Carolyn J. Asperger

Carolyn J. Asperger died Wednesday, September 6 in La Grange, IL, where she’s resided for the past 9 years. She was 94.   Carolyn was born in 1923 to John and Barbara Erdelac, Croatian immigrants who settled in McDonald, Ohio, a company town built in 1918 by US Steel just north of Youngstown. She was the 5th of seven brothers and sisters, each of whom worked in the family’s bakery producing bread, pastries, and pies for the millworkers and their families at the McDonald Works.   Unwilling to turn away families hit hard by the Great Depression, the bakery provided bread on credit. Most customers could never pay off their tabs, and by1939 the business failed.  Carolyn’s father died shortly thereafter.   The family pulled together, supported by her brothers who labored in the steel mills. Three weeks before her own graduation from McDonald HS in 1940, Carolyn was hired as secretary to the school’s principal. She soon snared a clerical job at US Steel, and quickly rose through the ranks to become secretary to the superintendent of the rolling mills. Upon her brother’s return to the mills after WWII, the family pooled its resources and moved together into 3-bedroom home in McDonald – a house originally built for the plant superintendent. During the Great Steel Strike of 1946, Carolyn, a management employee, had to cross the picket lines manned by her own brothers. Her salary proved to be the sole means of support for the family for the duration of the walkout. Meanwhile, Carolyn was being courted by John Asperger, a lanky, wavy-haired boy from the West side of Youngstown, also the child of Croatian immigrants, who worked in the mills while taking college classes.  For 6 years they fox-trotted and jitterbugged at the Elms, Idora Park and Conneaut Lake Park ballrooms to the live music of big bands led by Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, and Guy Lombardo. She was reluctant to commit, but he was relentless. In the midst of the Thanksgiving Blizzard of 1950, which dumped two feet of snow on Youngstown, her doorbell rang. Standing on the porch wearing a coat of snow and a broad smile was her boyfriend, who had walked 7 miles through the blizzard from his house in Youngstown.   “What are you doing here!” Carolyn asked, shocked. “The radio announced a curfew, no one is allowed on the streets!”   “Exactly,” John replied, and settled in for three days of family meals and snuggling in front of the fireplace.   Within a year, they were married and 4 months later she was pregnant. Employers had a straightforward pregnancy leave policy in those days – if you’re pregnant, you leave. Without her salary, John dropped out of law school at Ohio Northern and began a career selling water tanks and smokestacks for steel fabricating companies.  By 1963 they’d had two more sons and moved from Youngtown to Buffalo, NY to Gary, IN and back to Youngstown.   In 1965, Carolyn returned to the workforce with a part time office job at the new GM plant in Lordstown, and three years later she was hired fulltime. John ultimately became VP of Sales and part owner of New Fab, Inc. a steel fabricator in Newton Falls, OH.   Carolyn and John retired to a golf community near Clemson, SC in 1984. John died in 2003 shortly after their 52nd anniversary, and several years later Carolyn moved to the Plymouth Place senior living center in La Grange, IL, where she thrived.   Carolyn leaves three sons: Jeffrey, a lawyer in Chicago, IL; Jonathan (Liz), a marketing executive (ret.) in La Grange, IL; and James, an HVAC consultant in Albuquerque, NM; two grandsons; Kyle, a graphic designer/photographer in Columbus, OH; and Devin, a playwright in Chicago, IL.   She also leaves scores of dear friends collected over a lifetime of spreading joy and laughter.   A Memorial Service will be held at 4:00 pm on Friday, September 22nd at Plymouth Place, 315 N. La Grange Rd., La Grange Pk., IL.  In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Plymouth Place Senior Living.


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