Donor Stories


From the Islands to a Daughter’s Independence

Originally from Aruba, John Dodge came to the United States to attend Notre Dame. Soon after meeting his wife Nancy, a Chicago Southside native who he met through a roommate, John had a feeling he would be trading island breezes for a life centered around her. After they married, John and Nancy settled down in the Chicago area, where John worked as a chemical engineer in the healthcare industry and they raised three daughters: Debbie, Sharon and Susan.

Debbie has been a resident at Clearbrook for over 20 years.

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Building a Life of Giving

Henry Smogolski grew up in Chicago in a predominantly Polish neighborhood with his mother, grandmother and sister. "My dad passed away when I was in high school," he says. "My mom worked really hard to support us, but I never felt like we were poor." 

Henry learned the meaning of hard work early on. After high school, he became the youngest apprentice at one of the largest printers in the country.

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Keeping Clearbrook All in the Family

When you are one of 12 children, with six children, nine grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren of your own, family is undoubtedly an important part of your life. That is certainly true of Dottie Rudy, whose son Patrick lives at Clearbrook's ICF the Lattof Commons.

Dottie grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania. Her father insisted that all six of his daughters go to college. After graduating from nursing school, Dottie married Frank, her high school sweetheart.

When their third son, Pat, was born, he seemed like a typical child until he turned 4. "Pat did everything other children his age were doing, except he didn't talk," Dottie explains. "So we took him to many doctors, and he was eventually diagnosed as mentally retarded."

Dottie and Frank raised Pat at home with his five siblings, who were always very protective of him.

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20 Year Donors Value Son's Happiness

Joan and Thomas Maddox were introduced in 1953 by her brother-in-law, who was Thomas’ Army buddy. Three months later, they were married. Joan says, “I think our parents were a little surprised.” Thomas adds, “When you know, you know.”

The coupled settled in Joan’s hometown of Chicago, where Thomas sold computers for IBM and Joan worked at home raising their eight children. When their seventh child, Tommy, was born in 1962, they could tell something was wrong.

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Doctor Engineers Healthy Future for Clearbrook

Dr. Morris Fine is a man with an impressive professional reputation. Currently a Professor Emeritus of Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern University and still conducting research, this active 92-year-old began teaching at Northwestern in 1954. While there, he helped create the first materials science department in the world. Before joining Northwestern, Fine worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II and at Bell Labs.

However, even with these and many other career accomplishments on his resume, Dr. Fine seems most proud of his family, which includes his daughters Susan “Susie” and Amy and two grandchildren (Milly, his wife of 54 years, passed away in 2004). He also has an extended family at Clearbrook, where Susie has lived since 1996.

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Couple Makes Gift for Brother's "Second Family"

Five years ago, Jim Straka decided to make a mid-life career change. “After years in manufacturing, I became a special education teacher at Yorkville High School,” Jim said. “I teach my students life skills like managing money, cooking, and being responsible. It is very rewarding.”

While teaching kids with special needs is a new career for Jim, he has “been around people with disabilities my whole life.” Not only has his wife Mary been a special education elementary schoolteacher for 28 years, but Jim’s younger brother Michael is also developmentally challenged.

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