Chicagoans master the art of growing older
Palmer Sonderby, 94, and Max E. Sonderby, 93
Retired social worker Helen Palmer Sonderby, PhB'27,
recalls how she met journalist Max E. Sonderby, PhB'30, on a 1970
flight to Japan with a group from Hyde Park, where they still
live. Both were widowed. A mutual friend sitting between them
fell asleep, leaving Helen and Max to chat about a New Yorker
article. Two months after the trip, they were married at the Chicago
Theological Seminary, where Helen's father once served as president.
"I was an Illinois state social worker and I traveled a lot downstate
to do mental testing, working mostly with children and families.
I had a retarded child of my own, Judy, who died from pneumonia
when she was 11 years old. She had Down's syndrome, and I campaigned
to help other children like her. I tried to help families get
the right kind of help and to understand their situation in a
broader light. They needed to accept and enjoy the child. The
doctors said to put Judy in an institution, but my first husband
and I had three other children, and Judy was a real part of our
advice, I've noticed that telling someone what your degree is
in doesn't tell much about what you've done with your education.
Follow some particular interest and see how it relates back to
what you got from your college courses."
"I lived in a fishing village in Denmark before coming to Chicago
at age 8. War was breaking out, and my mother had relatives here.
I remember my first sight of a streetcar. I saw the trolley come
off the wire and make a big flash.
drew me to reporting. I started out working at a chain store.
I didn't last long. I got fired and got a job with the City News
Bureau. I was hooked once I got involved with that. I worked for
the Sun--Times and later started my own company covering court
news. They used to call me 'Max the Ax.' I investigated the bribery
of an alderman. His assistant took over his post and later became
an Illinois Supreme Court judge. Whenever I ran into the former
assistant on the street, he would say, 'Thanks for getting me
the job!' A good headline story is a pleasure.
students should do more physical work. I don't have a computer
and wouldn't be bothered by one. They should also have an occupation
they enjoy. I'm glad I had an interesting occupation instead of
just making money."