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Our Lady of the Angels (OLA) School Fire, December 1, 1958

OLA Fire Survivors By Classroom

Click a Room Number To View a List of Known Survivors of That Classroom
Mary Hall  Joseph Hall  Room A  Room B  101  102  103  104  105  106  107  108  109  110 
201  202  203  204  205  206  207  208  209  210  211  212  Other 
Mary Hall
About This Classroom:
This was a separate building from the main school, located south of the church on Hamlin Ave.
NameBoy/GirlAgeGradeAbout This Person
Sister Mary Remi / Sister Mary St. DeniseTeacherKThere were separate morning and afternoon Kindergarten sessions. Sr. Denise taught the morning session and Sr. Remi taught the afternoon session.
Alessandra AbbatielloGirl5KSister of Aurelia and Anthony Abbatiello.
Diane BertucciGirl5KDiane married Michael Cantieri and they have a son and daughter. Sister of Henry and Linda Bertucci cousin of George and Janice Pomilia, and Joanne, Mary Ellen, and John Pettenon.
Cheryl CurtisGirl5K“I remember the mother of one of the other children came running into the classroom crying that the school was on fire. Sister Mary Remi was the teacher in this class. We were told to go straight home. My house was right next to the convent, which was directly across the street from OLA. I have very clear memories of watching the street in front of our house as the mothers kept bringing out blankets and wrapping the children before the ambulances came to get them. My uncle, Andrew Salemi, and my aunt Maria Salemi were both in the school and were able to get out without injuries.” Niece of Andrew Salemi and Maria Salemi.
Michael DelgenioBoy5KMichael Lived at 3739 W. Huron St. at the time of the fire.
Michael DiCiollaBoyKBrother of Colomba and Joseph DiCiolla.
Clara DiMasoGirl5KClara lived on Thomas Street at the time of the fire along with her parents Philip and Jessie DiMaso and, sister Rose Marie. “I was there the afternoon of the fire. I remember the sirens and comotion. Luckily, my babysitter who walked me to and from school made it out of the fire ok and came to get me to walk me home along with a friend of hers. I do not remember their names, but I would like to thank them for getting me home safely. As we were trying to get away from the school I remember seeing huge firetrucks and hearing people screaming and crying. The streets and sidewalks were very slippery because I remember falling.” Niece of Grace DiMaso.
Rick DiPompeoBoy5KRick attended morning Kindergarten and was fortunately at home at the time of the fire. "I was not directly involved with the fire. I was in the morning class and already at home. I lived on Christiana south of Chicago Avenue. I remember hearing the sirens and seeing the fire trucks, police cars, and ambulances all going very fast, westbound on Chicago Avenue. I saw fire trucks that I had never seen before flying down the street. I didn't know what was on fire, but I remember thinking, 'There must be a big fire someplace!' It wasn't until my sister, Lois, came home very upset, that I learned of the horror of the fire at the school. The 8th grader that walked my sister to school, didn't make it. I remember my mom saved all of the news clippings and pictures. We used to look at them alot afterwards." Today, Rick is a Detective Sergeant with the Oakbrook Terrace Police Department. Brother of Lois DiPompeo.
Thomas DunnBoyKThomas' big brother, Larry, died in room 212. Brother of Larry, Catherine and David Dunn.
Annette FilipponioGirl5KAnnette was sick on the day of the fire, and her sister, Phyllis, was excused at 2:30 to look after her. Sister of Lucille and Phyllis Filipponio.
Alan FrancoBoy5K“I was allowed to enter kindergarten at age 4 1/2. My birthday is December 1st. I was 5 years old that day. My mother was at work and my Grandma kept me home for my birthday. When she heard about the fire, Grandma and Grandpa and me walked to the school and observed the horror of what was happening. I remember crying but really didn't understand the full scale of what was happening. I heard a lot of people crying and screaming and running around. Each December 1st, seems to bring back blurred visions of the fire. I remember when we moved to Carpentersville and in 2nd grade? in art class, the class was told to paint something that we could remember. I painted a building on fire and a lot of people. The art teacher sent me to the principals office because as I later learned she felt I was 'not all there!'

“I remember Sister Remi as a very sweet lady. I never returned to that school.

“My mother was married at Our Lady of the Angels Church in October 1952.”

Mary Frances GabelGirl4KMary was one of the youngest students enrolled at OLA on December 1, 1958, because “my mother was allowed to enroll me in Kindergarten when I was 4 Ĺ.” Fortunately, Mary was at home with a fever on the day of the fire, and therefore was not subjected to viewing the horrors unfolding at her school.
Diana GeantoGirl5KToday [2007], Diana lives in arizona and has four children (Chrissy, Michael, Lisa and Allison), and is Nana to 13 grandchildren (as of December 2007).
Madelyn GnoffoGirl5KMadelyn and her cousin Joe Bonadonna were both picked by Joe's mother and taken to her home, where they were watched by their grandmother while Joe's mother went back to the school, looking for Madelyn's brother, Mike, who was able to escape his second floor classroom unhurt. Sister of Michael Gnoffo, cousin of Joe Bonadonna and Vivian Guercio.
Colleen GriffinGirlKSister of Kevin, Terry and Connell Griffin.
Susan HandschiegelGirl5KSister of Catherine, James, Regina and Thomas Handschiegel.
Kara HartmanGirl5KSister of Marie and Ramona Hartman.
Paula JerardGirl5KSister of Arther Jerard.
Anthony LombardoBoy5KBrother of Teressa Lombardo and cousin of Philip Tampone.
Tom MargheroneBoy5KTom transferred to a public school after the fire. Today [2003] he lives in Arizona, where he owns a restaurant.
Marianne?GirlK(Last name unknown)
Patrick J. McGeeBoy5K“As fate would have it, I had my tonsils out the day before the fire, and was off sick the day of the fire. My cousin, Anthony Fiorita, was in the fourth grade and made it out fine.” Cousin of Anthony Fiorita.
Elaine Ann MinervaGirl5KElaine “Attended Mary Hall during the morning session. Our teacher was Sister Mary St. Denise. I remember I was at home when my mother received a phone call from a neighbor friend, (Grace Noverini) that the school was on fire. I then remember my mom leaving me with my grandmother and rushing to the school to find my brother, Peter Minerva, who was in 2nd grade and escaped without injury. I also can remember my parents returning in the evening to see if they could help in any way. That was a day that I and [my] family will never forget. [Today, 2015] I live with my husband in Horicon, WI and have three children and one granddaughter.” Sister of Peter Minerva.
Colleen O'BrienGirlKSister of William and Maureen O'Brien.
John OriBoy5KJohn attended morning Kindergarten, and was therefore at home when the fire broke out.
Joan PerryGirl5KSister of Kathy, Margaret and Mary Ann Perry, cousin of Barbara, Carolyn and Dorothy Perry.
Dennis PesoliBoyKBrother of Elaine and Frank Pesoli.
Jerry PiscopoBoy5KJerry was not in school on the day of the fire. He was at home with his parents and 3-year-old brother, Steve, when they heard bout the fire and ran to the school. His brother Michael, a 1st grader on the first floor, escaped unharmed, as did his cousin Mike Guzaldo in room 201. But his brother, Frank, died in Room 212, and cousin Frances Guzaldo died in Room 211.
Michael PreteBoy6KBrother of Joseph Prete and cousin of August and Joseph Scolaro.
Marty RaymondBoyKSon of James Raymond, brother of Mary Kay, Robert, Thomas and John Raymond.
Sharon RomanGirl5KSharon lived with her grandparents and mother on Iowa Street, about three blocks from OLA. When her grandmother heard about the fire, she left Sharon's 3-year-old sister sleeping in the house to go search for Sharon. As it turned out, a neighbor found Sharon and took her home. From Sharon's other sister, Janet: “We all grew up hearing all the stories from my grandmother. My sister Sharon has never really talked about the fire.” Today [2003] Sharon has two sons and a daughter, and one grandson. She lives in the southwest suburbs of Chicago.
Susan RooneyGirl5K
Linda SchratzmeierGirl5KOn the day of the fire, Linda's brother, Tom escaped from room 205 and ran to Mary hall to find his little sister, Linda. He then walked her to their home on Thomas/Kedsie, because their parents were at a funeral. Sister of Thomas Schratzmeier.
James SenorskiBoy5KBrother of Lorraine, Andrew and Mary Senorski.
Adele SmithGirl5KAdele was in the afternoon class and remembers Sister Remi talking to another nun. “Shortly afterwards we were all asked to put on our coats and boots and sit quietly. I remember an older girl always walked me home and she came without any coat on; her hands were clutching her arms to help keep her warm as it was really cold outside. When we got to the corner, she told me over and over not to look back, but I distinctly remember all of the commotion and the smell of wood burning and smoke. My mom was nine months pregnant with my youngest sister, and we lived on the very last street of the school boundary (Homan Avenue). With only 1 car in the family, and her not being able to run to the school, we were lucky that my dad was working in the area and came looking for us. He took us home and my parents kept me from watching television for months afterwards as there was so much coverage about the tragedy. I stayed at OLA and graduated in 1967. I now live in Darien with my husband and son.”
Robert SpidaleBoy5KBob had already gone home from school when the fire started. A few of his friends had older siblings that were either hurt or among the fatalities. He attended Cameron School for first grade and returned to the new OLA school for second grade.
Michael StobierskiBoy5KMichael currently [2021] lives in Surprise, Arizona with his wife, Josephine Mole. They have no children. Brother of Kathleen Stobierski.
Donna TalianiGirl5K“[I] loved Sister Remi, she was very sweet and loved to teach. She led us out of the building and kept us from being so frightened. I remember we all held hands going outside and she said not to look back.” Sister of Debbie Taliani.
Louis TestaBoy5K“I was in Kindergarten when the fire broke out. We were let out sooner, before the older kids.”
Michael WhittakerBoy5KMichael is married and has three grown daughters. Brother of Teresa Whittaker.
Michael WiszBoy5KMichael later married and raised a son and daughter, and had one grandson. He passed away on November 27, 2016. Brother of Wayne Wisz.
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Joseph Hall
About This Classroom:
This was a separate building from the main school, located south of the church on Hamlin Ave.
NameBoy/GirlAgeGradeAbout This Person
Sister Mary Ann Marie?Teacher1(If you can verify whether or not this was the teacher in this classroom, please contact webmaster.)
Barbara AndreoliGirl1Barbara escaped without injury. Sister of Gerry and Randy Andreoli.
James ArenaBoy1Brother of Alan Arena.
James BarlettaBoy61James remembers someone's mom coming into his classroom and saying the main school was on fire. “They lead us out and walked us through the alley to our homes. There was lots of smoke and it was like a volcano with rolling smoke over our heads.” In 1959, his family moved from their home on Hamlin Ave, across the street from the church, to Des Plaines, where he lived until his marriage in 1985. After that, he lived in Mt. Prospect for 33 years with his wife Gloria, where they raised two daughters, Victoria and Francesca. James retired in 2017 and is currently [Nov 2018] living in Hawthorn Woods. He loves spending time with his two grandaughters. Cousin of Linda Barletta.
Joseph BonadonnaBoy61“If I had been born in December of 1951, instead of January of 1952, I would have been in second grade on December 1, 1958, which means I would have been in the main building on Avers and Iowa. Instead, I was in 1st grade at Joseph Hall down the street on Hamlin Ave. Dumb luck that I wasn't in the fire? Or the Hand of God? I believe that God had not intended me to be in 2nd grade, in the main building, on the tragic day.” Cousin of Michael and Madelyn Gnoffo
Anthony BrocatoBoy1
Marilyn ChrzasGirl61Marilyn later married and became the mother of three and grandmother of 9. She passed away on October 20, 2011. Sister of Joan Chrzas.
Richard CozzolaBoy61Rick's first grade classroom was on the second floor of Joseph Hall.
Nancy DegidioGirl61“I was in first grade on the second floor of one of the [Hamlin Street] buildings. On the day of the fire, my mother was walking to school to pick me up. Meanwhile, in our classroom, we heard the many sirens and as was the custom, stopped what we were doing to say a 'Hail Mary'. As my mother approached our building, she noticed the sky filling with black smoke and raced up to the classroom and in her broken English, tried to tell Sr. Serena that the main school building was burning. Sister did not understand what my mother was trying to tell her, but allowed me to leave early. I recall that after the fire, there was no 'counseling' and we really did not discuss what had happened. We later attended Our Lady Help of Christians parish school for a while, and then my group was sent to John Hay public school for the next two years.”
Dorothy DeGrootGirl61Dorothy was in first grade in the building down the street. Her sister, Mary Joy, in second grade, and brother Clifford, in eighth grade, were both in the main building. Clifford was burned, but Dorothy and Mary Joy were not physically harmed and all three survived. Dorothy remembers waiting in the Red Cross truck for someone to pick her up from school, and finally a neighbor did. Sister of Mary Joy and Clifford DeGroot.
Patty DooleyGirl51Patty escaped without injury. As she recalls, “It was almost the end of the school day and I remember a few moms running into our classroom hysterically crying. They told us that the school was on fire. Many of the students in my class were upset because they had older brothers or sisters in [main] the school building. Our teacher told us to kneel and say a prayer. My mom and other moms then began arriving. My mom walked me to stay at the Baby Shop on Chicago Ave. where my aunt worked. She then went to the scene of the fire to help walk students home. When my mom returned home that evening, everything that she was wearing reeked of smoke.”
Anthony EppolitoBoy61Tony was in a separate building and therefore was uninjured. While evacuating from their classroom, Tony wandered onto the streets where so many firetrucks were parked and people were scrambling. He was looking for his cousin. It wasn't until a firefighter grabbed him and told him to “run away and don't look back”. He was one of many students that subsequently transferred out of OLA school. Cousin of Nancy Courtney.
Marianne GrecoGirl61“I remember this day like it was yesterday. My Uncle lived to the north of Mary & Joseph Halls. The nuns brought us out of the school and onto his driveway to wait to be picked up. We heard sirens and the sky was black. To this day, so many of us are still friends [with] a bond that can't be broken.”
Matthew JamesonBoy61Matt lived across Hamlin due east of the church. He was not injured.
Linda KatzmarekGirl61From Linda's sister, Ann: “Linda and her sister Ann both attended OLA. Ann was in the main building. Both survived. Life [was] forever changed after that day. Our friend Millicent Corsiglia perished in the fire. The neighborhood was never the same. Within 2 years, everyone had moved away. We were told that God needed new Angels, and he only took the best kids. After they started busing the survivors to various other schools, we were told to never speak of the fire, I assume so as not to upset anyone.” Linda passed away in 2005. Sister of Ann Katzmarek.
Richard KearneyBoy61Richard suffered no injury and today [2010] is a Chicago Police Officer. “While working in the Special Operations Sections, I would often return to the site of Our Lady of the Angels School. I remember on the day of the fire being released [from school] when news of the fire spread. I was walking northbound on Hamlin heading to my home (382 N. Hamlin). On the way, I saw my Mother running southbound on Hamlin. She grabbed me by the arm and we headed back towards the school. My brother, Tom, was in second grade. I remember going to various places with my Mom trying to find my brother. I remember heading to St. Anne's hospital looking for him. In the early part of the evening we located him at one of the houses near the school. For our family, all was well.

When I was working in Special Operations, I would often drive by Kell's field on Chicago and Kedzie. I remember playing little league with many of the guys I grew up with, who continued at Our Lady of the Angels and graduated from there.”

Carol KingGirl61Carolyn's three older siblings were in the main school building. Bill, a 7th grader, was sick that day, Mary, a 4th grader, escaped from the first floor, but her brother Joey died in Room 212. Today [2020], Carolyn is married to a David Zverow and they have two sons. Sister of Joseph, William and Mary King.
Krystyna KarbowskiGirl61
Nora LaBatiGirl61Nora and her cousin, Michael, were taken into a nearby home. Sister of Lorraine LaBati, cousin of Michael Mason.
Elizabeth ManganelloGirl1Sister of John Manganello. Elizabeth escaped without injury. After lunch, Elizabeth's brother, John, would walk her to the corner and watch her walk to her building before he went into the school. John perished in room 212. “He is missed to this day.”
Michael MasonBoy61Michael has been a firefighter and holds the rank of lieutenant for over 24 years in the Chicagoland area. He is a well known author, lecturer and instructor for the fire service throughout the country. He is married with 2 children and lives in Downers Grove, IL. Michael is also an accomplished jazz flutist and has produced the only known music memorial dedicated to this fire and his fallen classmates entitled Angels of Fire on Southport Records. All proceeds from this CD are donated to the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance programs and burn camps for children and adolescence In Illinois.

Michael attended school with his 2 cousins, Nora in his 1st grade classroom in Joseph Hall, and Lorraine, a 5th grader in the main building. All escaped without injury. They were lead out of the buildings into the smoke filled streets but became separated and taken from the cold into local family residences. To this day, Michael remembers the smell and the chaos of fireman, fire engines, police, parents and bystanders as he scanned the crowd for his cousin Lorraine. He vaguely recalls waiting on the corner by the convent, across the street from the school, but does not remember who eventually took him home.

