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  Interviews by
  Charlotte Snow

  Photography by
  Dan Dry


  > > Coming of age
  > > Positively medieval
  > > Elements of style

  > > Gift trapped

Ten Chicagoans master the art of growing older

image: "Coming of Age" headlineHelen 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.

image: Helen Palmer Sonderby, 94, and Max E. Sonderby, 93Helen: "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 family.

"Regarding 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."

Max: "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.

"Curiosity 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.

"Current 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."

link to: Wallace Rusterholtz link to: top of the page link to: "Coming of Age" 


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