Foster mom to more than 40 children, ‘Aunt Aggie’ dies at 103 in Monee home
BY CASEY TONER firstname.lastname@example.org February 12, 2013 7:36PM
Monee/031810- Agnes Albinger 100yrs. looks out from the front porch of her home on the farm she has lived on for over 55 years in Monee, IL. Thursday March 18, 2010. There is a strong possibility she could be evicted from the land she has worked most of her life. jm031810 news/TIN_agnus_P3 (SouthtownStar Photo by Joseph P. Meier)
Updated: March 14, 2013 6:34AM
A 103-year-old Monee woman who over the course of her life took in more than 40 foster children at her 70-acre farm — and who at age 100 successfully battled a bank, a relative and village officials to stay in her home there — has died.
Agnes Albinger, better known as “Aunt Aggie,” was found dead at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in her house in the 6000 block of Industrial Drive, Monee police Chief John Cipkar said. She died of natural causes, he said.
Mrs. Albinger’s nephew, Robert Szorc, said funeral arrangements are pending.
“She was well-loved and respected because she led a hard life,” Szorc said. “She cared for people and never turned away people seeking help.”
Mrs. Albinger was born in South Wilmington on Aug. 20, 1909, Szorc said. One of 11 children, she was the daughter of a farmer, Antony Marcukaitis, and a housewife, Victoria Saduskas.
Szorc said her family lived in Illinois for four or five years before moving to northern Minnesota. Due to flooding, the family moved back to Illinois.
Mrs. Albinger worked for a jeweler until marrying Matthew Albinger in the 1940s, Szorc said. Together, they bought the farm in Monee and worked as farmers until Matthew died on Feb. 14, 1957.
With no children of her own, Szorc said Mrs. Albinger began to house foster children on behalf of the state. She also enjoyed marksmanship and creating paintings of animals.
“She was careful because she believed you had to get the eyes correct because that was the soul of the animal,” Szorc said.
In recent years, Mrs. Albinger became known for her refusal to give up the farm despite code violations, a foreclosure and an attempted land grab by a niece.
In 2003, her niece, Bridget Gruzdis, and Gruzdis’ firm, Phoenix Horizon LLC, engaged in transactions with her that resulted in the farm being subdivided and annexed to Monee with hopes of developing hotels and shopping centers.
Gruzdis borrowed $700,000 against the property but paid back only $49 before the bank filed for foreclosure in 2006.
Investigators learned Gruzdis was representing herself as a commercial real estate agent and doing business without a real estate license. State officials later filed a cease-and-desist order against Gruzdis and her firm to stop marketing and attempting to sell Mrs. Albinger’s house.
Szorc said a local bank now owns the property.
Mrs. Albinger in 2010 faced a deadline to comply with 17 village building code violations, including claims the home was unfit for occupancy and infested with rodents. But a large crowd of volunteers showed up before the deadline to clean up the property after a series of SouthtownStar stories documenting Mrs. Albinger’s plight.