Charles PicardiBoy1
Jayne PorcaroGirl61Sister of Joyce Porcaro, cousin of Arlene Porcaro.
Thomas ProfitaBoy61Thomas' older sister Margaret, a 7th grader, escaped from the 2nd floor unharmed but his brother James perished in Room 210. Brother of James and Margaret Profita.
James SarantakosBoy61“I remember losing some of my friends in the fire, and I have always wondered what became of Kenny Travers. My family moved away from the neighborhood in 1959. I also remember visiting the school in the early 1980's -- it felt very strange to be there again.”
John StachuraBoy61John's older brother, Mark, perished in Room 210, despite his father's efforts to save him. His father was nevertheless hailed a hero for catching about 12 children who jumped from the 2nd floor. John currently [2021] lives in Barrington, IL with his wife Evelyn. He is the father of three daughters, Kelly and twins Anna and Heather. Ironically, the twins were born on December 1. Brother of Mark Stachura.
Michael VellerBoy1
Kathy WheelerGirl51“I only remember hearing fire trucks and our nun having us say a prayer as it passed and then someone ran in and told us the school was on fire. I have very little memory of that day. I do remember not wanting to watch the news for years after that. My Mom came to pick me up from school with my baby sister. My Dad heard about it on the radio at work and had a difficult time getting home. We moved the following summer.”
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Room A
About This Classroom:
This classroom was located in the southwest corner of the south wing basement, adjacent to both Iowa Street and Avers Avenew. It was directly below rooms 101 and 201.
NameBoy/GirlAgeGradeAbout This Person
Sister Mary Jean CecilleTeacher4
Mary BuzzancaGirl83Mary was at home the day of the fire, having been severly poked in the eye by her younger sister. After the fire, she was enrolled at Orr public school, and never returned to Catholic schools. Mary recalls that her father attended OLA, graduating in approximately 1940. “He was an altar boy and remembers cleaning the school and how much wax and polish buildup there were on the floors.”
Marie FormagusGirl83Marie escaped physical injury but has never gotten the sights and sounds of that day out of her head. “If it wasn't for Rocco Longo I dont think my room would have known what was going on. We never heard an alarm, Rocco just noticed kids standing outside and told our nun. Sr Mary Jean Cecil went out of the room and told us to calmly go outside. I was one of the lucky ones that day, my cousin was not. Thank you to Rocco and Sister for saving our class that day.”
Judy GiambalvoGirl83
Ann KatzmarekGirl83“I remember Sister telling us to leave the building. We could not really hear the fire alarm down in our classroom, but for some reason, Sister heard it. It was freezing outside, but we all lined up and went across the street to the front of the convent. Something seemed wrong when they started telling us to go home and the sound of sirens started. We had no coats. As I started walking towards the corner, I looked at the side of the school and flames were everywhere. Suddenly, I was more scared than cold. I made it to Chicago Ave. when someone stopped me, and offered to call my mom. I wasn't supposed to talk to strangers, but the cold won. I borrowed a dime to make the call, and still owe a dime to that very kind shopkeeper. Things become a nightmare after that, as we found out one of the neighborhood kids was not accounted for. My dad called the family to offer to drive them to the morgue; the TV was running names and showing the pictures of the fire. It was chaos. The missing child was Millicent Corsiglia. She never came home and the whole neighborhood died that day. I was only 8 years old, and even at that age, I could feel the sadness cover the whole area.” Sister of Linda Katzmarek.
Rocco LongoBoy103Rocco escaped without injury. He graduated from OLA in 1964 and later went on to become a pharmacist. He married and had three children - Laura, Anthony, and Marian. He passed away at age 41.
Andrew SenorskiBoy93Andrew escaped without injury. Brother of Lorraine, James and Mary Senorski.
Gail WankowskiGirl83Gail escaped without injury. “I was in a classroom in the basement. We got out quickly because we were right near a door to the outside. I remember just starting to read in a new reader. I was standing. Then we heard about the fire. We all just left the classroom and went right out the door. We were lucky because the door was very close. We couldn't take our coats and it was cold outside. At first we were told to go into the church and wait. Then they told us to go home. On my way home I met my mother. She was coming for us. She hugged me under her coat because I was so cold. Then she told me to go home. She had to go and get my sister who was in first grade. All that night we watched on tv about the fire. Our relatives called us to see if my sister and I were ok.$rdquo;
Philip ZangaraBoy83Philip escaped without injury. “I was very lucky and had no injuries that day but I still carry that day with me and always will. As we stood across the street and watched, we had no idea of what was happening or why. Smoke, fire, children falling - everyone crying. Just before the fire, parents had been in that classroom, for parent teacher meetings. Knowing that I was in the basement, and the first report stated that the fire started in the basement, my father heard it on the radio and had no way of knowing if I was ok. He suffered a heart attack,and I lost him tem months later. There where many other victims of that day in our neighborhood, outside of the school building. I pray for them one and all.
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Room B
About This Classroom:
This classroom was located in the northwest corner of the south wing basement, adjacent to Avers Avenue and the school courtyard. It was directly below rooms 102 and 202.
NameBoy/GirlAgeGradeAbout This Person
Sister Mary St. XavierTeacher4
Dolores ArenaGirl94Dolores escaped without injury.
Doug BartoloBoy94
Tom ChieroBoy4Tom escaped without injury.
Gary ComoBoy94Gary escaped without injury. “We moved into the neighborhood in the summer of 1958. I did not know many classmates as the new school year approached. The day of the fire, at about 2:30 I was told by Sister Xaiver to empty the trash. Another classmate accompanied me, and for years I thought it was Tommy August. Over the last couple of years I have been in contact with Tom Chiero and in our conversations we discovered that we were the ones told to empty the trash. He also thought he was with someone else. We emptied the trash near the boiler room and stalled a bit before deciding to go back to class. As we made that decision the fire alarm sounded. While at the boiler room we neither saw or smelled anything unusual, so in our mind the fire alarm sounding could only mean a fire drill. Not knowing what was truely happening I was delighted at the thought of a fire drill as it surely would take up the few remaining minutes of the school day.

“Tom and I walked back toward our classroom which was adjacent to the designated exit. As soon as the cold air hit me I recall hearing the cries for help. We obediently walked across the street and stood on the SE corner of Avers and Iowa, for what seemed an eternity. I remember a fire engine pulling up and firemen jumping off well before it came to a stop. We were then told that we were to walk over to the church. When we were about half the way there someone grabbed my shoulder. I turned to see that it was my dad. He took me to our apartment at 1031 N. Avers and left me with the landlady. As did many other parents, my dad went back to the school to help.”

John CurcioBoy83
George CutroBoy94George escaped without injury, thanks to being in the basement classroom.
Judy MeisingerGirl94Judy escaped without injury. “I was very fortunate to have been in room B the day of the fire; I remember Sister Xaiver looked confused when the bell rang, she walked accross the hall to room A for a few seconds and then returned and told us not to get our coats, as we normally did on winter days for a fire drill, and to exit the building, that this was a surprise fire drill. It wasn't until we were across the screet and facing the school did we realize the school was actually on fire.

“My memories of OLA and my classmates are treasures. I granduated eighth grade in 1963 and have managed to keep in contact with quite a few of my classmates; we have done a few class reunions over the years and everytime we are together it is as if we have never been apart. We are all survivors of that tragic day and we miss the friends we lost at such a young age, not really understanding the loss until we became older and truly realized that our little friends were never coming back. I truly feel the bond we all have is, in part, the loss we all shared, and knowing that it was only by the grace of God that we survived.”

Rebecca MorrisseyGirl94Rebecca escaped without injury and today [2007] lives in Elk River, Minnesota. She is married, has two grown children and a granddaughter.
Robert J. PalesBoy4Robert escaped without injury. Later, upon becoming a student at Lewis College, he discovered the school had a student volunteer fire department. He joined immediately, largely because of his experience at OLA in 1958. In 1969 he was named chief of that student volunteer fire department.
Louis PasquesiBoy94Louis escaped without injury. “Our classroom was located in the basement. When the fire alarm was sounded we lined up just as we had practiced and filed out onto Iowa Street. We stood across the street by the convent, thinking that it was a surprise fire drill. Unfortunately, the horror of the situation was before our eyes as we watched in helpless sadness. I learned later that day that my best friend Paul died in the fire. Many of my friends perished. My family thanked God that I was assigned to a classroom in the basement. My brother Jim was on the second floor in a fifth grade classroom and jumped onto the fire escape and made it out without injury.” Today [2004] Lou lives in the western suburbs with his wife Barb and three sons. He is a graduate of St. Ambrose College and Ballstate University. For the last 30 years, he has worked in Human Resources for Gonnella Baking Co. Brother of James Pasquesi.
William QuinlanBoy94William escaped without injury. Today [2007] he lives in Orland Park, IL, and works for Loyola University Medical Center. Brother of Jack Quinlan.
Mary Kay RaymondGirl4Mary Kay escaped without injury. In 1978, she married Ronald Masco Sr., and together they raised two children, Susan and Ronald Jr. She also became a grandmother and great-grandmother before passing away on September 30, 2019. Daughter of James Raymond, sister of Robert, Thomas, John and Marty Raymond.
Loralei SaraniecGirl94Loralei escaped without injury. A Neighbor took her into their home where she contacted her family. “When I was picked up I could see the school on fire.”
Dennis SkinderBoy94Dennis escaped without injury. "We had no idea that the building was on fire until we got outside and saw the smoke and flames." Today [2003], Dennis lives in Chicago with his wife and two children. Cousin of Don, Diane and Ray Traynor.
Louis TatoneBoy114Louis, who had recently immigrated from Italy and was held back while mastering English, escaped without injury. Cousin of Mariann Siragusa.
Diane ZaworskiGirl94Diane escaped without injury. “I now live in Stockbridge, Geoegia and have two grandchildren. Our class escaped without injury. I left my eye glasses on my desk and there was an article about that in the paper. Later, a man showed up with frames and money for new ones.”
Gerald Allan “Al” ZochowskiBoy84Al left the school and was no where near the fire scene. He now [2003] lives in Yuma, Arizona with his wife, Carol, their two children and four grandchildren. Brother of Thomas Zochowski.
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Room 101
About This Classroom:
This classroom was located in the southwest corner the the first floor of the south wing, adjacent to both Iowa Street and Avers Avenue.
NameBoy/GirlAgeGradeAbout This Person
Sister Mary St. Florence CaseyTeacherSister St. Florence, the school principal, and was substituting for Sister Mary Edgar on the day of the fire. She escaped without injury.
Alan ArenaBoy83Alan escaped without physical injury. “I have no memory of the first three months of that school year. I do remember Sr. Mary St. Florence, our principal, teaching us that day. I have been told that Sr Mary Edgar (Smedgar as she was referred) was our teacher but I couldn't tell you that at all. I do remember the alarm sounding; the surprised look on Sr. Mary St Florenceís face. Then she said that we weren't supposed to have a fire drill that day and that we were to stay in our seats. She left the room for a few minutes to find out why the alarm was sounding. When she returned she hurriedly rushed us out of our classroom and down the stairs adjacent to our room and to the outside sidewalk. After a few seconds of initial confusion we were told to go into the church. The church was dark and cold. We all started praying out loud. Soon my Aunt Josephine walked up and down the main aisle of the church collecting any of the Arena, Campana, and De Moon clan (my cousins -- I had at least one cousin in every grade) she could find and hustled over to Grandma's house, which was across the street from the church. There we took turns calling home to let our mom's know we were OK.” Brother of James Arena.
Annette CarbonaGirl83Annette escaped without injury along with her brother, Michael, who was a 6th grader in Miss Coughlin's class. She later graduated from Holy Name Cathedral. Today [2003], she is married, with two children, and resides in a Chicago northwest suburb. Sister of Michael Carbona.
Orlando CiucciBoy103Orlando excaped without injury. He and his family moved into the neighborhood from Italy just weeks before the fire. Brother of Rita Ciucci.
Maria CompianiGirl83Maria escaped without injury, as her room was right next to the exit. "I was a student of Sr. Mary Edgarís class, room 101, and was 8 years old, in 3rd grade. I graduated from Mundelein College on Sheridan Rd, with a BA in English. I have my own home in Palatine and no children. I am very thankful to be alive today!!!!"
Lois DiPompeoGirl83Lois escaped without injury. "I escaped without physical injury but can remember the sights, sounds and smells of that day as if it were yesterday. I will never forget its horror. We were getting our coats from the cloakroom when the fire alarm sounded. I will never forget the look on Sister Mary St. Florence's face. As principal of the school, she had no idea what was happening. None of us did. We hurried out the door, most of us without our coats and pushed ourselves down the stairs. Our assigned area was in front of the convent and as I turned around I saw the thick, black smoke pouring out of the second-floor windows. I heard the screams of the students at the windows.

“The first fire truck to arrive stopped in front of the rectory and as a fireman ran to the door we screamed, 'The fire's over here. The fire's over here.' After more fire trucks arrived, the nuns herded us into the church to pray. While in the church we heard the roof collapse, the students screaming, parents calling out the names of their children. The smell of smoke permeated the air. It was a living hell.

“For years I lived with the guilt of being a survivor, but eventually realized my reason for surviving. As a journalist, I've been able to write about the school fire, helping to heighten awareness of fire safety. Also, as a school board member of a suburban high school district for the past ten years, I've served as an advocate for safe schools by supporting health and life/safety referenda, urged state legislators to lift health and life/safety mandates out from under the tax cap, and talked to students whenever asked about fire safety.

“After graduating from OLA in 1964, I attended Madonna High School and went on to Northern Illinois University to earn a degree in journalism. I've worked as a journalist since 1972 and have been an active PTA volunteer for more than 20 years, serving on the Illinois PTA State Board of Managers in the late '90s. Married for 30 years, my husband and I have a daughter, 25, and a son, 21." Sister of Rick DiPompeo.

Joseph DumovichBoy83Joe escaped without injury. He later attended St. Mel High School and then joined the Des Plaines Fire Department. He recently retired after 28 years with the department, and now lives in South Carolina with his wife, Jane.
Sister Mary EdgarTeacherSister Mary Edgar was absent the day of the fire and was therefore uninjured.
Lana EspositoGirl3Sister of David and Linda Esposito, cousin of Don Muscolino.
Linda EspositoGirl3Sister of David and Lana Esposito, cousin of Don Muscolino.
Dominic FlorioBoy83Dominic escaped without injury, along with his sister, Celeste. Celeste passed away at the age of 41 and has a daughter and a grandson. Dominic is married with one daughter and lives in Lake In The Hills. Cousin of Cynthia Campagna.
Jonathan Leonard FrigaBoy83Jonathan escaped without injury. He later attended East Leyden High School and the Chicago Conservatory of Music. He adopted the stage name Jonathan Cain, and went on to a successful musical career with the band “Journey”, among others. Today, he is married and the father of three children. He wrote and performed a special song, “The Day They Became Angels”, for the 50th Anniversary Mass on November 30, 2008. He is currently [2019] married to TV minister Paula White, and regularly appears on her show.
John GrizzoffiBoy83John escaped without injury. He later attended Weber High School, joined the U.S. Marine Corp and fought in Vietnam. After his military service, he joined the Chicago Police Department. John lives in Chicago with his wife, Vicki.
Ramona HartmanGirl83Ramona escaped without injury. “I was in room 101. Our room was right next to the front door of the school. The fire alarm went off and we all walked out of the room in an orderly fashion, down a few stairs and out the front door -- we thought it was just a fire drill. We lined up across the street and were laughing and joking, not realizing what was about to happen. I remember looking up and seeing boys on the second floor, three of them hanging out the windows yelling, help. But it wasn't a frantic cry for help -- just saying 'help, help.' After that, I remember the streets being flooded with fire trucks, people, and chaos.

I remember stepping over fire hoses. People were running and looking for their children. My aunt found me and just quickly walked me into someone's apartment building foyer and said, 'Just stay here.' I stayed in that foyer for a long time with my cousin. My aunt was going back to try to find my sister, Marie Hartman. Her classroom was room 210 on the second floor.

My mother could see the smoke miles away and knew exactly what was happening. She was not told by anyone the school was on fire. She said she just knew the smoke was from the school. She ran for miles with my little brother on her hip until she got there. My mother and aunt were told that the children who survived were rushed to nearby hospitals. I remember driving from one hospital to another and waiting in the emergency rooms as names were called of the deceased and the children who had been admitted. Parents held their breath as each name was called. Parents screamed and collapsed when their child's name was called. We couldn't find my sister. Finally, they announced her name at cook county hospital. She was alive, but badly burned. We almost lost her a couple of times.

We all got out safely and went on to the new Our Lady of Angels. We were shuffled around to various public schools until the new school was finished. I will never forget Sister Mary Edgar. She was so mean. She beat a lot of students including me. That is what I remember most about this class. That is really a shame, but Sister Mary Edgar hurt a lot of children. I will never forget her either.

Today [2010], I live in Palatine, IL, and also in Powers Lake, WI and Sarasota Fla. I went to Sienna High School for one year and moved out to the western suburbs and finished high school there. I am a retired Realtor with three children and one grandchild. I will never forget.” Sister of Marie Hartman.

Joseph KarkoszkaBoy83Joseph escaped without injury. He later graduated from Lane Technical H.S. He retired from the Air Force after 25 years as a Bomb Squad Specialist. He is currently employed as a civilian contractor doing explosives work worldwide. Brother of Christina and Henry Karkoszka.
Frank LombardoBoy83Frank escaped without injury. Today [2003], Frank is married, has three children and two grandchildren, and lives in Palatine, Illinois.
Michelene MichalsGirl83Michelene escaped without injury. “I remember looking for my good friend, Judy Mika to be certain that she was okay. She was safe and looking for her brother, and he was uninjured. Of all the memories of that day, the fact that my mother found me amidst all the confusion is still a miracle to me.”

Michelene moved to South Dakota in 1963, and so did not graduate with her OLA class. Today [2003] she lives in the western suburbs with her husband of 31 years. They have two children in college.

Michael PadulaBoy83Michael escaped without injury. Today [2006] he lives in Gurnee, IL, and works for RR Donnelley in Bannockburn, IL. He and his wife, Lisa, have two children, Sarah and Anthony. Brother of Carol Padula.
John PellettiereBoy83John escaped without injury. John later married Janice Pomilia, a survivor of room 102. Today, John and Janice live in Long Grove, Illinois.
Mark RizzoBoy83Mark escaped without injury. “We lined up on Avers next to the convent after the fire alarm went off. I remember seeing black smoke coming from the south west windows of the school as we looked at it on Iowa. I remember running home without my coat. When I got home, my father, who worked evenings at the Tribune, asked what I was doing home a little early. He did not believe me when I told him the school was on fire. After the second time I told him he believed me. My sister, Donna, was in one of the buildings on Hamlin and could not be found for quite a while. Luckily she was taken in by someone on Avers. My dad found her that evening.”

Today Mark is a financial representative residing in Elgin, IL. He is philosophical about the fire: “Even though the fire was tragic, it helped to make me a survivor. I realize that no matter how bad things appear, some good will come of it eventually. A few years ago the school district wanted to close our neighborhood school that was built in the early 1900s. It is very similar to OLA. One of my clients worked for Neighborhood Housing Services and I asked him for his input. He wrote a letter that stated that when neighborhood anchors are removed the neighborhood tends to decay. I read that letter to the school board as well as stating that my observations of the OLA neighborhood reflecting that decay after the fire. With other people's input to the school board, the board decided to keep the school open. Two years later a multimillion dollar addition was added to the old building. Six new classrooms and a multipurpose gym was added.

“A person can only control how to react to a tragic event, not feel guilty about surviving, even though years later we come to realize that the nuns were wrong when they said 'God took the good ones.' He took those who fulfilled their life's work and left the rest of us to do ours, to the best of the ability that He gave us.” Brother of Donna Rizzo.

Joseph ScolaroBoy73Joe escaped without injury and returned home with his 7th-grade brother, Augie, who lost several classmates. Joe led some of his classmates to safety during the fire. He attended St. Mel and later went on to earn his MBA from what is now Benedictine University. Joe and his wife Jean reside in Naperville and presently have two children in college. Brother of August Scolaro, cousin of Joseph and Michael Prete.
Carol ShabelGirl83Carol escaped without injury. She and her classmates were calmly led out in single file line by the principal. What she thought is just a fire drill turned out to be the real thing.
Frank SpurnyBoy3
Dan TagliaBoy73Dan escaped without injury. " I remember when the alarm went off some of us commented that it probably meant we were going to get free ice cream. We had no idea what it was about. When we got into the hallway, I saw smoke and kids coming down the stairs. Our room was right by the exit to Iowa street, so we got out fast. I stood in front of the convent and watched until a friend of the family found me and took me home.

