Meet Joe

See the whole picture.

Joe’s quest to build a better life for himself in the United States took many twists and turns, including time as a prisoner of war, a detour to Venezuela, and a public relations campaign in Detroit where he faced deportation. With perseverance, he created a fulfilling life for himself and his family.

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  • Joe, second from left, enjoying a holiday with his parents at a resort on the Dalmatian Coast.

  • Joe’s mother, pictured here, was dying from breast cancer when he emigrated to the United States, as a young man in his 20s. He left behind all his immediate family and never saw them again, although he did correspond with his parents.

  • Once Joe received a student visa, his uncle Julius, a druggist in Detroit, Mich., paid for his passage from Venezuela to the United States.

  • While a student at Detroit University, Joe was featured in local newspapers following a television broadcast about his citizenship. The public relations helped spur a U.S. Senate bill allowing Joe to stay in the country.

  • This U.S. bill , sponsored by Senator Homer Ferguson, granted U.S. citizenship to Joe.

  • As a young man facing the realities of war with Russia and Hungary, Joe knew he had to leave his country to create a better life for himself in the United States. After his U.S. visitor visa expired, he sailed to Venezuela. He worked at an international book store in Caracas for about a year.

  • After graduating from college, Joe worked for Sears Roebuck—first in Detroit and then in Chicago, where he met his wife, Betty Lou, in a Spanish class. His daughters, Sulie and Stephanie are shown here with their beloved dog, Boomer. Betty Lou completed a doctoral degree from Northwestern in systemic malacology, specializing in the study of snails. (Her snail samples are at the Field Museum in Chicago.) Her work took her to the 25 Pacific Islands, and she served as president for the Pan Pacific and South East Asia Women's Association (PPSEAWA) from 1994 until 2000. She went to conferences such as the Conference on the Status of Women and worked as a member of the UN Conference of Non-Government Organizations board in Vienna and New York. Betty Lou passed away in 2011; after 56 years of marriage, Joe still misses her very much.

  • Joe celebrated his 90th birthday in 2014 with his daughters, Stephanie and Sulie, and his granddaughter, Meg. Stephanie lives in Wilmette in the house Betty Lou grew up in, and works at the Winnetka Library. Sulie is an opera singer and has lived in Vienna for 17 years. She travels all over Europe, and Joe and Betty Lou travelled to see her perform. Meg currently works in Washington, D.C., and also has traveled all over the world.

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