THE LELEWER LEGACY
Traditions of a Loving Family
In 1847, there was a great famine in Germany and business was at a standstill. Nancy Lelewer (Sonnabend’s) great, great grandfather Selig Lelewer, his wife and five children were very poor in spite of Selig being hard working and one of the most skilled fur tanners in the city of Lissa. When Selig learned that compensation for his class of work was being reduced below living wages, he quit, sold their home and left on a sailing vessel to seek his fortune in America. He figured the money from the sale of their home would cover his family’s expenses for six months by which time he would have begun sending money back to them.
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The ship was lost at sea. At the time of Selig’s departure the author’s great grandfather, David Lelewer, was five years old. Thirteen years later, at age eighteen, David Lelewer made the same crossing his father Selig had attempted with the aim of lifting his mother and siblings out of poverty. In David’s autobiography he wrote about the untenable condition in which his mother found herself and described their arduous lives in the old country, his struggles for many years in America, the founding of the family business, how to handle money and precepts of how to guide one’s life. Ms. Lelewer writes of her great grandfather’s experiences and those of the next five generations of her family in America from 1910 to 2010, often told in the voices of the people relating the stories.
Enthralling any reader of history and human nature, the twenty-two chapters of THE LELEWER LEGACY present a wide range of stories that together reflect the breadth and depth of the author’s heritage and her personal legacy. She honors the Lelewer Stores that were prominent in Chicago’s loop and made history in the city with their innovations. There is a humorous chapter on Joseph David Lelewer, Nancy’s father; another chapter provides a fascinating narrative of Nancy’s life in Spain when it was under Franco; there are two terrifying episodes of adventures at sea; and much more. Many chapters include anecdotes about such colorful people as: “Scarface” Al Capone, Richard Loeb of the Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold duo who committed the crime of the century, Chic Young of the Blondiestrip, Chuck Walgreen of the Walgreen Stores, philanthropist Irving B. Harris, A.M. Sonnabend, legendary financer and hotel pioneer, Dr. Per Udden, Swedish inventor and founder of two organizations and Alan Trustman who wrote The Thomas Crown Affair.
The author’s final chapter, Epilogue and Afterword introduce her children and grandchildren and depict how she is continuing to honor the life precepts set down by her great-grandfather, passing them and other traditions along to the next generations. THE LELEWER LEGACY is a lasting tribute to the true meaning of family.