Did they meet at one of the German concerts Louise Woschkeruscha was fond of attending on her weekends off from the dressmaking shop that created Parisian fashions right here in Chicago? Perhaps through mutual friends at the German cinema?
Louise was self-conscious about her appearance because of the pox scars that pitted her face after she contracted smallpox as a little girl. The disease had killed her sister. Somehow, somewhere in Chicago, she met John Koroschetz, an intelligent, talented machinist, carpenter, and tool and die maker, who had his own disfiguration: two fingers on his left hand had been lost in a machine shop accident when he was twenty-two.
Perhaps his truncated fingers had given my grandmother confidence that this was a man who could understand physical disfigurement and would love and accept her despite the scars she bore; that she could trust his love. They married on May 6, 1916, almost 96 years ago.
Two photos memorialized the event. No fancy wedding or wedding dress for Louise, just an elegant outfit she undoubtedly had designed and created herself. A black hat with white feathers crowned her head. John wore a dark, brimmed hat, a light coat, gloves, and tie knotted neatly into a high collared shirt, stylish at the time.
If you look closely at the photo below, in which John and Louise have removed their outer garments, both regard the camera with confidence. John rests his left hand on his thigh, unself-conscious of his two damaged fingers, visible for all posterity. About a year and a half after their wedding, their first and only child, my mother, Lillian, would be born. She was a go-getter from the start.
I’ll introduce you to her through two baby pictures that capture Lillian’s dual, complex nature.