Ignas Vaičeliūnas with his grandchildren
Ignas Vaičeliūnas (September 27, 1918 - February 25, 2004) was born in a small rural village in Lithuania, the second oldest of five siblings. His formal schooling ended early so he could help with daily chores that included shepherding animals and taking care of his younger siblings. He joined the Lithuanian army when he became of age. World War II changed the course of his life as it had so many others. He ended up living and working in one of Germany’s refugee camps that housed a lot of other displaced Lithuanians. There he met his wife. They were unable to return to Lithuania because it had become a part of the Soviet Union. He immigrated to Chicago in October 1949 with a toddler daughter and pregnant wife. Several months after arriving in Chicago twin daughters were born. He worked two jobs to support his family, a full-time job washing windows at night for the Prudential Insurance Company Building and as a maintenance worker during the day for a bank. He spent his days off with his family, exploring the various museums, zoos, botanical gardens and beaches of Chicago, attending Lithuanian cultural events and chauffeuring his daughters to their activities. With smart investments of his income he was able to send numerous care packages to his and his wife’s families in Lithuania.
With great joy in 1975 he was able to get a special visa from the Soviet Union to visit his mother and family. He returned many times after Lithuania regained its independence. He was a widower and empty nester when he retired. He enjoyed his hobbies of reading, helping those in need in his community, acting as a guide to friends visiting Chicago, traveling, investing money, but best of all spending time with his daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Ignas was a great role model of how to go through life’s many challenges positively, enjoy the small moments, age gracefully and how to be generous with what one has and live with dignity.
The Ignas Vaičeliūnas
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