Family celebrates 55th annual reunion
By Susan DeMar Lafferty firstname.lastname@example.org August 11, 2013 9:55PM
Warming up for the horseshoe tournament at the 55th annual Handzik family picnic are Matthew Nadeau of Oak Forest and Eddie Young of Monee. | Susan DeMar Lafferty~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 13, 2013 6:22AM
The grills sizzled and the horseshoes clanged above the happy chatter as the Handzik family got reacquainted at their 55th annual family picnic in the Buffalo Woods Forest Preserves at 87th and Kean in Palos Park Sunday afternoon.
All are descendants of Catherine and Simon Handzik, who were married in 1889, had seven children and hailed from 47th and Seeley — the Back of the Yards neighborhood.
“I love this. There is so much to talk about,” said Dolores Malloy, 84, the oldest living member of the Handzik family at the picnic, who now lives in Orland Park. Her father was one of those seven children. Her own family had four generations present at the picnic, ranging in age from her husband John, at 93, to their 15-month-old great-grandchild.
“It’s exciting to see everyone, to find out what they have been doing. My parents would be proud,” she said.
“It is fun — even if you don’t know everyone — to have that connection,” Malloy’s daughter Peggy Bischoff, of Mount Greenwood, said.
A table filled with old family photos jarred memories for many, with an original photo of Catherine and Simon at the forefront. The family also maintains a photo album of picnics past.
“I love looking at the old photos, and thinking about their weddings,” Bischoff said.
The picnic draws between 70 and 100 relatives, most of whom still live on the south side of Chicago, or its south suburbs. Cathy Warren, of Douglasville, Ga., traveled the farthest this year.
“This is my only real connection to my mom’s family. This is your best shot at seeing the whole family,” she said. And now that her mother is deceased, she wanted to make sure she still had a “presence” at the picnic to keep the tradition alive.
The tradition was started by Leona Pieczyrak and Mae Handzik in 1958, when relatives came to town for a visit. Now every year, responsibility for organizing this event rotates to the various family members.
“(The picnic) was never intended to be what it is. It just kept going,” Warren said.
Jerry Augustine, of Chicago, whose mother was a Handzik, said he and his own children appreciate the picnic more as they get older.
“It gets bigger every year because there are more babies,” he said. “Families don’t gather at their grandparents’ on Sundays like we used to. This is how we catch up with everyone. If you miss this, you miss out.”