“My mother was on Congress Expressway at the time and heard of the fire on the radio, and never remembered how she ever got home. Besides myself, I had two older sisters in the school. She knew that three kids in a school that small, with the death toll rising as she drove, that there was not much of a chance that we would all get out safely. We did get home safely and when my mother got home later, she came to the back door of the house, and when my Dad opened the door, she just said, 'Which one?'. I'll never forget that moment.

“My thoughts and prayers are with all the victims and families who shared a loss." Today [2003], Dan is the owner and operator of the American Robotics Academy. "We teach kids from 1st grade through High School how to make and design remote/computer controlled miniature robots using all Lego materials. If anyone would like to contact me, that would be fine. I can be reached through our website at www.RoboticsAcademy.com." Dan lives in Houston with his wife and 16 year old son.

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Room 102
About This Classroom:
This classroom was located on the first floor of the south wing, adjacent to Avers Avenue and the small courtyard that separated the north and south wings of the school.
NameBoy/GirlAgeGradeAbout This Person
Miss TaddeoTeacher2
Sandra AmatoGirl72Sandra escaped without injury. "I witnessed many horrible things. We were escorted into the church for awhile, then were told to go outside. Because of the cold, my girlfriend and I went into an apartment building entrance where we were found by my very frantic mother. My mother was notified by our dear neighbor, Gloria, who was an 8th grader and was one of the few that escaped her classroom. Our family moved out of the neighborhood several months later. I remember the smell of the fire. After the fire, I can remember going through smoke damaged clothes collected from the buildings. I cannot have candles in my home and I am always very aware of fire exits." Today [2003], Sandra lives with her husband in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She has worked for the Veterans Affairs Hospital for 31 years.
Gail CalabreseGirl72Gail escaped without injury. “I remember standing outside the school in the fire drill position watching the kids jumping out of the windows on fire, all the chaos of the fire department and the smell of the smoke and the screams. It was so cold, and we just had our uniforms on. I didn't know my way home....and started crying, and some teenagers took me home.”
Pamela CorsigliaGirl72Pam and her older sisters, Millicent and Gail, went home for lunch that day. Pam was afraid of getting in trouble by crossing guard Aurelius Chiappetta, who teased her and sister Millie about reporting them for not crossing the street with him. She faked a tummy ache and stayed home for the rest of the day while Millie smiled and waved to her as she returned to school. While Gail was able to escape from her second floor classroom unharmed, Millicent and Aurelius were both killed in Room 211. Pam and her mother remembered hearing fire trucks, but Gail's call to home was the first notification they had that the school was on fire. Sister of Millicent and Gail Corsiglia.
Darlene DellaGirl2Darlene escaped without injury. Sister of Frank Della.
Mary KonleyGirl72Mary escaped without injury and today [2003] lives in a western suburb of Chicago. Says Mary: “Our fire drill position was directly across Iowa Street, in front of the convent. We had to stand in our fire drill position and watch all the chaos. We were eventually taken into the convent, but then dismissed after a very short time ... My mother was in a panic because I didn't come home right away ... [she] eventually found me waiting with my friend's mother. I was definitely one of the lucky ones.” Sister of Sally Konley.
Carol KoziolGirl72From Carol: “I was one of the children that was home sick the day of the fire. My family moved the next year, but the memory of the fire stayed with my mom all her life. She mentioned it every year on the anniversary date. We moved to Norridge, and there was another family in Norridge, the Kampanowski's, that lost two sons. Lately, it is amazing how many people I meet that lived in the neighborhood of OLA or had a family member perish in the fire. I now live in Elgin, Illinois with my husband and dog.”
Pamela KrajeckeGirl72Pamela escaped without injury, and without her coat. According to her younger sister, Susan, Pam went into a nearby apartment building on Iowa Street to get out of the cold. After hearing about the fire, her mom and younger sister rushed to the school, and eventually found her. Her father, Albert, was a police officer and helped save many children. Pam is currently [2021] living in Chicago, married to Sidney Pultorak, and has two sons, Matthew and Scott.
Janice PomiliaGirl72Janice escaped without injury. She later married John Pellettiere, a survivor of room 101. Sister of George Pomilia, cousin of Joanne, John and Mary Ellen Pettenon.
Mary Lynn SenorskiGirl72Mary Lynn escaped without injury. Sister of Lorraine, Andrew and James Senorski.
Donna ShillcuttGirl2Escaped without injury. Sister of Sally Shillcutt, cousin of Wayne, Carmine and Annamarie Castrovillari.
Linda VentrellaGirl72Linda escaped without injury.
Richard WojnickiBoy72Richard escaped without injury. “I don't have a great memory of what I saw that day, being only 7 years old, but enough to never forget. I sat in the back of the class, with a last name beginning with W, and remember being distracted by the shadows created by the smoke. The fire alarm rang and we filed quietly down the stairs to the sidewalk on Iowa Street just as we had practiced. We stood in our designated spot outside the building for a while but then moved into the church where other children had been directed. I remember the older girls hysterically crying and sobbing around me but I still did not have a grasp of the tragedy that was unfolding. Someone must have determined that such young children did not need to experience what we were witnessing so we were moved over to the convent and stood on the steps or in the hall of the convent. I watched as children, parents, fireman, and policemen were moving furiously about. I also saw a teacher and a fireman come down the fire escape on the front or side of the annex building. Their faces and clothes were covered with soot. I never saw the tragedy that was taking place on the other side of the annex building. Maybe it was God's way of protecting us.

“Finally, I was told to go home which was about 6 blocks away at Division and Monticello. I had no coat but did what I was told. Thankfully, I was intercepted by family friends who lived on the 1000 block of Hamlin where I stayed until my mother picked me up. It was a long and quiet walk back home. I will never forget the sadness I felt when I watched with my parents the mass held at the Armory on North Ave. It was very emotional time for my parents as they were friends with the Busiak family who lost their only child, Helen.

“In reading 'To Sleep With Angels' I discovered that a Lt. Stan Wojnicki CFD was with one of the first units to arrive. I don't know if we are related but this is something I am going to research.”

Richard's family continued to live in the neighborhood until 1964 but he did not return to OLA. He graduated from Weber High School and St. Joseph's College in Rensselaer Indiana. Today [2021] he is retired and enjoying time with his three grandchildren.

Frank ZacharkoBoy72Frank escaped without injury. Brother of George Zacharko.
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Room 103
About This Classroom:
This classroom was located on the south side of the first floor adjacent to Iowa Street, between the two Iowa Street exits. Carol Vitello recalls, “I believe I remember Ms. Herlihy was initially confused by the fire alarm. Normally, in winter during practice drills, there was a 'coat alarm' which allowed you to go and get a coat on before the actual fire drill. Then there was a pause and a second alarm was rung to signal the actual drill. This time, of course, the warning alarm was not given and therefore the teachers were uncertain if it was an actual fire. I believe that the teachers on the first floor met in the hallway only to determine this was the real thing.”
NameBoy/GirlAgeGradeAbout This Person
Miss Herlihy (Later Mrs. Garrett)Teacher2
Patricia AddanteGirl62Patricia escaped without injury.
Anita AntoniGirl72Anita escaped without injury. “I remember marching out and smelling smoke as we lined up outside. When I looked up at the school, the children were at the windows crying, coughing and waving for help. My mother left her car in the middle of the street on her way to pick me up and ran the rest of the way. I went to Orr school while the school was being rebuilt, however, we moved to the north side of Chicago in June of 1959. I have three children and three grandchildren. I graduated from Mundelein College as a teacher. I am a substitute teacher in the northwest suburbs. I now [2014] reside in Arlington Heights with my husband, Bill. We have been married for 41 years.”
Daniel ChambersBoy72Daniel escaped without injury. “I was able to get out of the building with no problems because of being in the south wing and on the 1st floor. I remember they took us into the church to pray. After that, somehow I wound up in a hallway of an apartment building on Hamlin, across from the Church. A lady (the landlord?) kept us locked inside. I guess she was trying to protect us.” Brother of Patrick Chambers.
James DiGiulioBoy2Jim escaped without injury.
Andrea GioffrediGirl72Sister of Dennis Gioffredi.
Connell GriffinBoy72From Connell: “We had just moved to the 'big' school from Joseph's Hall. I remember we had only been back from lunch a short time when the alarm sounded. I was wearing my first pair of slip-on shoes and panicked when I nearly left them behind as we started to file out. I found myself standing in front of the convent looking for my brothers. At some point an elderly Italian lady, dressed all in black and not much taller than me, asked if I knew where I lived and walked me home to Karlov Avenue. I will never forget her.” Connell retired from the Chicago Police Department in 1884 after 22 years of service. Today he is a real estate appraiser living in Lockport with his wife and two sons, Nate, born in 1998, Gabe, was born in 2000.
Valerie Jean JohnstonGirl72Valerie was absent the day of the fire. “I was home with the flu that horrific day. My Mother says it saved my life -- she always said I would have gone (or tried to go) back in to look for my brother. His room, 107, was just below one of the worse spots of the fire.” Valerie's mom was pregnant with child number six but ran all the way to the school on icy sidewalks, only to find firemen pouring water into the area of room 108. She passed out and someone helped her get into a warm house nearby.

“Sorry to say, I don't remember much about my classmates. Our room seemed so 'big' (high ceilings) to me. Sometime before the fire, our class had a talent show. I did a lip-sinc of 'Sittin' in the Back Seat with Fred' with 2 other girls. We dressed like the teens of the day and had a carved wooden 'microphone' to sing into. That is a sweet memory for me.”

OLA/58 has been a mission for me. I was not there that dreadful day, but I wish I had been. My little brother wouldn't have gone through all of it alone and maybe the ghosts of the fire wouldn't have haunted me all this time. I am now [2003] 52 and like my brother, I didn't talk about it. As children, we were told by the school authorities (teachers, priests, Monsignor etc) not to talk about it. We were also told very often, that the kids and nuns who died, died because they were the 'good ones.' I know for a fact that some kids were living in abusive homes already. So, that only pushed our self-esteem down deeper. The only person there that I remember being so very kind was Father Joe. He didn't laugh as much as he use to, but he still had time for us kids.

As it happened, when arrangements were made for the students to go to Our Lady Help of Christians for half days of school, I refused. We were to catch buses in front of our school and I was afraid that I would see all that my brother told me he saw and since the building was still there, we would have to look at it twice a day and on Sundays. (I refused to go to Mass for the same reason.) I was told by Mother Superior that I had to confess the number of Masses I missed because I would go to hell if I didn't. When I could finally go, maybe 6 weeks or so later, the ghosts were there. I could see them, smell them, and the windows were all out, soot and smoke above them. The picture I had in my head was worse, but the picture in front of me wasn't easy to live with. The WORST part of it all is no one was allowed to talk about it. After all, the 'good ones' were gone and we couldn't stain their memory.

The following school year, two of my brothers and I went to Cameron public school. I was in 4th grade by the time the new school was built. It made the headlines of the Chicago Sun Times on September 14, 1960. The reason I know the exact date is, my class was in the paper--Miss Frances Leach was my teacher.

When, as an adult, I started telling my friends, most of them never heard of it. Once in awhile, I would find someone who had heard of it, and not much else. My family moved to Indiana by the time I was 12, so I didn't hear any more about anything. But the ghosts still haunted---I had forgotten many, many things, which is typical of PTSD. (I even began to shake when I found this web site--I couldn't believe it.) Then I began to think other people had forgotten and it made me angry that the children and Nuns died, other children's lives had been ruined and some of us just couldn't bear it when the anniversary came around. I felt as if we had ALL been forsaken by our Church and people. I have written Oprah 3 or 4 times to ask her to do a program, and when Geraldo was on daytime, I called him too. But no one responded. I just wanted to know how everyone else was doing. I always thought of the other survivors and prayed for them, especially on the first of December.

Then I got a home computer and began to get on the EWTN web site. I had asked online if anyone remembered. I asked one of the experts if the children and Nuns would be considered Martyrs. No, he said, and gave the Catholic reason. I got one response from a lady whose Mother was a substitute teacher in school that day. Her sincerity was very much appreciated. A few days later, someone mentioned the book 'To Sleep With the Angels.' I got busy and looked for it. I called several numbers in the Catholic Chicago Diocese, but no one could help me find the book. I thought that if I could just see it all in print, I could chase my ghosts away. Finally, a very nice lady in one of the offices told me the 'Church' didn't approve the account of the authors, but told me where to find the now out of print book. I was able to get two. I sent one copy to my mother, and I kept one. Ironically, they arrived Nov 30, 2000. When I finally got my mother's copy to her (she lives in WI now), we made lots of calls back and forth, talked, cried etc. I began to write notes in my copy and now my best friend has it. I 'stopped' being Catholic about age 13 and made an attempt at returning to the Church two yrs ago. For totally unrelated reasons, I did not 'get back.' I thought it would be a reconcilliation, however, that was not to be.

Today, my neice in Chicago sent me an e-mail to tell me about hearing about WGN's recent story. I am greatful to WGN for being a becon on this tragedy. I saw the 50th anniversary of WGN and taped it---there was a report about the fire on it, and BOZO. Thank you WGN.

2007 Update: Today Valerie, married for 38 years, lives in Indiana, has two grown children and four grandchidren. Sister of Robert Johnston.

Glory MargotteGirl72
It's Almost 60 Years
By Glory Margotte

“As the date of December 1st comes closer, the triggers come fast and fury; restless nights, fresh crispy cold days, fireplacesí smells, and fire drills when the memories start flooding in.

It was almost 60 years ago, on a crispy cold and sunny morning, the Monday after Thanksgiving, a little girl of 7 walked morosely to school with her happily, chirpily and skipping sister of 6. Dragging her booted feet, she muttered, why didnít I studied my spelling test, praying for a way to get out of it somehow. All day, the little girl waited with dread, waiting, waiting to take a test she didnít study for. Then it was time Ö the papers were passed out, and it was time.

It was almost 60 years ago, when the fire alarm went off, what, why would it goes off now when school was about to end, never mind everyone get up, letís go, leave the papers behind, no time for outerwear, letís go, letís go. The little girlís second grade class was led outside by a young teacher, seeing, hearing children screaming, why are they screaming, never mind, go home, go home, frightened children running, running into the arms of shaken neighbors who opened their homes.

It was almost 60 years ago, the frightened little girl was taken in by a kindly middle aged woman who warmed her up with a mug of hot chocolate and an outgrown zipped spring jacket of her teenaged son to wear. The kindly woman then handed the little girl a big black phone receiver and told her to call home, no phone, to call home, no phone. I got to go, got to go, and the little girl ran and ran, how was she to get home, busy street, kept running, running. Around the corner, she ran, a big man grabbed her, carrying her, soothing her as she screamed, sobbing big copious tears all the way home. Her uncle, hearing of the commotion, fire engines and screams was on his way to see, to see all that was going on. Instead, he took his sobbing niece home.

It was almost 60 years ago, while ironing, the little girlís mother saw a public announcement on television, announcing the news of a school fire that her two little girls go to, frantic, frantic, wondering where her girls are, canít leave the two at home behind, wondering what she should do when the uncle came in with her sobbing girl of 7. He comforted the shaken mom, Iíll go looking for your other little girl.

It was almost 60 years ago, so many, so many running, running to the school, looking for their children, relatives, neighbors, children crying, screaming from the high second floor where ladders couldnít be reached. Children jumping into arms of catchers, falling to the ground or fearful of jumping. So many dying, dying. Meanwhile, the little girlís dad rang, rang doorbells after doorbells looking for his other little girl of 6, finally finding her that night sitting, watching, watching the horrific scene across the street.

It was almost 60 years ago, when it was all over and 92 students and 3 nuns died in that ghastly tragic fire at Our Lady of the Angels School, with the air smelling of dense smoke, the neighborhood filled with overwhelming sadness, overflowing tears, and why, why, why. The little girl of 7 tucked in bed by a relieved mom, asking, asking so many questions, what happened, why did it happened except the one with a black cloud of fear hovering over her wondering, wondering, was it the prayer said earlier that caused the fire.

It was almost 60 years ago, the neighborhood so subdued, the little girl of 7 went out to play the next day with friends nearby, walking to see the shell-shocked school building, remembering, remembering seeing a basementís room of long tables with neatly piles of papers and supplies, an art room? Only to find out later, a classroom about to be dismissed the day before. Why were they there? Were they told to go home? Why was it so easy to see the horribly burnt building, a little girl of 7?

It was almost 60 years ago, the next several weeks filled with enormous grief of funeral after funeral, children crying with massive pains in hospitals, and non-hurt children sent to school, first going half day to another Catholic school, then to one of three public schools with so many missing, so many missing. The little girl of 7 took the bus with her sister of 6 to a nearby high school situated on the third floor. So fearful, how to escape, students died on the second floor, what about the third floor? Checking, checking for ways out. Donít remember the learning but the whispering, the whispering about those poor children survivors. Days after days went by, Christmas was celebrated so somberly even for those who were blessed for there were so many, so many missing. The new year, the new year, so many changes, so much, so much sadness.

It was almost 60 years ago, minus a few years, a new school was built, with a big celebration of its opening, and now three little girls go to the school, a beautifully built school with doors going from classroom to classroom. Again checking, checking the next 4 years for ways to get out, first floor, then second floor. The trauma of fire never left the little girl now 9 and she broke out with a terrible skin rash, one by one friends dropping away, fearful of catching it, never forgetting of the one who said I got patches on my pants, you have patches on your knees, canít be your friend anymore, sobbing all way home to the comforting arms of her mother. So many, many families slowly moving away from memories not forgotten, hopefully to start anew. The young girl of 11 and her family moved, on to public schools with fire drills, trying to hold it together, hearing classmates wishing for a fire to get out of school and mumbling no you donít, no you donít, missing, missing the neighborhood she grew up.

It was almost 60 years ago, minus many years, the little girl growing up, now understood, it wasnít her fault the fire started but of a 10 years old boy who angrily threw matches into a basement trashcan that ran up the shellacked stairway to the second floor. Everything was hush-hush, and let move on, but laws were changed to make schools safer with fire doors, indoor fire alarms, fire drills, modernized fire trucks. And many survivors, young and old, were blamed for the money that had to be put into all those updates.

