Except for his service in World War II, Wendell “Seedy” Ulrich, 91, has lived in Western Springs all his life. He knew our Library when it opened in 1932. The original entrance to the Library was on Wolf Road, where he posed for this photo. In this edition of The Ford Member Connection, Seedy gives us a “living history” of his life, our Library, and town.
Let’s start out with the obvious: How did you get a nickname like Seedy?
I was in a big family and always wore hand-me-down clothes. When I was about 8, my brother said, “what a seedy-looking character.” The name stuck.
Tell us about your homes in Western Springs.
My first home was a four-room house on Forest Avenue. My parents bought it for $2,300 in 1925 and my dad added on four more rooms himself. It sold for $59,000, and has since been torn down. My second home was four blocks from my first, and I’ve lived there for 59 years. Walter Bergenthal, my friend since grade school, is my next-door neighbor. I think I may be the oldest person living who has lived all his life in Western Springs.
I was the first baby to be baptized at Grace Lutheran Church. When I was growing up, there 40 kids on my block. I went to Lyons Township High School. I had a summer job when I was in college, checking that people had a permit to use the Village dump.
What was your service in WWII?
I was drafted at 18, arrived at the Ardennes Forest on December 14, 1944, two days before the Battle of the Bulge. I was in four major battles and some skirmishes in central Europe. My dad and three brothers were all in combat, and we all came home.
Could you tell us a bit about your family and your family’s love of reading?
In 1952, I married Betty and we had 65 great years together. We raised a family of two boys and a girl, and they went on to have four children.
My wife was an avid reader, and she and I passed that trait to our daughter, Nancy. I like mystery, adventure, page-turners; my favorite authors include James Patterson, Harlan Coben, Janet Evanovich, Lisa Scottoline, and Mary Higgins Clark. I’ve used the Thomas Ford Library for books and programs since grade school.
What about your career and interests?
I was in sales for most of my working life. I retired at 67 and then worked at the pool for 19 years. I’ve enjoyed golf, but my biggest interest has been volunteer work. I really enjoyed volunteering for 12 years in a hospice program and my current work at Hines Veterans Administration Hospital is in the spinal ward. We play Bingo and cards with the patients, read and talk with them. They’re great people, and it’s very gratifying to spend time with them.
I’ve also enjoyed speaking to school groups on Veterans Day, and talked at the Library about WWII. Here’s a little trivia for you: Because copper was needed for the war, pennies were made from zinc and had a silver look to them. I am especially proud that I was honored with the Patriot Award at Burr Ridge’s Armed Forces Day ceremony this year.
What do you think of Western Springs today?
The business owners are still friendly and appreciate our business. It’s a real neat, friendly town to live in.
Any final advice?
I’ve always kept busy. Volunteer. Get involved with your block and your town.
“The Ford Member Connection” spotlights Western Springs residents with interesting stories and relationships to the Library. Please let us know whom you’d like to read about.