John was born in Joliet and lived with his family on Collins Street until he was 6 years old.
His mother had just died from cancer, so for his first day of schools, John put on the cleanest pair of socks he could find from the floor and slid into too-big shoes and an oversized jacket.
But on his way to the former Lincoln School, John, embarrassed by his clothes, threw away the socks and coat in the back of Heggie Field, Judy said.
A woman stopped him and asked why he wasn’t wearing socks or a coat. John said he didn’t have any.
“Turns out the lady who stopped him was s social worker – or whatever they were called back then,” Judy said. “And she made a stop at the house.”
Judy estimates John lived with nine siblings at home. Their father worked long hours, sometimes in Indiana.
“They only had a little bit of food in the house,” Judy said. “And the house was probably a mess.”
Four of the children were taken to Guardian Angel Community Services in Joliet to live, she said. Guardian Angel had an orphanage at the time.
“I remember him saying how scared he was to walk through the door,” Judy said. “He felt like he was going to be stuck there for the rest of his life.”
As difficult as orphanage life was for John, he did learn to read and was thankful for it, she said.
Sundays, though, were the worst. Sundays were visiting days.
“He would wait by the window for his dad to come,” Judy said. “He came once and never came again. He’d watch the other parents come…he felt abandoned, I guess.”