It was almost 60 years ago, minus many more years and the little girl of 7 is now a mother of 3, a SECA in a second grade classroom, her first school. It was a cold crisp day, the class was about to take a spelling test when the fire alarm went off, the first fire drill of the year. The little girl-in-the-SECA held it together as she helped escort the class outside. The alarm was so loud, so loud, and she trembled inside as she tried to hold it together. She barely helped the teacher bring the class back into the classroom, when she said I got to go, got to go, and ran into the bathroom with big copious tears rolling down. A teacher friend saw her, comforted her as the little girl-in-the-SECA sobbed her story in a monotone voice, telling her, telling her.

It was almost 60 years ago, minus a few more years, the SECA became a teacher and experienced many more fire drills, never knowing if or when it would trigger flashbacks but her students always came first, their safety, praying they would never experience what she did. But sadly many other students in many schools are experiencing not the trauma of matches but of bullets, with black clouds of memories hovering over them as long as they lived never knowing when and if the triggers will come, from firecrackers, thunders, carsí backfiring. They will never forget even when it becomes a blip in the news so many years later.”
Sister of Rosemary Margotte.

Betti MarinoGirl72Betti was in the washroom just before the alarm. “I stayed in the bathroom because I was scared and then the smoke started to fill the room and I ran out. I was running in the halls looking for my cousin, Joey Petruzzi. Could not find him and ran out of school unharmed. Joey was later found in the homes along Avers Ave. after midnight, unharmed.”

Today, Betti resides in Bartlett IL. Her husband, Bob, passed away in 2008. She has 2 grown children and 5 grandchildren. She works for Arrow/Zeus Electronics in Itasca. “Mary Frances Cerceo is my husband's cousin who was also a survivor and was in the same grade. I was reunited with her some years later while dating Bob.” Betti is currently serving as Acting President of Friends of OLA.

Dorothy MiceliGirl72Dorothy escaped without injury. She and her classmates marched out the building in a routine fire drill order. Her mother and younger sister ran to the school looking for her, finally finding her. Earlier in the day, she was walked to school by Joanne Sarno, who did not survive the fire.
Livio ParolinBoy82Livio escaped without injury. “Our station outside was at the corner of Iowa and Hamlin, across from the church.” Livio lived in the parish until 1969. He attended Gordon Technical High School with many other former OLA students. He attended the University of Notre Dame, and is today (2007) a practicing doctor of podiatry. He lives in River Forest, IL with Mary Ann, his wife of 31 years. They have four children, Elizabeth (Notre Dame), Kathryn (Princeton), Christpher (Santa Clara), and Thomas (Princeton). “Recently, while visiting Holy Family Church at Roosevelt and May Streets to book a wedding date for my oldest daughter, I saw a statue at the back of the church dedicated to the victims of the fire. I was told the statue was moved there when Our Lady of the Angels School was sold.” Livio passed away on January 1, 2021 following a heroic fight with cancer. He leaves a wife, four children and at least eight grandchildren. Brother of John Parolin.
Thomas PatrassoBoy72Tom escaped without injury, but lost his beloved sister Antoinette in room 212. Tom later lived in St. Charles, Illinois with his wife, Kathleen, and teenage twin daughters, Laura and Kimberlee. They also have an adult daughter, Jennifer, son in law, Jason and a granddaughter, Skylar. Tom was a Real Estate Attorney working from his own office in St. Charles. Tom passed away on October 23, 2020. Brother of Antoinette Patrasso.
Beth TrokaGirl72Beth escaped without injury. “We were reading at the end of the day [when] Miss Herlihy asked, 'Do you smell smoke?' Then the fire alarm sounded. We all stood and filed out the rear door of the classroom. Once in the hall I recall a rush of students running to the street exit door on Iowa. Our class then stood across the street from the church against the side of a building just east of the convent. I remember, as if it were yesterday, nuns coming out of the convent looking at the school covering their mouths and watching as one Sister raised her arms and dropped to her knees. A priest on the sidewalk was looking up and talking to the children who were at the 2nd floor windows Rooms 201, 203 or 205, perhaps. I remember a fire truck trying to get down the street (going west on Iowa) and a firefighter getting out of the truck directing cars and people out of the way so the fire truck could proceed. That truck might have been one that had responded to the call of the rectory being on fire. My mom, Joan Strickland Troka, OLA grad in 1944, told me she had heard on the radio the church was on fire so she started for the school thinking I'd be scared/lost in the confusion. I remember ladders being placed at the 2nd floor windows, maybe 201 or 205, and seeing some children climbing down and thinking how brave they were. I thought I would be too scared to be that high on a ladder. It's amazing what you remember!

“As we stood there others students were walking/running past us with what looked to me like dirt on their faces and shirts. Later I learned it was from the smoke. Being only 7 years old I understood the school was on fire, but didn't really understand the gravity of the situation. I was wondering if anyone else remembers children (who I thought fainted) being placed on the rectory lawn and seeing a priest wearing a purple stole bending over them?

“I do recall Miss Herlihy saying we should follow her and became worried that we would be walked away from the school. I usually walked home from school with my neighbor, Richard Wojnicki/survivor (Miss Taddeo's Room). I didn't see him and was scared I wouldn't be able to find my way home from a different location so I broke from the line and started running home (1100 N Monitcello block). On Hamlin I recall being stopped by an elderly couple who asked me if school was out so early. I just replied yes; I wanted to go home. I saw my mom running towards me on Thomas Ave. She scooped me up in her coat and we ran into a little corner grocery store on Thomas owned by Tony and his wife Maria. We briefly sat in their apartment in the back and listened to the news account on the radio. Tony wanted me to wear a coat home that belonged to his son, Sammy.

“The neighborhood became very somber. Going to the grocery store with my mom usually was sad because we'd see women who had lost their children. I recall my mom and whoever she spoke with starting to cry.”

Beth retired from the Chicago Police Department in 2015, where she was a Detective Sergeant.

John VainisiBoy62John escaped without injury. “I remember our teacher, Miss Herlihy (later Mrs. Garrett) and the look on her face the moment the alarm sounded. Some things are not ever forgotten.” John later graduated from Weber and Lewis University. Today he is a Sales and Purchasing Agent in Chicago and lives in Westmont, IL with his wife of 31 years, Florence. They are anticipating the birth of a second grandchild, to their son Frank and his wife Tracy. Their daughter, Amanda awaits the return of her husband, Tom, from military service. Brother of Frank Vianisi.
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Room 104
About This Classroom:
This classroom was located on the first floor of the south wing, next to the annex and overlooking the small courtyard that separated the north and south wings of the school.
NameBoy/GirlAgeGradeAbout This Person
Sister Mary FaustinaTeacher2
Teresa CribariGirl72Teresa doesn't recall which room she was in, but it was Sister Faustina's second grade class on the first floor. She escaped with only a scraped knee. Once outside the school, she watched second floor students jumping out of the windows. She was then taken along with her other classmates to a neighborhood house three blocks away. She waited there for a couple of hours until a neighbor found her and carried her home.

“The most terrible day of my life. Looking at the clock and seeing that it was about 10 to 3 - I was surprised to think that it was a fire drill, but upon exiting the building and seeing the bright red-yellow flames shooting out of the building, I realized that this was not a fire drill! I am very thankful that I am alive today. I lost a very good neighborhood friend of mine that day - she was a 5th grader. I will live with this the rest of my life and I will always wonder why did I survive?”

Teresa's family moved to Cicero shortly after the fire. As of 2003, she lives in Niles, IL with her husband of 25 years and two children, Michelle who is 22 and Ricky who is 18. She has worked at New Trier High School in Winnetka for the past 13 years as secretary to the Director of Special Education.

Joseph FauciBoy72
Frank GiglioBoy72Frank escaped the fire unharmed with the help of his teacher. "I walked out the front door and was told to go to the church. I haven't missed an anniversary mass yet. The one last night, 2003, at Holy Family Church was beautiful." Frank is married and living in the Western Suburbs. Brother of Joseph Giglio.
Patrice Durkin MayenscheinGirl72Patrice escaped without injury, except for minor cuts on her knees and palms of her hand from falling down. Once outside the school, she watched second floor students jumping out of the windows. Some men were catching some the the kids as they fell. Others kids were screaming for help, hanging out of windows.

Before being taken into the church, Patrice looked back at the school building that was black with smoke. Drifting smoke filled the air, and burned the eyes of everyone around. Parents, panicked and trying to find their children, screaming out their names. Students, screaming, dazed or in shock, headed for the sanctury of the church. That is where Patrice found her grandmother waiting, and quickly ran to her. Soon her uncle Jim arrived at the church and the three of them left. When they arrived home, they watched in terror as the news unfolded on television. Later, Patrice moved to the South side, and then the Northern Suburbs, where she married. Today, (July 2006) she has 13 grandchildren.

Frank T. PrioreBoy62From Frank: “As I recall my teacher was Sister Mary Faustina. I was in second grade. My classroom was in the basement/lower level. As was the custom back then, I would go home for lunch, since I lived just two blocks from the school. While at home on that fateful day, I told my Mom I wasn't feeling good. She told me to stay home that afternoon. Just before three in the afternoon I was looking out our second floor living room window when I saw smoke coming from the direction of the school. I went out to the front porch and saw people, mostly students running and screaming "the schools on fire, the school's on fire". My Grandfather took me to see the burning building. We had to stand accross the street on Hamlin, but the images of that scene have stayed with me all my life. My friend and neighbor, Elaine Pesoli, died in the fire.”
Steven M. SchwarzBoy72Steve escaped without injury. “I lived on W. Ohio Street. I remember the fire alarm, the class left the room as if it were a fire drill. I remember the hallway was filled with smoke, and the burning smell [I remember] even to this day. Leaving the building, it was bright, but cold. Some how I ended across the street with another boy, and decided to run home. My family moved to McHenry, Illinois the following June.”
Carol VitelloGirl72Carol escaped without injury. “I remember a slight commotion as doors opened and we all filed out into the smoky corridors. Fortunately, we were near an exit and were immediately directed across the street to the convent, only to look back at what seemed very surreal to a 7-year-old such as myself. As I looked up and back at the school I remember thinking, 'Why are those kids waving at us from the second floor?' I didn't realize initially that they were screaming and yelling for help, but I do remember the vision as if it were yesterday.

“Suddenly Iowa street became filled with parents, people looking for their children, grabbing you to see if you belonged to them. Then we were brought into the church and kept together by classrooms so that parents were able to find their children.

“I lived directly across the street on Hamlin and Iowa and watched my father crying as he came up the stairs to our apartment building, still not knowing if I was safe. The entire night we watched as the building smoldered. There is very little left to say. It is amazing how one's memory can store such things.”

As of September 2003, Carol is 51 and the mother of a 31-year-old son, and grandmother to a 6-year-old grandson. “I live in Lombard, Illinois and was formerly working for United Airlines until 9/11. I am attending school again to complete a new degree.”

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Room 105
About This Classroom:
This classroom was located on the southeast corner of the first floor annex, next to the east exit on Iowa Street.
NameBoy/GirlAgeGradeAbout This Person
Sister Mary JohnitaTeacher5
Julie CarusoGirl5Julie escaped without injury. “What unspeakable memories we accrued in those few days. The first of those--actual visions of classmates screaming for help, hanging out of windows, with the hope that both the air and their throwing of textbooks would help their survival. The alarm went off--what a funny time for a firedrill. I left my father's fountain pen and a box of Luden's cough drops on my desk, thinking I would collect them when we returned. But as we left the room, I looked back - the hallway near the new section of the building was black with smoke. With no time to process this fact, we were lead to the church by Sister Johnita. There was such mayhem - parents, children, students, screaming, dazed or in shock, heading for the sanctury of the church.

“My sister Nina was on the second floor, in a room called the 'cheesebox' because it was so small. My eyes rested on one of her classmates. She was black with smoke and only had on one shoe. Where was Nina?? The girl didn't answer. I was shoved into the church and sat dumbly in a pew watching Sister go up and down the aisle, her hand in a fist, pulsing up and down. That never went away.

“A little boy cried out, 'My dad's a fireman.' He started to cry. How did we ever get through the throng of people crowding each other, pushing closer to the flames? I was out of the church - I must have been with my mother. I looked back, and saw a fireman carrying a nun over his shoulder, her arms swaying lifelessly with each descending step he took. You all know the rest.

“We went back the next day or the next, to look for our coats. The only object left standing was the statue of Our Lady - Our Lady of the Rubble, of Broken Hearts, and Lost Children. My sweet father was on call that day at Franklin Blvd Hospital. He didn't know if we were alive or dead. The burned victims kept streaming in. At midnight, he finally reached my mother. We were a fortunate family.

“My dad told us that there was a priest who faithfully visited the burned and broken children in the ward. He would joke with my dad and say, 'Hey Doc, Give me the shot!' And then leave the room in tears. His name was Father Joseph McDonnell. Father Mac gave the homily at the Christmas Mass which was held in the Alamo Theater. He said that Baby Jesus really wanted to have a great party so he gathered those special children round him. The tears are streamimg down my face. The memories are vivid and clear forty-some years later. What a funny time to have a firedrill......” Sister of Nina Caruso.

Jennifer CasaleGirl105Jennifer escaped without injury and was told to run to the church. Her parents, Joseph and Jennie, arrived to up pick their two children, Jennifer and John. Her dad ran into the school looking for his kids, and her mom went into the church, where she found Jennifer. Soon, they found John exiting the building with his class. After her dad left the building, he began catching children who were jumping from the 2nd floor windows. The family then transported a couple of injured kids to the hospital, along with their dad, who cut his hand while breaking glass. Jennifer later learned she had lost her friend Maria DeGiulio in Room 212. Jennifer passed away on Sept. 11, 2019 leaving behind two children and three grandchildren. Sister of John Casale.
Daniel ConsolazioBoy105
John FelzanBoy105John escaped without injury. He passed away in 2003 after a five year battle with cancer. Brother of Prudence Felzan.
Lucille GriecoGirl105“I remember being surprised that there was a fire drill so late in the school day. I also remember all of us being sent into the church for shelter and then dismissed to go home. I went to the small grocery store on Hamlin just south of Iowa to meet my friends; this was where we usually gathered before walking home together. We arrived there within a few minutes of each other, except for our friend Larry Walter. My mother and Larry's mother found us at the store and sent us home while they stayed to look for Larry who was a 7th grader. It turns out that he had been injured. As Larry was being placed in an ambulance, he saw his mother and mine and called to them; however, they did not hear him. It was hours later that they learned that he had survived.”

Today (2012), Lucille resides on the northwest side of Chicago. She worked for the Chicago Public Schools as an elementary and high school teacher in the areas of English as a Second Language, Spanish, and bilingual education. She retired from the CPS in 2011 and is currently employed by Loyola and DePaul universities as a mentor for student teachers.

Connie KrajewskiGirl105Today Connie lives in Indiana and has three children and three grandchildren. Sister of James Krajewski.
James NeagleBoy5Cousin of Carol and Mike Neagle.
Arthur NeubertBoy5Arthur escaped without injury and, along with his brothers, Michael and Samuel, were taken in by families living near the school. Brother of Charles, Michael and Samuel Neubert.
Mary Jane NuccioGirl105Mary Jane sat in the last seat of the 2nd row and “could look out the transom window and see the staircase that led out of the school onto Iowa Street. [I] was one of the first to get out of the school on 12/1 and thought it odd to be having a fire drill at the end of the day...mom found me and cousin Joan Tedesco in church, and led us through the alley to our home at 825 North Avers Avenue...we kept going out on the front porch and the firemen at the hydrant across the street kept telling us to get back inside -- they didn't want us to see what was really going on out there. We had just made our Confirmation -- all was right with the world!” Cousin of Joan Tedesco.
Michaeline OlechowskiGirl105Mickey escaped without any injury. Her older sister Janet and cousin Barbara Olechowski were both in classrooms on the second floor; Barbara escaped, Janet did not. Sister of Janet Olechowski, cousin of Barbara Olechowski.
Victoria SilvioGirl5Vickie escaped without injury but her young brother Paul was killed in Room 210. Vickie later married Howard Waarich with whom she had three daughters, and later married her second husband, Thomas Colburn. Sister of Paul Silvio.
Angela TagliaGirl95Married name Angela Wehrs. Sister of Dan and Joanne Taglia. Angela passed away September 8, 2004 after a 17 year battle with breast cancer. She was 55. She is survived by her husband Bob and children John and Jennifer.
Stephen W. Trok5Steve escaped without injury.
Frank VainisiBoy105Today [2003], Frank lives in the Northwest suburbs, having recently returned to the Chicago area after spending 10 years in Scottsdale, AZ. Frank is a National Sales Manager for Rose Packing Co. of Barrington, IL. He is very happily married to Candy, proud father and grandfather. Son Todd and daughter-in-law Katie have a daughter, Mira. Son Brian attends Arizona State University. Brother of John Vianisi.
Jolanda VerzaniGirl105Jolanda escaped without injury. Sister of Peter Verzani.
Thomas Richard “Rich” ZochowskiBoy105Rich escaped without injury and today [2003] lives in a northwest suburb of Chicago. He was married twice, and had three children in the first marriage and two in the second, and has numerous grandchildren. Brother of Gerald Zochowski.
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Room 106
About This Classroom:
This classroom was located on the first floor of the annex, adjacent to the Rectory directly east of the school, and nearest the classrooms of the north wing. It was one of only three classrooms with immediate access to an external fire escape. The north door of this classroom exited into a small cloak room, at the end of which was the fire escape.
NameBoy/GirlAgeGradeAbout This Person
Sister Mary AlexisTeacher4
Frances CalvaccaGirl94Frances exited without injury via the only first floor fire escape, which was located next to her classroom.
Cynthia CampagnaGirl94Cynthia escaped without injury. Cousin of Dominic and Celeste Florio.
Rosa CeroneGirl94Rosa escaped without injury. “I got out of the classroom and was told to go to the church. We were told to pray for our sisters or brothers in the school. The church started to fill with smoke and the nuns told us to walk home. When I left the church I could hear the kids screaming inside, and I looked back and saw the smoke coming out of the windows.” Her older brother, Louis, was hospitalized after tumbling down a ladder during his escape from room 211. Sister of Louis Cerone.
Mary DowlingGirl94“I survived without physical injury but, like most, felt the pain and suffering of loss of so many friends and classmates. I currently [2012] teach high school at Aurora Central Catholic in Aurora, have 2 grown sons and 4 beautiful grandkids. I am also the niece of Kenneth and Stanley Kaletta who were in 8th grade at OLA at that time. Both of them are well and live in the western suburbs.” [Kenneth passed away in November 2019.] Niece of Kenneth and Stanley Kaletta.
Michael GalloBoy4Mike escaped without injury.
Mary Ellen HobikGirl4Mary Ellen escaped without injury. Today (2008) she is an elementary school principal. Sister of Wayne and Karen Hobik.
Kathleen JacobellisGirl94Kathy escaped without injury. “It is interesting to read the account of another person in the same room as me who said he did not see smoke. I remember it very differently. As soon as Marianne LaSusa opened the door, we could see smoke. She was afraid to leave the room because of it. Sister Alexis stood by the door and hit each of us on the back telling us to run. I was one of the last ones from my room to escape. There was sooo much smoke I couldn't see a thing. I could feel the rumble from the kids on the second floor and could only see shadows of them running down the steps. I was afraid that if I tripped and fell I would be trampled.

