move to Chicago in the 1940s to work at the Union Special Company, a manufacturer of sewing machines, that would change her life. It was here that she met her future husband Art Izzo, who worked at a family grocery store not far from where she lived.
The two fell in love, married and would eventually settle back in the Elgin area. Izzo says one of her proudest moments was purchasing the mansion once owned by Dr. Ora Pelton on South State Street. While requiring a tremendous amount of work, the home has been featured on house tours and is a favorite for photographers.
As to her long life, Izzo credits it to being born into a family of whom many have lived well into their 90s, with some even surpassing 100 years old. "My mother has also been conscious of eating healthy," added her daughter Lynda Quindel.
But, there is one thing Izzo will never credit her longevity to -- eating chicken.
"When we lived on the farm, I watched how my mother killed the chickens and have never gotten that image out of my mind," said Izzo. "I've avoided chicken all my life."
"Our family also consumed a lot of drinks and smoothies made in a blender with fresh vegetables and Mom even sold them for a while," noted her daughter Lynda Quindel. "We always had regular glasses and plates, not plastic. Food was always seasoned with veggie salt, not real salt," she added.
Izzo says she usually enjoys a glass of wine a day. Today she often does so while watching her favorite TV show, Animal Planet's "Too Cute."
Her daughter Lynda also points to her mother's positive attitude as a key factor in keeping her healthy.
"She never complains. She is always a happy person to be around."