When Daisy arrived at her aunt and uncle’s home it was nearly 6 p.m. and it
was already quite dark. All the windows of the home were lit up brightly and
the house itself seemed to be alive. As Daisy rode her bike up the boardwalk
she stopped for a few moments to take in the grandeur of it all.
From where she stood outside the home she could hear the rise and fall of
children laughing from within. She could also hear the piano playing and,
because of the song that was being played, knew her Uncle Gary was at the
helm, while rising above it all was the unmistakable and piercingly beautiful
voice of her aunt, Jean.
Jean was the younger sister to Daisy’s mother, Judy, and was a natural born
singer. From a very young age she showed almost a pitch perfect mezzo
soprano and was asked to sing at church and school and occasionally at
local events. While her family preferred the popular songs of the day Jean
was drawn to opera from the first time she’d Verdi’s Falstaff on her teacher’s
At the age of 17 she moved to Chicago to pursue a life in opera. She hoped
it would be a stepping stone to an exciting future travelling abroad, singing
in the great opera houses around the world. She burst onto the scene with
her performance of Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which enabled
her to travel to New York to try out for the Metropolitan Opera Company.
While she was there, she was invited to a party where she met other
contending singers and musicians, including a piano player who was also in
town trying out for the company orchestra – and he too was from Peoria. But
when Gary asked Jean where she was from, for some reason she answered
Chicago. It was only after they both failed to win a spot with the company –
and were on the same train heading back to Chicago – that they learned
the truth about each other, and fell in love.
They quickly moved back to Peoria, where Gary’s family owned a large
grocery store in the middle of downtown. Gary had resisted going into the
family business because of his musical aspirations but that changed after he
met Jean. They settled down in Peoria and started a family – three daughters
After his father died, Gary took over the family business and, after his
widowed mother had passed, the family home on the West Bluff. He and
Jean still played music together and, because of the wealth the family
business afforded to them, could still travel the world as well, sometimes for
six or seven months at a time. This meant they oftentimes missed holidays like
the Fourth of July and even Thanksgiving – but they always were sure to be
home for Christmas.