Once I got out of the building I was going to go back in to look for my brother. I ran into my friend, Anna Rivan, and shared my plans with her. She stopped me from going in by telling me that she saw my brother outside and that he was with her brother, Sebastion Rivan. Since we never spoke about the fire in the years that passed, I never realized until decades later that she had lied. Her brother was in the trapped 5th grade room [212] on the 2nd floor and she never saw him or my brother. She said she had lied because she knew that if she didn't, I would have gone back in and probably never survived. She was a very savvy 4th grader!” Sister of Victor Jacobellis (5th grader).

Sally KonleyGirl94Sally escaped without injury. She and her classmates were instructed to line up and march out of their classroom where she noticed heavy smoke crawling down the stairs. As soon as she got out, what she saw looked like the sun setting was the fire itself on the 2nd floor of the school. Her teacher herded them into the church and had them pray for their school and students safety. Later, they were asked to go home after a false fire alarm in the church. As she got home, she cried to her mother, “my school is on fire!” Her mother asked, “where's your sister Mary?” When she didn't know, her mother went out looking for her. Mary, a second grader, was found at a friend's house and was reunited at home. Sister of Mary Konley.
Michael LoContiBoy94Mike escaped without injury. He currently [2021] lives in Raleigh, NC with his wife Katie. They have no children.
Marianne LaSusaGirl4
Robert MujicaBoy104Bob and his younger sister Alice were both on the first floor of the building and escaped without injury. His older sister Josephine, who was a sixth grader on the second floor, also escaped. Bob passed away at age 70 on April 3, 2019, leaving behind his surviving siblings and their families. Brother of Josephine and Alice Mujica.
Anna RivanGirl94Anna escaped without injury. Sister of Sebastian Rivan.
Margaret “Peg” VetoGirl94Peg escaped without injury. “We were doing flash cards and our teacher said there was a fire drill but we would stay in because it was quite cold and we weren't supposed to get our coats [during a fire drill]. There was noise in the hallway and when the door was opened Sr. Alexis told us we should leave. We went to church to pray and then were told to go home. I ran into Skip [Peter Wicyk], who I told I wanted to stay and watch the fire but he told me to get home in no uncertain terms. I ran home, about a mile, without a coat. When my dad asked about my coat I told him we had to leave because the school was fire. About then it seemed there were sirens and fire trucks and ambulances heading to the school. [It was] one of the saddest days of my life amd certainly the most horrific of experiences.” Peg's married surname is Kerrigan.
Catherine VitaccoGirl104
Peter (Skip) WicykBoy84Peter recalls the day of the fire: “Sister Mary Alexis made it sound as if we were having a fire drill: 'class stand up and single file leave the room.' There was no hint of the fire in the rear of the building until we were outside and could see and smell the smoke. She took us into the church and we prayed. I also remember walking home with no coat on, oblivious to the cold. I knew many of the kids who perished or were injured. One lived in the same building as I did. My class was fortunate being very close to an exit on the first floor. I have put that day out of my mind and do not think about the fire until the anniversary date. For the grace of God, my sister and I both survived.”
Theresa ZychGirl94Theresa escaped without injury.
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Room 107
About This Classroom:
This classroom was located in the northeast corner of the north wing on the first floor, adjacent to the alley and the fire stairway.
NameBoy/GirlAgeGradeAbout This Person
Sister Mary EunieceTeacher1
Roy BelluominiBoy71Roy escaped without injury. “I remember that it was the last class of the day, and as I was looking out the window, I saw dark smoke coming down. At first I thought it was the smoke from the chimney but moments later we were being escorted out the building. Once outside, that is when I noticed the school was on fire. It was cold that afternoon and most of us ended up in a house on Avers, and the women at times kept us away from looking out the window. It wasn't long before I was picked up by my frantric mother.” Today [2008] Roy lives in Lincolnwood, IL, has been married since 1971, and has three children.
Denise ChikoGirl61Denise escaped without injury. “December 1 was my birthday. My mother came to the school with treats. Sister Euniece was my first grade teacher and she asked two 8th graders to come down and help pass out the treats. They were saved because they walked our with my class that afternoon. I remember my father, who worked for Peoples Gas Light and Coke at the time got the call that my school was on fire. He came to rescue me before the fire dept got there! He ushered out my entire class. I remember feeling safe that my Dad was there but also I remember him catching some the the kids that were jumping out the windows and placing them in peoples homes. He could never talk about that day for the rest of his life I think it scared him badly. My birthday was always sad after that day. I thank God every year that I survived.”
Mark FrostBoy61Mark escaped without injury. “My class was ushered into a home across the street where I watched the school burn until they closed the curtains. It was total chaos. Everyone was running around frantically trying to locate our parents.”
Robert Charles JohnstonBoy61Robert escaped without injury. He is the second of seven children of Robert B. Woods (former CPD Officer) and Wilma Jean Woods. When the alarm sounded, his teacher thought it was an end of the day fire drill, and had each of them gather their coats, lunchboxes and any other belongings. With hats, mittens and scarves, the litle ones marched out of the building. When she realized it was the real thing, the teacher began to distribute the children into nearby homes. Robert wound up in a home on Avers. He didn't remember his phone number, but was able to give directions to his home. He didn't arrive home until after 6 p.m.

From his sister, Valerie: “Normally, we went into the front door of the school (the door on the same street as the church). Robert's room was in the back, to the right. I walked him every morning to his room. The walk to school was about a mile for us -- we were on the last block of the Parish (Christiana).

“The Nun that was his teacher (I don't know her name) thought at first it was a drill. So all the children went to the cloak room and got all of their things, right down to mittens and lunchpail. It was not unusual for Robert to dawdle on his way home if I was not with him, so mother didn't worry. We heard lots of sirens but never dreamed where they were going. The phone rang and it was the neighbor telling mother that the school was on fire. She dropped the phone, turned off the pot on the stove and had me watch the three littlest children so she could go to the school. A friend met her at her door as she was going out. Mother was about 4 months pregnant with her 6th child.

“There was an ice storm that day and the streets were slippery. When they got there, the firefighters were pouring water into where Robert's room was and she passed out.

“My father was a police officer in the district and was told to go home to see to his family. He came home before mother could get there. After that, who did what and when gets a little fuzzy. Mother's parents came over, and my father called and called hospitals, the morgue, his district etc. If he was able to get through on the lines, he wasn't getting any answers as to where his son was. About 6 pm, an unfamiliar car pulled up in front of the house. A lady got out, then Robert. My father ran out to him and the reunion is indiscribable. It was truly a miracle homecoming for the family.

“It was then that the family found out that the Nun took the children away from the fire and placed them into neighborhood homes. Of course, no one in the neighborhood could even think of leaving for awhile and not all the children could tell their phone number or address. Robert just knew the way home.”

Years later, “Robert enlisted in the Army at age 17 and made it his career. He has been trained as a CNA and EMT and has taken some classes for his LPN degree. While in school, in a literature class, he wrote a story about his experience that day. It was the first time he talked about it in any way, since that day.

“Today [2013], he is retired from military service. He lives in Mt. Vernon, Missouri, with his fourth wife, Sharon, who is a nurse. He has two daughters and one son. He served his country with honor and his last assignment was at Ft Leonard Wood, Missouri, as Staff Sgt training troops.” Brother of Valerie Jean Johnston.

Cynthia LaBrantGirl61Cynthia escaped without injury. Upon filing out of the classroom she recalls seeing a woman screaming that the school was on fire, but the nun looked at her and said everything was okay. Sitting in a neighbor's house across the street on Avers, Cynthia had a complete view of the school and the children jumping out of the windows, and she recalls seeing the same women she had seen earlier grabbing children as they landed; she saw other children running and screaming without their coats. She remembers thinking “gee they must be cold.” She walked home whereupon her grandmother scolded her for being late because at that point she had no idea about the fire. Cynthia's neighbor, Karen Culp died in the fire. Today (2008), Cynthia is married and living in Arlington Heights, Illinois. She has a daughter, a step-daughter, a step-son and four grandchildren.
Gregory LewandowskiBoy61Greg was celebrating a classmate's birthday when the fire alarm sounded. His teacher, as well as the birthday girl's father, ushered them out of the room and went across the street. Greg was brought into a home along with other kids, escaping the bitter cold outside. Later, he was found by his mother, aunt, and sister Nancy (who also escaped the fire). Brother of Nancy Lewandowski.
Karen LucchesiGirl61“I remember this day. I was not injured, and I remember how cold it was and how long we stood outside wrapped together with a blanket or something. Later, we were transfered to houses.” Karen's parents finally located her after dark. Today (2008), Karen is married in lives in suburban Chicago.
Daniel PlovanichBoy61Dan escaped without injury and currently lives in Chicago with his wife of 23 years, and his three sons. He practices traditional Oriental medicine - acupuncture and Chinese herbology. Brother of Matt and Michael Plovanich.
Larry SickelsBoy61Larry survived the fire, but lost his brother James, who was a fourth grader in room 210. He remembers receiving a birthday treat at the end of the school day, when the fire alarm sounded. He left the building with his class, and was lead across the street where he stayed with a family until he was taken home later that afternoon. Today (2009), Larry is married with 2 children and 7 grandchildren. Today [2008], he and his family live in a northwest suburb of Chicago and really enjoy spending time together. Brother of James Sickels.
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Room 108
About This Classroom:
This classroom was located in the southeast corner of the north wing on the first floor, adjacent to the courtyard and the annex.
NameBoy/GirlAgeGradeAbout This Person
Mrs. Lorraine KiziorTeacher3/4Mrs. Kizior took over this class from Sister Mary Rufina for part of the school year while Sister Rufina recovered from an extended illness. Mrs. Kizior escaped without injury.
Sister Mary RufinaTeacher3/4(due to an extended illness, she was replaced by Mrs. Kizior for part of the 1958-59 school year)
Michael AnconaBoy94Mike escaped without injury. He “walked from [his] first floor classroom after the fire alarm sounded and watched from across the street as students jumped from the second floor.” His family moved to the northwest suburbs in June 1961, and today [July 2006] he lives in Elk Grove Village. He has been married for 36 years and is the proud father of two sons, ages 19 and 25.
Alexander BerzinsBoy94Today (2023), Alexander is retired and living in Palos Heights.
Carmine CastrovillariBoy94Carmine escaped without injury, and today lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. Brother of Wayne and Annamarie Castrovillari, cousin of Carmella Comorato, and Sally and Donna Shillcut.
Linda FriedeckGirl94
Mary Margaret GrzeskiewiczGirl94Sister of Ronald Grzeskiewicz.
Michael A. GuariniBoy84Michael escaped without injury. He recalls his teacher telling the class to get out in single file and not look back. He helped a little girl get home, and then walked home himself without a coat. Today (2014) he and his wife live in Niantic, Connecticut.
Vivian GuericoGirl94Vivian escaped without injury. Her teacher had ordered her class to form a line, walked out of the school, and went across the street. When it got cold, they were lead into the church and were told to pray for the school and the student's safety. They were later told to go home after some thought the church was on fire. Cousin of Joe Bonadonna and Michael and Madelyn Gnoffo.
Robert KameczuraBoy84“On the day of the fire I remember it was getting on towards 2:30 or so and we were just studying our books waiting for the word to get our coats to leave school for the day. It seemed an ordinary day up to this point.

When the fire alarm went off our very first reaction was that it was a fire drill which we were used to.

But one look at my teacher Miss Kezior's shocked expression and I knew this was no drill. She was surprised and her whole body showed it. Also, they never did drills this late in the day.

Miss Kezior was one of the few lay teachers. She was a kind woman and I liked her a lot as unlike the nuns she was a bit more informal with the children, talking more on a person to person basis on occasion.

She told us to line up as we were drilled to do and we walked out into the first floor corridor. The corridor had a thin veil of smoke and it was obvious that there was a fire but the smoke was not thick but thin and white. We thought it was a minor fire somewhere.

Then we marched outside onto the Avers side of the building and we were greeted by a horrible vision. In all the second floor windows were boys and girls in open windows who had thick black smoke swirling around them and rising up behind them. They were yelling and screaming. On the sidewalk all around the building were children, some of them bloody and some with what looked like they had a broken leg or were injured, some had bad facial scrapes. One young boy, looking dazed and with blood on his hands and face tried to raise himself on his knees on the sidewalk but appeared shocked and couldn't get his balance.

All around the west side of the building were children who had jumped. Some showed signs of life but none got up and walked around...they all looked injured, some did not move except a small movement of fingers and arms.

On the sidewalk all around were yellow covered textbooks that were flapping in the breeze. Some of the children were throwing these textbooks down...one could only think they were either trying to attract attention to their predicament or were getting rid of anything that would burn.

Fire trucks had arrived and were approaching the building but none had yet put up ladders. They seem to be trying to cut a chain on the gate that held the iron gate that allowed access to the courtyard in the middle of the U shaped building to gain access to windows there to rescue the children.

I spotted a family friend, Ed Vien, father of two of my playmates trying to take huge heavy ladder off a fire truck.

A woman rushed out of a house just North of OLA, with some blankets and approached and wrapped blankets around some of the children on the sidewalk, inquired gently how they were and tried to care for them as best they could, calling for help from people who passed by. One woman called out 'Are there any doctors here?'

The same thing happened again when a woman who owned a candy store near the school rushed out to help the children.

There were a few fire truck parked nearby and the fireman were busy unloading hoses and ladders and several had large axes.

In the chaos they did not know what to do with those of us who had come out of the building as the nuns and teachers did not know where to put us.

As I wandered around on the Avers side of the building I saw a photographer on the SW corner of Iowa and Avers with big speed graphic camera, taking pictures. One of these was the famous picture of the fire that appeared in all the papers.

The air was full of the smell of thick greasy smoke but no flames were visible. Crowds of fireman, policeman and people from the neighborhood swirled around in activity.

As I wandered around we saw more fire trucks approaching.

Finally, one of the nuns or teachers instructed some of the upper class children to take us to the nun's home, the Convent, where we were put in a downstairs room. I remember I was interested to see the home where the nuns lived and had their meals. It had always been a bit mysterious to us as we had not seen the inside. We stayed there for a while, probably around half an hour. We were given a glass of water and told to drink it all down. I am not sure how long we were there actually, but eventually we were told to 'go home and no where else.'

As I lived only one and half block east of the school at Ridgeway and Iowa I lingered a little to watch what was going on. Huge tongues of flame flew out of a window on the East Side of the building. It seemed angry and wild and out of control...red and orange fingers licking upward with a kind of fury. Several of the older children who were milling about had soot all over there faces.

By this time there were no more children in the windows. Firemen with hoses were putting water on the flames. The smell of heavy smoke, with a curious rotten oily smell, probably from the burning varnish I later learned, permeated the air and to this day this smell when I encounter it still brings back a memory of the fire.

There were crowds milling about, many of them seemed like mothers looking for their children, and policemen were about trying to keep them from the area of the fire.

I wandered east toward Hamlin and encountered my mother who was looking for me. At first she was very glad to see me. Then her reaction was 'Where were YOU?' I explained they put us in the convent and told us to stay there.

Arriving home I found my older brother Paul had escaped the fire by coming down the front steps with his class. My Polish cousin Leon had also escaped unharmed but was covered with soot from the smoke.

The house bell rang a couple of times as some reporters were anxious to use our phone to call in the story since we were one of the closest available phones in the area.

The news shows had the story and we followed what was going on via the TV news and radio.

That night I wandered back toward the school. I had to wear a light jacket even though it was cold because all our coats were still in the school. The scene was of lights projected on a gutted charred building. Fire and police trucks were still about in the dark and men seemed to be going through the building.

The air was full of that oily, greasy smoke smell and all about the school were charred embers which seemed to have been ravaged by a ferocious fire....they looked like logs with rough black bark. These embers were still wet with the water the fireman had sprayed on them and shined in the bright lights that were arranged around the building.

In the following hours and days we learned of friends who had died in the fire. My Polish cousin came home to his house covered in soot.

We learned soon that some of our friends had died...including a playmate....a girl a few years older who frequently looked after children...Beverly Burda. I learned that Susan Smaldone, who had a desk next to mine the previous year, a shy blond little girl, was badly burned and later died.

The neighborhood was hit hard by this. A man who was noted for organizing boys baseball and was a man who the neighborhood children admired and liked, came by with another few men from the neighborhood and asked for donations to help the families who had lost children.

He joked with me about White Sox baseball and various players we liked and disliked. But when he explained that some of the families were hit hard, it struck a curious serious note that we were not used to in him. My parents gave $20...then a goodly sum...to this money which was later presented to some of the families who lost children on our block.

We were amazed to find our little neighborhood featured on national news and later in Life Magazine.

For a while we couldn't go out much as it was cold and our winter coats were in the school. Eventually, cleaners in the neighborhood cleaned all the coats that survived for free and our winter coats were returned to us. Some still had the heavy smell of smoke and eventually we got new coats.

We were off school for while, then were showed up in front of the church and were bussed to 'Our Lady Help of Christians' School...which struck me, even as an eight year old, as a curiously appropriate name. We were assigned class rooms. At some point early on The Red Cross sent packages and the children were told to take one thing from every package...this included books, school supplies, pencils, notebooks, rulers, erasers, etc. as well as things like tooth brushes and tooth paste, washcloths, facial tissues, etc.

Since we were away from home, lunches were provided to all the children in the form of sandwiches, milk and potato chips. I remember getting rather fond of the minced ham sandwiches on white bread with butter and had the joy of occasionally getting an extra sandwich when there was a few left over.

We finished that year, as I recall, at Our Lady Help of Christians then we were assigned to classes in Cameron school and we were there for the next few years until the new school was built.

Perhaps the most moving moment in our stay at Cameron was our last few days there. We were trained to sing some songs of thanks by the nuns but not told why. One late afternoon on one of the last days at Cameron we were all lined up in the corridors and they brought out a lady who was the principal of the school. She was obviously surprised. This was something the nuns and teachers had planned as a surprise. We sang some songs of welcome for their kindnesses and at the end I remember most vividly the principal was moved to tears and concluded with a very emotional statement...the only part of which I remember was 'And God Bless you all!'

