A few weeks ago, I wrote a short post here about the graveyard that abuts the property on which our small townhome/apartment development was built. Every time I visit these strangers, I realize how much I want to visit the graves of my own family members. Some are buried in a swampy Jewish cemetery in south Florida. Some are in New York. And some are buried in Peoria, Illinois.
My grandmother, Leah Cohen Marks, was found dead in her tiny tw0-bedroom home on Independence Avenue in Peoria on July 4, 1978. She’d emigrated from Russia during the pogroms that escorted Jews by bayonet out of the country in which they’d been living for generations. Though that thin network of having someone already in place in this land with its golden streets and promise of security, Leah, then a few other family members, found their way to Central Illinois through that immigrant network of “I have a cousin who can get you work in Peoria”. There were few other Jews in the small city, but she married a Jewish junk merchant named Jacob Markowsky who’d made his way to the town a few years earlier. The pair had one son, my dad.
She was an active part of my life throughout my childhood. [Read more]