In the move to the new school there was a certain percentage of the students who were badly burned and had skin that looked like melted pizza cheese. One of these, Marie Hartmann, was a desk mate of mine and I got to be friendly with her. She sometimes helped me with my homework. She was a bright warm person, kind and friendly, but her face and arms were horribly burned. She set a nice example to the children with her ability to be cheerful in face of the horrible things she had been through. I once heard the nuns talking to her about....'looking forward to the day when that burned skin would be replaced, they are doing such wonderful things with plastic surgery these days.' The nun reminded her it would come some day in the not too distant future.

We were reminded not to pick on, slap on the back or fight with students who were burned because they sometimes had delicate skin grafts that could be injured.

In the last few years they got an art teacher, who seemed to recognize some artistic talent in me and I was frequently assigned to do the room decorations, mostly done by pinning up cut out sheets of felt covered paper in Matisse like collages on the cork board panels that lined the rooms. I got to know some of the nuns as I spent time after school doing these classroom decorations. By this time...this would be 7th or 8th grade; the fire was less on the minds of the children who were getting on with ordinary life. But in my conversations with some of the more friendly nuns it was obvious they were deeply aware of the legacy of the fire and some of them...especially who arrived after the fire...were sensitive to the scope of the disaster and showed some emotion when speaking of it.

In the wake of the fire some people seemed to blame the janitor, Mr. Raymond and some of the nuns. But my experience with Mr. Raymond was was when the nuns used to call him up to the classroom to ask him to provide more heat when it was very cold. He always seemed to be accommodating and showed some humor which the children loved. I always thought of him as a responsible man and even at my young age I thought it foolish to blame him.

I also read how some of the priests actually saved the lives of some of the children and so did Mr. Raymond. I learned afterward that Mr. Raymond suffered guilt in later years over the fire and was sorry to hear this as the children liked him and he always turned on more heat for us when requested which endeared him to chilly students.

We did however take the opinion that some of the nuns could have done more...some told the children to say the rosary when they should have been doing everything in their power to save the children in their care. Other nuns heroically saved the children by rolling them down the fiery steps.

Actually, the real blame was, in my opinion, on the Archdiocese and the City of Chicago who did not require sprinkler systems and other fire controls to schools which grandfathered the laws requiring this. They didn't want to take on the expense so got the city to exempt them. So the City was at fault to give them this exemption. As a matter of fact even well after the fire when ordinances were passed requiring sprinkles are fire prevention doors they were still slow to install them in most schools, city and Catholic.

In more recent years I took some photos of an actress whose husband was a psychologist who, as coincidence would have it, was in charge of treating members of families who had lost children in the fire. Some still had buried anger and many had never come to grips with their grief of a lost family member.

I read the books by the survivors, including 'The Fire That Will Not Die' by Michelle McBride and experienced something of what the survivors went through via this....and the long struggle with treatment and future disabilities seemed to bring the tragedy more in focus for me in later years.

In my work in the art world I once had the job of working with the city to advise on the restoration of the Tree Studios, Medinah Temple building. In advising the city I went through the building with some cultural affairs staffers and saw that the wiring for the building was run over a wooden wall platform that was covered in tar and that there was only one way up the stairway which passed right by it to the studios upstairs. Many people were favoring keeping the building historically correct and not altering any of the architecture. I told them, 'Forget that...this is a fire trap...I was in the OLA fire....get rid of this electrical system and design another staircase that is a secondary exit. I know the destruction fire can bring, let's fix it right and right means safety first!'

It turns out the fire department had already said this as the building was not at all up to code but it didn't hurt to tell people in the art world intent on 'historical integrity' that were fires were concerned it was right to put that aside and make the building safe.

A legacy of some of the friends who died in the fire still haunts a bit even today. Where would they be today if they had lived? Sad to think of them. But I think perhaps the disaster, and the awareness it brought of the fragility of life, has had some hand in my being and artist and trying to bring things into the world that have some larger value or meaning.”

Brother of Paul Kameczura.

Keith LarimerBoy94Keith escaped without injury. Today, he is the proud father of four daughters. Brother of Paul Larimer.
Joyce PeneschiGirl104Joyce escaped without injury. Joyce passed away in May 2014. Sister of Thomas Peneschi.
Rosemarie SaskaGirl83Rosemarie escaped without injury. “I remember that we were getting ready to be dismissed. We were starting to go row by row to get our coats, but before we could do that, the fire alarm went off. We all left and went to our designated spot across the street. I could see students calling for help at the second floor windows to the courtyard. I could see the fireman not able to get in. After standing there awhile, our class then went to the church to pray. I kept wondering where my brother was. He was in Miss Coughlin's class.

“After the prayers, we were dismissed and told to go home. This was when I found my brother (Larry Saska). We walked home without any coats. People stopped and asked why we didn't have coats - we told them that our school was on fire and we couldn't get them. We received many calls that night from family and relatives checking to see if we okay.”

Later Rosemarie joined the Air Force where she met her husband and became Rosemarie Hollingsworth. Today she lives in Irving, Texas and is proud to have 3 daughters and 2 grandsons. Sister of Larry Saska.

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Room 109
About This Classroom:
This classroom was located in the northwest corner of the north wing on the first floor, adjacent to the alley and Avers Avenue.
NameBoy/GirlAgeGradeAbout This Person
Mrs. Shirley WilkensTeacherMrs. Wilkins (nee DiDomenico) was the lay teacher in this room. She was married to Bobby Wilkens, and they had two daughters, Kathy and Lori, and one granddaughter, Briana. Years later she married John McAuley and moved to Florida. She passed away in 2005.
Paul CaponeraBoy3Paul escaped without injury. He recalls standing in the aisle next to his desk, holding a push broom and dusting the floor at the end of the day. As the teacher was giving the class a homework assignment, the fire bell rang and “out I went ahead of the rest. I was the first one to open the doors out from the first floor that day. We lined up across the street for a while, watching, and boys opened the lower floor doors and smoke billowed out. Then we all went our different ways.”

Paul's mother, Adele Caponera nee DeiTos, who now lives in Fountain Hills, Arizona, also attended OLA, graduating in 1944. Her father Paul DeiTos died in 2007 at age 104. “They lived in the 900 block of Springfield Ave. when she and her siblings attended OLA. She and I are the only surviving OLA grads in our family.” Paul and his wife Sheryl were married at St. Monica's Parish and after 34 years (as of 2008) are still happily married.

Robert CoolBoy72Bob escaped without injury. He later went on to a distinguished career with the IRS, and today lives in Schiller Park.
Judith GattoGirl83Judith escaped without injury.
Tom KearneyBoy72Tom escaped without injury. He lined up with his class on the west side of Avers and was eventually taken into a neighbor's house. The neighbor “took my name and sent me home with an older boy who had come home from a local high school.”
Nancy LewandowskiGirl83Nancy escaped without injury. Her teacher led her pupils out of the building and across the street. Nancy soon met her aunt and mother, and together they searched for her brother Greg. He was later found being sheltered in another home nearby. Sister of Gregory Lewandowski.
James NedzaBoy104James escaped without injury. Today, his daughter, Natalie says: “My dad was a suvivor duing this fire. He is a very hard working man and a great inspiration. I'm so glad that he is alive right now, cause he is such a great man.”
Thomas PeneschiBoy93Thomas escaped without injury. Brother of Joyce Peneschi.
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Room 110
About This Classroom:
This classroom was located in the southwest corner of the north wing on the first floor, adjacent to the courtyard and Avers Avenue.
NameBoy/GirlAgeGradeAbout This Person
Sister Mary DeniseTeacher1
Doreen BaileyGirl1Doreen escaped without injury. Sister of Maureen Bailey.
Joseph CannelloBoy61Joe escaped without injury. (Classroom not certain, but definitely on the first floor of the main school building.) Brother of Phyllis Cannello.
Rosemary MargotteGirl61Sister of Glory Margotte.
Ronald MarszalekBoy61Renald escaped without injury. He passed away on July 28, 2019.
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Room 201
About This Classroom:
This classroom was located in the southwest corner of the south wing second floor, nearest the intersection of Avers Avenue and Iowa Street.
NameBoy/GirlAgeGradeAbout This Person
Sister Mary Andrienne
Teacher7Students in Sr. Andrienne's seventh grade room did not became aware of the fire until the fire alarm sounded. When they opened the door to their classroom, they discovered that the hallway was filled with black, noxious smoke. She had her students line up and crawl single file through the smoke to the nearby stairway. Once outdoors, she looked up to the windows of her classroom, and saw that there were still students in her classroom. The smoke in the hallway was so bad that one child had panicked and slammed the classroom door shut before everyone had escaped. The remaining students were now crowding to the windows, seeking fresh air to breathe and screaming for help. Sr. Andrienne sprinted back up to her classroom and quickly forced the children to crawl single file out into the hallway, which was now so dark they had to feel their way to the stairs. When they reached the top of the stairs, some of the children were afraid to descend the stairs in total darkness. So, Sr. Andrienne simply shoved the first student down the stairs, then the second and so on until all were down. At the bottom, they were carried or led out to the street by neighbors who had entered the school to help evacuate children. It was only then that the first fire department units began to arrive.
Bianca BacichGirl127Bianca escaped down a ladder with the help of firefighters. She later married a fellow survivor, Peter Biancalana, and together they raised three daughters.
Peter BiancalanaBoy127Peter escaped heavy smoke in his classroom by climbing down a ladder with the help of firefighters. Pete married his 8th grade sweetheart, Bianca, who was in the same classroom. She also escaped down a ladder with the help of firefighters. Today, Pete is an Electrical Engineer Manager working for Motorola in Schaumburg, IL. He and Bianca have 3 beautiful daughters. (Classroom unknown)
Marty CastoBoy117“I remember that it was about 2:45 pm when Sister Adrienne looked up at the door transom window and then rushed out the door. The room immediately filled with black smoke. Many of us rushed to the windows. I remember seeing Father Ognibene down on the sidewalk. I remember thinking whether we would need to jump. We then held hands and followed Basil down the stairs close to our room.. Thanks Basil. Sister was at the top of the stairs. We were then directed to go to the church where our parents found us. I went back to our room with a few others days later with Sister to help her retrieve things.” Marty went on to graduate from the University of Notre Dame and worked as a Chemical Engineer. Today [2016] he is retired and lives in Pittsgrove, New Jersey.
Wayne C. CastrovillariBoy127Wayne escaped without injury. “After the first couple of rows filed out in an orderly fashion, somebody slammed the door closed. They yelled 'we can't go out there, where there is smoke there is fire' and then everybody panicked and ran for the windows for fresh air. After what seemed like eternity Father Joe and some firemen pryed the door open and instructed us to hold on to the person in front of us as they led us down the stairwell. Thankfully, we were one of the lucky classrooms. If I am not mistaken, no one was physically injured from our class.” Brother of Carmine and Annamarie Castrovillari, cousin of Sally and Donna Shillcutt.
Joseph DattmoBoy7
Basil DeStefanoBoy7Basil took the initiative and directed a group of fellow students to grab his shirt and follow him single file out of the school to safety. He led them through blinding smoke with visibility barely more than a foot.
Grace DiMasoGirl127Grace escaped without injury. She and her family had moved from Italy to Chicago earlier that year, so she was new to the school and was still learning English. She and her class left their classroom to find their way to the stairs, but some of them, including Grace, were turned back the suffocating, blinding smoke. She was ultimately pulled from a window by a fireman and carried down a ladder. Aunt of Clara DiMaso.
Steve DumovichBoy117Steve escaped from room 201 in the south wing of the school, without injury. He later joined the Wilmette, Illinois Fire Department, where he worked his way up to Department Chief. Today, he is retired from the Wilmette Fire Department, and is working for the Chicago office of the Department of Homeland Security.
Emily FurlanGirl127Today (2009) Emily is married and together with her husband, Ken Cooper, they have three sons and three grandchildren. They live in Shoreview, Minnesota, a suburb of St. Paul.
Chuck GerlachBoy117Chuck escaped without injury.
Michael GuzaldoBoy127Mike escaped without injury.
Gerold KaiserBoy7Gerry escaped without injury. Today (2009), he resides in Iowa.
Henry KarkoszkaBoy127Henry escaped without injury, searched for and found his younger brother and sister, Joseph and Christina, and walked home. Brother of Christina and Joseph Karkoszka.
Milton KobusBoy127Milt escaped without injury. He was unable to escape his classroom due to heavy smoke, and was huddled in a corner with other classmates when a firefighter broke through their classroom door and had them form a human chain to escape together. He was found outside the school by his maternal grandparents, covered in black soot. His younger brother John, a 2nd grader, also escaped unharmed. Milt later married and raised two sons and became principal of Saint Ladislaus School on the northwest side of Chicago. And as principal, he always stressed fire safety!
John MontedoreBoy137John escaped without injury down the main staircase from the second floor, in thick black smoke.
Joanne PettenonGirl127
Francine PiroGirl127Francine escaped without injury. Today, she is married and the mother of seven children and has ten grandchildren. She resides in Kissimmee Florida.
Michael PlovanichBoy127
Nina RainieroGirl7Nina escaped without injury. Her father, Michael, was a doctor at Franklin Hospital who treated OLA students.
Tommy RaymondBoy127Tommy escaped down a ladder, aided by a fireman, without injury. Son of James Raymond, brother of Mary Kay, Robert, John and Marty Raymond.
Sam RussoBoy127Sam was lead down the staircase and out onto Iowa Street by his teacher, Sister Mary Adrienne Carolan.
James SansoneBoy127James was able to escape without injury by crawling down the staircase near his classroom. His mother and her friend Mrs. Baroni rushed to the school looking for their children, and with great relief, Mrs. Sansone found James alive and well. Mrs. Baroni, however, lost her daughter Karen in Room 212. James later married survivor Theresa Bilotti.
Kathy SansonettiGirl7Kathy lost her younger sister, Peggy, in Room 212. Kathy passed away on March 21, 2020, leaving behind her husband, Edward LaBush, two daughters and a son, and seven grandchildren. Sister of Peggy Sansonetti, cousin of Rosalie and Carolyn Sansonetti.
Charles SonzeroBoy7
Joanne TagliaGirl117Today she is Joanne Franzone. Sister of Dan and Angela Taglia.
Carol VinceriGirl137Carol spent most of her teen years in the Royal-Airs Drum and Bugle Corps, where she met David, her future husband. They had one son, and today live in Kankakee County, Illinois.
Gary WassingerBoy117Gary escaped without injury. “While I was going down the stairs, the smoke got so thick I couldn't see my way. This buddy of mine, Basil DeStefano, I heard him cry real loud 'Let's try to get out of here. Everybody hold on to my shirt.' So we grabbed Basil's shirt in a line and started going down and out of the building.” Gary passed away on February 5, 2022.
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Room 202
About This Classroom:
This classroom was located in the south wing adjacent to Avers Avenue and the small courtyard that separated the north and south wings of the school. A music class was underway when the fire broke out -- students heard the alarm and opened the door only to have the room fill with black smoke. They heard screams and were forced to the stairwell, where they found a bottle neck of escaping students, but all were able to escape.
NameBoy/GirlAgeGradeAbout This Person
Sister Mary RitaTeacher7
Thomas BigleyBoy127Tom escaped without injury. He left his classroom, along with his classmates, but they found it very difficult to see through all the smoke, and had to feel their way to the stairway, where they made it safely out of the school.
Dominick DiMatteo, Jr.Boy127Dominick was “kicked down the stairs by Sister Mary Andrienne when I stood up to walk down the stairs”. Dominick lived in Las Vegas until he passed away in November 2014.
David J. EspositoBoy127David escaped without injury. “I remember the day of the fire like it was yesterday. We where having song class. I heard the voice of Mike Neagle yell 'the school is on fire.' The fire alarm went off and someone opened the school door and an avalanche of black smoke burst into the room. I remember my friend Tom Raymond wanted to throw a chair through the window and jump down. It was so dark that the class followed like fightened sheep toward a nuns voice. We started down the stairs with the nun guiding us. I got to the main floor and ran out the door to the street. I watched a friend throw up black vomit. My cousin Don Muscolino and I ran all the way home. As I got home I thought of my sisters still left behind in the school. I knew they were all right because they were in the class under me that was right next to the exit. My sisters Linda and Lana got home safe to the delight of my parents. My father got home and hugged all of us and immediately ran to he school where he assisted the fireman. He came back home with a sore back which he got from breaking the fall of kids jumping out of windows.”

Today, David has two children, a girl and a boy. “My daughter is getting married in July of 2007. I have a son who will be entering his 3rd year of college about the time my daughter gets married. I will be retiring May 4, 2007. I worked 39 years for the village of Niles as a policeman and finshed the last 13 years as a business coordinator out of the mayor's office. Both my parents have passed and I have a wonderful significant other named Lena. I also have a grandson named Danny, and two cats -- Duke, named after John Wayne, and Espi, named after me.”

Michele ForchioneGirl117Michele escaped without injury, and was told to go to the church and pray. When smoke began entering the church, students were told to run home. “We went to the church to pray and then ran home where the neighborhood was alerted that the 'school is on fire'. I remember praying and then standing outside watching the firemen's ladders too short and fire coming out of the side of the building. My dad was driving a bus at the time and heard [a false rumor] that the school blew up and that everyone was killed. By the time he got to a phone, I was home. He found it hard to believe that I was safe since the news amd rumors was so horrible by then. It was a day I'll never forget. I'm claustrophbic to this day.”

As of 2003, Michele lives in Lumberton, New Jersey with her husband of 31 years, four children and two grandsons.

Paul LarimerBoy127Paul escaped without injury. “The smoke was thick you couldn't see your hand infont of face .I fell down the steps and made it out safe. After gradition we moved to Carpentersville, IL. I still out there.” (Brother of Keith Larimer)
Mary LattanzioGirl127Mary said she knew nothing about the fire until she heard children in the eighth grade classroom screaming. “Smoke began to pour into our room. A lot of children began to cry. There was a big jam at the door of the room because so many wanted to get out. One boy collapsed from inhaling smoke. Another was hanging out of a window, calling for help.”
Patrick MachajBoy127Patrick was one of the boys who carried waste papers from his classroom to the basement not long before the fire broke out. He dumped his waste paper in a container in the boiler room, but saw nothing out of the ordinary while completing this routine chore. He and his classmate, Daniel O'Shea, were under suspicion and were questioned by officers about the fire, but were dismissed. Pat passed away in 2005 at age 59, leaving behind his wife Sandra and his son, Blair.
Kathy MeisingerGirl127Kathy escaped without injury. “During a music lesson, I noticed unusual activity across the court[yard]: children were jumping up and down. I assumed they were playing games during a party. Suddenly, smoke was coming through the bottom of the door. Sister St. Rita instructed us to move to the back of the room and exit. I became very scared as I was told to continue out into black heavy smoke. I had one sister who was missing for hours but escaped without injury. I also had two cousins who escaped without injury.” Kathy married an OLA alumnus, John Paolello, and have five children and six grandchildren (as of December 2008). “I am registered on FaceBook.”
Fred MuscarellaBoy127“I was in a second floor classroom on the southwest side, 7th grade.” “My class was having violin lessons with Mr. Kauflin when we noticed windows breaking across the courtyard and then the fire alarm went off.” “Everyone in my class, to my knowledge, escaped that day by following our Nun down the staircase which was filled with thick black smoke and no visible fire. The whole class went inline across the street in front of the Nuns residence and waited till we were dismissed.”
Donald MuscolinoBoy127Don escaped without significant injury. "When the fire bell rang out we exited the classroom through a small closet, which we shared with the adjoining classroom, and then we were met by one of the sisters who told go down the stairs and then go home and pray. When we left the classroom it was absolutely pitch black with smoke and you couldn't breathe. I had fallen down after making an attempt to remove my coat from the coat hook in the closet and I was trampled over during the exictement. I'll never forget the day for the rest of my life. I lost many good friends." Don recently retired from the Chicago Police Department and currently resides in Antioch, Il with his wife of 37 yrs. "I have two children and I am a proud grandfather of two. I graduated from OLA in 1960, spent freshman year at Holy Trinity and then the family moved to Niles where I attended and graduated from Maine East in Park Ridge."
Daniel O'SheaBoy127Daniel carried waste papers from his classroom to the basement not long before the fire.
Theresa PageGirl7Theresa escaped without injury. Today, she and her husband are retied and live in Island Lake, IL. She has two daughters, two granddaughters, and two grandsons.
Thea VitaleGirl117“Tommy Raymond saved my life that day. We were in the hall. He held me by my uniform, pulled me back into the room. Could not see, had a difficult time breathing. We took some books and broke open the windows. Waited for the fireman ladders to come and get us. Thank you Tommy!” Thea, married since 1968, has five children and seven grandchildren. “Yesterday my grand daughters told me how their teachers talked to them about the OLA fire. I got the book 'To sleep with the angels' and showed it to them. Emily who is 9 said, 'we are so glad you are alive or we wouldn't be here.'”
Donald WesselBoy127Don escaped without injury and today lives in Atlanta Georgia. He has been married since 1970, with three grown children and one grandson.
George ZacharkoBoy127Brother of Frank Zacharko
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Room 203
About This Classroom:
This classroom was located in the south wing on the second floor, adjacent to Iowa Street and across the hall from the main south wing stairway. Miss Rossi, the classroom's lay teacher, led her students safely out of the school. Students first noticed smoke creeping in from the rear door of the classroom. Soon, the smoke became thicker and blacker as more and more seeped in under the door. When Miss Rossi opened the door, the hallway was pitch black with thick, suffocating smoke. She slammed the door shut and organized her students in a line, leading them through the smoke-filled hallway, down the nearby stairway and out of the building. Once outdoors, she discovered that several students were missing, so she returned to the classroom where she found them, too frightened to enter the smoke-filled hallway. So, she helped them escape through a window and down a fire department ladder, with the assistance of firemen.
NameBoy/GirlAgeGradeAbout This Person
Miss RossiTeacher6
Robert ChiappettaBoy116Robert escaped without injury. Years later, in 2015, still heartbroken from the loss of his little sister in the fire, he wrote a book, Imaculate Deception accusing the church and city of allowing children to be housed in a firetrap, and covering up their guilt afterwards. Robert passed away on March 6, 2018. Brother of Joan Anne and Aurthur Chiappetta.
John CollettiBoy116John escaped without injury. After running out of the school, he ran to his home on Hamlin across from the church, with Bobby Chiappetta and put on coats. The two then returned to the school to search for Bobby's sister, Joan Anne. They searched the church and the neighboring houses that had taken children in. They were unable locate her so at about 5:30 they decided that she must be at home. They learned the following day that Joan Anne did not survive.
Dianne GazzolaGirl116Twin sister of Danny Gazzola and cousin of Carol Ann Gazzola. Dianne was rescued by Father Joseph Ognibene. Because she had cerebral palsy, she wore a brace and was having difficulty getting down the stairs when Father Joe picked her up in his arms and carried her to safety. Today she is a nun and works at Our Lady of the Resurrection Hospital in Chicago.
Pamela Ann GieselGirl116Pamela escaped without injury -- she was the first one out of her classroom, according to Ms. Rossi. Pamela is a “survivor who is searching for closure and a connection to other survivors to sort out the details.” A few weeks after the fire, her parents placed her in Cameron public school for the remainder of that school year. The following year, the OLA parish leased a section of Cameron from the Chicago Public Schools, so she was able to continue her OLA education. She transferred to St Lucy's for eighth grade (and therefore never saw the new OLA school, other than in pictures), then to Siena High School, graduating in 1965.

“In November of my senior year, my mother passed from cancer and I lost touch with many people, because I then lived in the western suburbs with my father and commuted until my graduation in June.” She went to NIU for a few years, later working for TWA at O'Hare, where she met her husband-to-be, Bob Vargo. They were married in 1973 and settled in Villa Park, where she still lives today.

Joe GiuntaBoy126Joe survived, as did all the children in his class. “The smoke was thick and black. Ms. Rossi was calm and did a great job leading us to the stairwell where we were able to exit the building. We hung on to each other's shirts and belts so no one would get separated from their classmates.” Today (2010), Joe and his wife of 37 years, Penny, live in Plainfield. They have three children and three grandchildren.
Kathryn HarteGirl116Kathy escaped without apparent injury. “Miss Rossi lined us up in fire drill line, and we began to file out into the hall. The black smoke kept coming into the hall. It got in my mouth, and I couldn't breathe until I got to a window. Then I felt someone pushing me, and they pushed me all the way down the stairs. I don't know who it was, but I think it was some 8th grader, one of the bigger kids.”

From Kathy's great niece, Clare: “Kathy was a loving, caring person. She died two years later, when she was in 8th grade, in June, 1961. She died of a aneurysm at the base of her brain. We think that she got the aneurysm because when she was escaping the fire, she rolled down the stairs. Kathy died in her front yard after she got home from decorating her hallway with a bunch of others girls for their graduation. She was my great aunt, whom I never met, but I wish I had.”

Michael JamrockBoy116Michael escaped without injury. His seat was in the back of the room next to the door. As smoked began to seep in he yelled “someone is burning eggs.” That's when Miss Rossi opened the door to investigate, and subsequently ushered her students out of the school to safety.
Christina KarkoszkaGirl116Chris escaped without injury. After graduating from high school, she moved to the state of Wisconsin and today lives in Lake Geneva, WI. She has one son and a grandson. She is currently employed by the state of Wisconsin by the Department of Community Corrections. In the years following the fire, Christine felt a deep loss for those children that were lost in the fire. She taught herself to quilt and when she felt she was a capable, she created a quilt in memory of all those children that were lost. The quilt was appropriately named “The Angels Quilt.” Sister of Henry and Joe Karkoszka.
Karen KleinGirl116Karen escaped without injury.
Albert S. LetiziaBoy116Albert escaped without injury. He lived in Chicago until September 2002, and today lives in Tampa Florida. “The day of the fire I remember the kids in the room across the courtyard opening their windows and yelling 'fire', and seeing the smoke pour out of the room. I remember being told to stand up and exit quickly and calmly. Our room was near the stairwell but when we walked out into the hallway the smoke was so thick that instinct took over in helping escape the building.”
Michalene ManciniGirl6Michalene escaped without injury. Eleven years later she married Bill Poggi, a survivor from the same clssroom.
William PoggiBoy6Bill married Michalene Mancini, another survivor of Room 203. They have a son and daughter. Bill was a pilot in the US Air Force, then retired and worked as a pilot for Federal Express. Bill passed away Sept 9,2004 of a massive heart attack at age 54.
John (Jack) QuinlanBoy116Jack escaped without injury. As of January 2007, Jack has been married for 37 years, and lives in Orland Park, IL. He has 3 children and 3 grandchildren. “Miss Rossi was a wonderful teacher and I remember many names from that class, even 49 years later.” Brother of William Quinlan.
Jacquelyn SalmonGirl116Jackie escaped without injury.
Judy TortoriceGirl116Judy escaped without injury. Seated in the back of the class for talking, she was one of the first in her classroom to smell the smoke. Her teacher, Miss Rossi, led her students out of their classroom, but the smoke was so heavy, they had to feel their way along the walls until they found the stairway railing. They escaped down the stairway and were led to the church. On the way, her parents spotted her and asked where her older sister Rose was. It turned out that Rose was trapped in Room 209, and her dad, Sam Tortorice, rushed into the annex, determined to save his daughter and her classmates. Together with Father Ognibene, they were able to pull Rose and most of her classmates out the window of her classroom, and into a window in the annex. Sister of Rose Tortorice, daughter of Sam Tortorice.
Raymond TraynorBoy116Raymond escaped without injury. Brother of Don and Diane Traynor, cousin of Dennis Skinder.
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Room 204
About This Classroom:
This classroom was located in the south wing on second floor adjacent to the annex and the small courtyard that separated the north and south wings of the school.
NameBoy/GirlAgeGradeAbout This Person
Sister Mary UrbanitaTeacher6
Authur BarsellaBoy116Aurthur escaped without injury. “I heard kids screaming, 'Fire, fire, get us out of here'. Sister Mary Urbanita, who was writing homework on the blackboard, started leading children out of the room. Some of the pupils in the room started running. Kids were hanging out the windows screaming, 'Get us out of here.' Some were jumping into firemen's arms and others onto the pavement.”
Ada Maria BolzanGirl116Ada escaped without injury. “We were waiting for the bell to ring when someone noticed kids across the courtyard bunched along the windows, yelling. Sister Urbanita opened the windows and they were yelling 'fire!' Sister opened the door and thick black smoke came inside and she told us to exit immediately. The smoke was so thick and black that we could not see. Everyone was hanging on to the clothes of the person in front of them. Finally we made it to the hallway where the stairs had a little bit of light coming through the smoke. I knew I was close to the stairs because when I placed my hand on the wall I felt the pictures of all the people who had graduated in previous years. As I approached the top of the stairs someone pushed me and I rolled down the stairs. At the bottom, a nun helped me to my feet and told me to leave immediately. I went to the church to pray, along with my classmates, when I noticed the flames by the fire escape, and realized the gravity of the situation. In the church we were told to go to the convent because it was too dangerous to stay in the church. We were offered something to eat and drink and then we were told to run home.

Today (December 2007), I'm married and reside in Chicago and have three children and two grandchildren.”

Patrick ChambersBoy116Patrick escaped without injury by holding on “to each other's belts and found our way down stairs.” Pat says he and his brother “can smell smoke before anyone.” Brother of Daniel Chambers.
Joseph DiCiollaBoy6Brother of Colomba and Michael DiCiolla.
Michael DioguardiBoy116
Andy EliaBoy6Andy passed away April 7, 2006 following a difficult battle with pancreatic cancer.
Mike FedanzoBoy116“I can remember looking out our window to across the courtyard to see the older kids in their windows, yelling at us. At first we thought they were kidding around about something. Then the alarm went off and we hit the hallway. Thick black smoke, kids screaming and tugging at your cloths. This was the reality of it. One of the other things that sticks out in my memories is what was told to us after the fire -- God took the good ones. At that age it made you stop and think.” Cousin of Gene and Robert Fedanzo.
Carol GeorgeGirl116Carol survived without injury. “The children across the courtyard yelling 'fire'; thick black smoke pouring into the room when the doors were opened; pulling my skirt up over my nose to breathe; holding on to the coat hooks in the hall trying to find the staircase; stumbling down the stairs and finally fresh air, then trying to find my brothers - both of whom survived - these are memories that will live with me forever. To this day I can smell smoke before anyone else in a room. My husband says 'if Carol says there's a fire - there's a fire'. I've been married for 35 years, have 2 children and 3 grandchildren and now live in Park City, Utah.”
Ellen GilbertGirl116Ellen escaped without injury. She remembers looking across the courtyard and seeing the ceiling on fire. “To this day I can close my eyes and smell and taste the smoke. We were told to go into the church [and] then someone said that it was on fire also.” (Fortunately, it was not.)
Ronald GrzeskiewiczBoy116Ronald escaped without injury. “We were in a room near the office. No one knew about the fire until the smoke came up, and then the bell rang. I guess it was too late by then. Looking back, all I could see was smoke and flame as we went down the corridor. We had to feel our way downstairs on the main stairway. Joseph DiCiolla and I dragged out a boy with us who fainted or something. Suster Urbanita led us to safety and I think most of our room got out all right.” Brother of Mary Margeret Grzeskiewicz.
Paul KameczuraBoy116Brother of Robert Kameczura.
Fred RadeckiBoy116Fred escaped without injury.
JoAnn RenierisGirl116“I was in room 204, Sister Urbanita's class. She was writing our homework assignment on the blackboard as we were preparing to be dismissed. We heard the kids on the second floor across the courtyard yelling and trying to get our attention. They were yelling 'Fire! Fire!' Our teacher immediately went to the front door of our classroom and horrible thick black smoke started to enter the room. Since I and other students sat at the back of the room, we exited the second rear door of our room. The hallway was totally black and we could not see anything. Everyone was screaming and holding on to the clothes of the student in front of them. It was pure pandemonium, but we started to see a little daylight when we reached the top of the stairwell, where Sister Adrienne, pushed us each down the stairs. We all made it out alive and went to the Church.

“It was a very sad day and I have never forgotten what happened that Dec. 1, 1958.”

Lorraine SenorskiGirl116Lorraine escaped without injury. Sister of Andrew, Mary Lynn and James Senorski.
Nancy WoodwardGirl116Nancy escaped without injury.
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Room 205
About This Classroom:
This classroom was located in the southeast corner of the annex on the second floor, adjacent to Iowa Street and the rectory property. Dorothy Coughlan, the lay teacher in rooom 205, after conferring with Pearl Tristano in room 206 next door, led their students out of the school to safety. Recalls Marilyn DeSimone, “It was 2:50 p.m. and Mrs. Coughlin always looked out the transom above the door at the clock just outside the room - just above what was the store (we bought little religious trinkets and such from there). I remember a puzzled look on her face. She opened the door and smoke started pouring into the room. She told us all to remain seated and left the room. When she returned she told us all to stay calm and remember our fire drills (we had just had one the previous week). I remember the black dense smoke. I couldn't see where I was going. I remembered not to touch the walls. We were always told the walls could be hot. When I got to the stairs, and started down, others were pushing. I ended up falling down a portion of the stairs, but was not injured. While we stood outside in our assigned areas, I remember someone saying that everyone had gotten out all right.”
NameBoy/GirlAgeGradeAbout This Person
Dorothy CoughlanTeacher5/6After conferring with teacher Pearl Tristano in room 206, Coughlan and Tristano successfully led their students out of the school to safety. Initially, they tried to locate the school principal, Sister Flourence, who was substituting for an absent teacher, before taking the initiative and leading their students to safety outside the building. Their willingness to act contrary to the strict school rules (leaving without the principal's approval) saved many lives. She and her entire class escaped without injury.
James AlottaBoy6
Maureen BaileyGirl116Maureen escaped without injury. “I was a student in Miss Coughlan's room. We heard a knock at the door, and a quiet discussion between Miss Coughlan and Miss Tristano. I noticed smoke coming in the door. Miss Coughlin left the room briefly and when she came back told us to quickly get up and go out the door. We were only a few feet from the staircase, but couldn't see it. I just followed the white shirt in front of me and made it safely out. I was small and it seemed the crowd around me just carried me down the stairs. God bless Miss Coughlin for her quick thinking - she saved us all. My younger sister made it out alright, too. She was in a room on the first floor right next to the front door.” Sister of Doreen Bailey.
Joseph BrocatoBoy115Joseph carried trash to the basement from his classroom, and was in the boiler room when Mr. Raymond ran through and shouted for someone to call the fire department. “Suddenly, I saw the janitor running from the boiler room. The janitor yelled 'Call the Fire Department!' My classmate and I ran upstairs and we were told by the nums to go into the church. We then were told to go home.” Joseph escaped without injury.
Dale BurdaBoy116Brother of Beverly and Frank Burda and cousin of Dennis and David DeBoer and of Laura Hoblit.
Phyllis CannelloGirl115Phyllis escaped without injury. Sister of Joseph Cannello.
Michael CarbonaBoy115Michael escaped without injury. Brother of Annette Carbona.
Gail CorsigliaGirl116Gail escaped unharmed and was sent to the church. After a short time the students in the church were told to walk home. Gail went to a friend's house and phoned home. This was the first notification her family had that the school was on fire. Her sister, Millicent, was killed in room 211, while her younger sister, Pamela, stayed home after lunch. She later graduated from Immaculate Heart of Mary High School in Westchester, IL, in 1965. Sister of Millicent and Pamela Corsiglia.
Marilyn DeSimoneGirl115Marilyn escaped without injury. “I remember the black dense smoke. I couldn't see where I was going. I remembered not to touch the walls. We were always told the walls could be hot. When I got to the stairs, and started down, others were pushing. I ended up falling down a portion of the stairs, but was not injured.”
Richard R. DiCanioBoy126Rich escaped without injury, and is curently living in the northwest suburbs of Chicago with his beautiful wife and family - three wonderful children and 4 grandchildren.
Ronald EdingtonBoy116Ronald carried trash to the basement from his classroom, and was in the boiler room when Mr. Raymond ran through and shouted for someone to call the fire department. Ronnie escaped without injury. Brother of William, Carol and Patricia Edington.
Eugene FedanzoBoy116Gene escaped without injury. “I've been wondering all these years where Miss Coughlan went when we first noticed smoke coming in the room. She was gone for about 8 minutes. When she came back in, she said 'everybody up and out', then the alarm went off.” Gene passed away on April 15, 2011. Brother of Robert and Nola Fedanzo, cousin of Mike Fedanzo.
Johnnie Ann FullerGirl116Johnnie escaped down an interior stairway without injury.
Dennis GioffrediBoy115Dennis escaped without injury. A nun was waving to them from a window across the courtyard, trying to alert them to the fire. When his teacher opened the classroom door, smoke poured in. She quickly closed the door and asked them to pray. Dennis fell to the floor before he and some of his classmates tried to climb up the windows to jump. Instead, they were led out through the hallway by his teacher. He later married survivor Darlene Pizzolato. Dennis passed away on January 12, 2016, leaving behind his wife, three daughters, and seven grandchildren. Brother of Andrea Gioffredi.
Kevin GriffinBoy126“Our room was at the top of the stairs next to the 'Candy Room.' Ms. Coughlin was our teacher in the sixth grade class. The first indication there was a problem came when we smelled smoke in the room. Just a faint odor as I recall until Ms. C opened the door to investigate! As the smoke poured in everyone stood there waiting for the fire alarm bell. Ms. C said it was time to get out. We all moved row by row into the hallway, the smoke was so dense you could only see a few inches in front of your face. I followed Andy Salemi's bright white shirt out of the building onto Iowa street and started looking for my brother's and sister. They were safe and our parents picked us up and took us home.   Later that evening there was a knock at our door. It was Billy King. I can still remember his question, 'Is Joey here?' I said, 'No Billy he's not here with us.' He turned went west on Iowa and disappeared around the corner. Joey didn't make it home.”
Brother of Terry, Colleen and Connell Griffin.
Phillip MaitaBoy116Phillip today: 'I remember Ron Edington returning to the classroom and whispering something in Miss Coughlan's ear. Then I remember her standing up and yelling to all of us to get up and out of the room. The thick black smoke was bellowing under the archway of the doorway as I waited to exit the room. Once we entered the hall you couldn't see your hand in front of you. Luckily we were able to hold onto the railing and find our way to the stairs. I'll always remember Miss Coughlan because she amazed me she knew sign language. She was a great teacher!'
Michael RamelliBoy116Mike escaped without injury. He worked for ADT Security Systems for 18 years, a company involved in electronic protection systems, particularly fire alarms. We were one of the first classrooms to evacuate the building after Mrs. Coughlan was informed by students returning from emptying waste baskets in the boiler room that the janitor said “The building is on fire”.
Carlo RiggioBoy116Carl was at home sick the day of the fire.
Andrew SalemiBoy126Brother of Maria Salemi, Uncle of Cheryl Curtis.
William SarleyBoy116
Larry SaskaBoy116Larry escaped without injury. He later briefly attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, and served in West Germany during the Viet Nam Era. After returning to Chicago, Saska attended John Marshall Law School and became an attorney. A life long Chicago White Sox fan, he briefly owned a minor league franchise in Pasco, Washington and actually played one game in the minors. He was very interested in military history and politics. Larry was suffering from severe diabetes when he died in 2007 at the age of 63. Brother of Rosemarie Saska.
Thomas SchratzmeierBoy115Thomas escaped without injury. “I remember Ms Coughlin looking out of the transom and seeing the black smoke coming in. She told us to stay calm and remember our fire drills. As I was walking along the handrail toward the stairs, I fell and the other kids kept walking on top of me. Then James Alotta, the biggest kid in the class, held everbody back so I could get up, and get out of the school. I can never thank James enough. Today (2003) I am a police officer with the Dupage County sheriffs Office.” Brother of Linda Schratzmeier.
Francesca UtingGirl126Francesca escaped without injury, along with the rest of her class. She was taken to the church, where she was told to go directly home, that everyone had gotten out of the school. When she got home, she discover that her sister, Johnna, was not there. Johnna, it turned out, had been taken to Franklin Hospital with a severly broken ankle. Sister of Johnna Uting.
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Room 206
About This Classroom:
This classroom was located on the second floor of the annex, closest to the north wing classrooms. While no children or staff in room 206 suffered significant injuries, this is the room from which a 10-year-old boy was excused to go to the restroom shortly after 2 pm, a few minutes before the fire started in the basement. Several years later, at age 13, he confessed to setting the fire in a trash barrel in the basement. In court, however, he recanted the confession, and neither he, nor anyone was ever prosecuted for the fire at Our Lady of the Angels. Room 206 was one of only three classrooms with an exit leading to the school's single external fire escape.
NameBoy/GirlAgeGradeAbout This Person
Pearl TristanoTeacher5Pearl Tristano was a twenty-four-year-old fifth-grade lay teacher who was teaching in room 206 on the day of the fire. She and lay teacher Dorothy Caughlan in room 205 led their students quickly out of the school. As they left the building, Miss Tristano is the one who activated the school fire alarm. She and her entire class escaped without injury.
James AndersonBoy115
Colomba DiCiollaGirl105“I very much liked my teacher Miss Tristano. I can remember her giving us some time to quietly do homework before the end of our school day. Then she ushered us out of the building. I believe that we were the first class out. I can remember almost losing my shoe as we went so quickly down the stairs and were lead into the church. Of course we had no coats, but I walked out with the stub of a pencil in my hand that I had borrowed from someone to start my homework. I was concerned about finding my two brothers after we were dismissed from the church, and was relieved to find them both. But I was sad to find out that friends in other classrooms were severely injured or had died. I remember comments people had made about those children who had died, being 'soldiers for Christ', since we had just made our Confirmation on the Sunday before it happened. I attended Good Counsel High School and University of Illinois at Chicago. I was married in 1969 and had a son in 1972. I am presently divorced. I have taught second, third, and fourth grades in Wood Dale for over 34 years.” Sister of Joseph and Michael DiCiolla.
Charlotte GhilarducciGirl115Charlotte escaped down the fire escape without injury. Later she married Joseph Koszuta and they have two sons, Joseph and Jayson. Cousin of Richard and Anthony Sacco.
Theresa GorskiGirl105Theresa escaped without injury. She and her classmates were led out by their teacher, Pearl Tristano, along with the class in 205 and their teacher, Dorothy Coughlan. Once outside, they were led into the church and told to pray. Her brother John Gorski, a 3rd grader, also escaped unharmed. Sister of John Gorski.
Frank GrimaldiBoy115Frank escaped without injury. Frank's father, Daniel Grimaldi, ran into the school searching for Frank and his sister, Mary Anne. Not finding his children, he left the school, leading a group of children out in the process. He soon found his children, who had already escaped safely. Brother of Mary Anne Grimaldi.
James GrossoBoy105Jim escaped without injury. He later married and became the father to three sons, and grandfather to three grandsons. James passed away on July 1, 2022.
Victor JacobellisBoy5Victor escaped without injury. There were two boys named Victor Jacobellis attending OLA - it was the other (4th-grade) Victor who was fatally injured jumping from a window in room 210. Brother of Kathy Jacobellis.
Gerald KarloBoy105Gerald escaped without injury.
Wayne KellnerBoy105Wayne escaped without injury. Brother of James Kellner, cousin of Cheryl McLean.
Michael LeonardBoy5Mike was one of the first students to exit the school.
Gordon MashBoy116Gordon passed away on Christmas Day in 2010.
Rosemarie PaciniGirl105Rosemarie escaped without injury. In 1961 her family moved to Niles, and in 1971 she married Donald Garrison and moved to Libertyville, IL. Rosemarie died of cancer in January 2004. Sister of Yvonne Pacini.
Mary Jo PetrelliGirl105Mary Jo escaped without injury. “Much thanks to Miss Tristano for leading our entire class to safety. To her I will be forever grateful. We were led into the church to pray when the smoke started pouring in and one of the nuns told us to run home. A neighbor two blocks from my home took me in. I couldn't reach my home by phone. I then left and went back to the school to find my sister, Joanne, who was in second grade. I met up with my mother and we cried and hugged while searching for my sister. We then found her at the Brock family home, directly across from the school. She saw many children jumping in flames. Some injured children were brought into that house also. Joanne was traumatized but safe. Our grandmother tripped over a fire hose. I was in a daze and do not remember seeing the flames, just black smoke. I do not remember seeing the children falling out of the windows, either.

“When we returned home, my father was there with our family. We were devastated hearing the news unfold on the TV. When the pictures came up of some of my friends who died, I was very heartbroken. Our telephone never stopped ringing with calls from family and friends, hoping we were okay. It was truly unbelievable what happened that day. I remember as if it was yesterday. It has changed my life forever. Our class was interviewed by detectives due to our classmate being accused of lighting and tossing a cigarette into the bin. It was a very scarry time.

“I graduated from Good Counsel High School, and worked for Social Security Administration. I married Wally on May 26, 1968 at Our Lady of the Angels Church. We have three sons. We have resided in Schaumburg for 37 years. I am currently (April 2009) working for Freindship Village of Schaumburg as a Hospitality Assistant.” Sister of Joanne Petrelli.

Linda PowellGirl115From Linda: “Like many others I remember that day very well. Being the smallest in the class I sat in the first seat in the first row. All of a sudden we saw smoke coming down the hallway from the back part of the building. Miss Tristano left the class for a second when she came back she told us to line up and walk down the stairs. I can still hear the fire bell ringing as we walked down the stairs. We all went into the church for awhile until we were told to go home. It was very cold outside and I didn't have my coat. I didn't go back to the school [after] that at all. We just watched everything on TV that night. Our family was very lucky myself and my brother and 2 cousins were OK. I have been married to Rich Peek for 35 years now and I have two grown daughters both married. I have six grandchildren. We own a bar called The Peek Inn in Chicago.” Sister of John Powell
Rosalie SansonettiGirl105Rosalie escaped without injury. She passed away in July 2008, leaving behind her husband, David Kelton, three sons, a stepdaughter, and four grandchildren. Sister of Carolyn Sansonetti, cousin of Peggy and Kathy Sansonetti.
Paul J. SprovieriBoy105Paul escaped without injury. From his daughter Stacie: “My dad would tell us the story all the time. He described the frightning chaos that happened.

“He and another student were in the halls completing some job or task they were given when they saw the smoke. They ran and told their teacher who instructed the class to evacuated from the school. He ran home to tell his parents who at first thought he was telling them a lie. They returned to the school to make sure the rest of the family escaped safely. There was a carpenter working on the house at the time that ran to the school after hearing about the fire and carried a few kids out himself. My dad said it was a very scary time because the whole neighborhood was running around in a panic, helping to bring kids to safety but nobody knew who was safe and who was still trapped inside. He said he remembered parents asking him in fear where their kids were and all he could say was that he didn't know.”

Paul passed away on October 4, 2008, after losing a battle with cancer.

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Room 207
About This Classroom:
This classroom, formerly the school library and nicknamed "The Cheesebox" for it's small size, was located in the southeastern corner in the north wing second floor, adjacent to the annex. The room was a split-class, housing both fifth and sixth graders and, being very tiny, was more than filled to capacity. At one point, Sister Geraldita threw a plastic flower pot out the window in an attempt to get someone's attention. Eventually, school janitor James Raymond and Father Charles Hund opened the locked rear door to room 207 and led the children and their teacher to safety in the nick of time. The toxic smoke was so bad in the room, that they were only seconds away from being asphyxiated. Room 207 was the only classroom in the north wing second floor not to suffer a fatality, thanks to the heroic efforts of Mr. Raymond and Father Hund.

Recalls Loris Francioni: "It was late afternoon when the smell of something burning wafted through the room. Flames were visible through the transom above the door to the North hallway. Sister Mary Geraldita opened the door and we saw the entire hallway filled with flames. She quickly closed the door, went to open the back door leading to the fire escape only to discover that she had left the keys at the convent. The room was filling with smoke and everyone went to the windows for air. One student [Henry Bertucci] climbed out the window and onto the fire escape causing it to descend so that Mr. Raymond and Fr. Hund could come up to open the back door. Had it not been for that young man's heroic act, it is doubtful that anyone in room 207 would have survived." Room 207 was one of only three classrooms with an exit leading to the school's single external fire escape.

NameBoy/GirlAgeGradeAbout This Person
Sister Mary Geraldita EnnisTeacher5/6Sister Geraldita and all her students escaped from room 207 (but just barely). School janitor James Raymond and parish priest Father Charles Hund, unlocked the emergency exit door of the room and led everyone to the fire escape just yards away. The only injury was to a boy who jumped to the fire escape from a window. Sr. Ennis passed away May 20, 1997 at age 75.
Robert BarsantiBoy116Robert sat directly by the front door, and felt the intense heat prior to the smoke entering the room. He managed to get to the windows, but eventually escaped with the rest of his class through the room's rear door, thanks to Mr. Raymond.
Henry BertucciBoy105“I am the student who jumped out the window to grab some wires running along the building. I pulled myself to the fire escape and jumped to it. As I walked down the steps of the fire escape, it lowered to touch the ground. I believe it was then that Mr. Raymond ran up and broke down the door to the fire escape room which was next to the cheesebox.” [Room 207 was nicknamed the “Cheesebox” due to its small size.] Henry passed away on April 11, 2020 at age 72, leaving a wife of 49 years, Francine Nardi, a son, daughter and five grandchildren. Brother of Linda and Diane Bertucci.
Nina CarusoGirl6Nina escaped without injury, but just barely. “I was in Sister Geraldita's class and in 6th grade. I remember it was close to dismissal time and I wanted to go to the bathroom, but decide to wait because we would be dismissed soon. Ten minutes later, the thick black smoke was coming under the door. Sister opened the door and we saw the flames. Our room was called the 'cheesebox', [and] we had two windows and the back door was locked and used for a closet for cleaning stuff. We couldn't breathe and the smoke filled the room.

“Two students managed to get out the window and down the fire escape and they went for help. Sister wanted us to pray. Sister did not have the keys for the locked door, we all pushed to the windows for air. Father Hund and the janitor managed to get the door opened and we filed down the fire escape with Sister being last. I looked up and the room was in flames. Our room was right near the stairwell where the fire started.

“They wanted us to go to the church and stay there till our parents came, but many of us left to go home or look for brothers and sisters. The shock of the cold air mixed with the heat of the fire air caused me to lose my voice.

“I will never forget that day and how it affected me. I used to hide in the church when the buses came to take us to Cameran School. Then I would run home and my mom always took me to the rectory and Father McDonald tried to get me to get on the bus. I also remember when Sister Geraldita had her breakdown in front of us. We were the first graduating class of the new school.” Sister of Julie Caruso.

Karen CascioGirl106Karen escaped down the fire escape without injury due to the heroic efforts of Fr. Charles Hund, James Raymond and young Thomas Dilillo, who was the heroic child who jumped out that window to get help. Karen lived, along with her family, at 1101 North Hamlin. Her cousin, Nancy Pilas, perished in the fire.
Rosemary CibelliGirl105Rosemary escaped without injury.
Nancy CourtneyGirl116Nancy escaped without injury.
James Joseph DeCristofanoBoy105James said his class was doing arithmetic when “our teacher opened the door and black smoke poured in. Everybody was in a panic. Some kids fell down on the stairs. One jumped out of the window. I guess the furnace blew up.” He currently [2021] lives in Marietta, Georgia with his wife, Lisa Nystromss, and his grown daughter Nina.
Nick DeSarioBoy105Nick escaped without injury. Brother of Marilyn DeSario, cousin of Gerald, Kristine, and Judith DeSario.
Thomas DililloBoy116Tom jumped out the window onto the fire escape, and got the attention of janitor James Raymond and Father Charles Lund, who helped the rest of his class escape down the fire escape. He was treated for minor injuries from the jump.
Paula DomicoGirl105From Paula: “Room 207 was in the corner of the building. It had two large windows with the fire escape underneath so we couldn't jump. Sister Mary Geraldita lost the keys to the back door. We had to wait for someone to open it. Finally, Mr. Raymond and Father Hund got the door open and we all went down the fire escape and into the church.”
Loris FrancioniBoy116Loris went to the windows when smoke started entering the room. He recalls seeing flames shooting out the window of the adjacent hallway just to the north of the classroom. There was a fire escape below the classroom's windows and he knew he would have to climb out the window and onto the fire escape in order to escape. One of the other boys went first, the fire escape descended and Mr. Raymond and Fr. Hund came up and opened the back door of the classroom. By then the room was so filled with black smoke you could not see your hand in front of your face. Loris followed the other students, mostly by touch, to the now open back door and down the fire escape. While descending the fire escape, he remembers hearing the glass breaking and seeing flames shooting out of the classroom's windows where he had stood just moments earlier.

“He and the other students were ushered into the church where Sister Mary Geraldita, faced covered with soot, counted heads and sent the students home. Loris ran home to tell his parents what had happened, got another coat, having lost his in the flaming hallway, and went back to retrieve his bicycle left chained to a fence behind the school. At that time, he had no clue of the severity of the tragedy.

Kathleen GalanteGirl105Kathy escaped without injury. “I remember after passing from 4th grade to 5th that I was so disappointed that my best friend, George Cannella and I were going to be in different classrooms. From Kindergarten through 4th grade George and I were in the same classroom. I just couldn't understand why we got split up ... on 1 December 1958, I discovered why. It just wasn't my time to become one of God's angels, but it was George's time. The room [207] was quite small but Sister Geraldita was great. I do remember thinking she was one of the neatest nuns I'd had.”

Kathy lived in Chicago up until 1996 when her husband retired from CPD, and they decided to move to some place where they could “fish, fish and then fish some more.” So they moved to Mountain Home, Arkansas. “I married Allen Guisinger in 1972, in 1973 we lost twin boys who we named after both our dads, one named Hank and the other named Frank. In 1974 I had a daughter, Nicole and in 1976 I had a son, Marc. Both Nicole and Marc were born with Cystic Fibrosis. Nicole became an angel on 23 May 1992 when she was 17. Marc joined her on 26 February 2002 at the age of 25. Six weeks before Marc died, my husband passed away. We were married 29 years.” Kathy also has another daughter, Hope, and five grandchildren.

“Another thing is that I feel my dad died as a result of this fire. On 19 December 1958, my dad, mom, me and my sister went to the rectory to pick up a check to reimburse my parents for the coats, etc. that MaryAlice and I lost in the fire. MaryAlice and my mom had gone to the convent to pick up a bracelet MaryAlice ordered for mom. I went to the rectory with my dad (cuz I was daddy's little girl). I remember my dad getting very worked up talking about the fire and how lucky he was that God saved his girls and how upset he was about losing our two cousins. When dad and I got to the car, he started to have chest pains and we ran back to the rectory where they called the ambulance but he was dead by the time they got to the hospital. I always thought that God needed a good man to keep some control over all those little angels!” Sister of MaryAlice Galante, and cousin of Ronald, Joann and Billy Sarno.

Lorraine LaBatiGirl105Lorraine escaped, along with the rest of her class, just moments before the entire classroom was engulfed in flames. Lorraine passed away at age 71 on January 18, 2020, leaving behind her husband, Richard Catrambone, three grown children, and three grandchildren. Sister of Nora LaBati, cousin of Michael Mason.
Anita MeansGirl116Anita escaped without injury. She was lucky to find her brother, Jerry, immediately. They walked home together after being told to go home by the sisters. Today, Anita lives in South Florida with her husband.
Carmen MeleBoy116Carmen escaped without injury by climbing down the fire escape. Afterwards, he headed for home and met his mother who was running in terror to the school from her job at a restaurant. She asked “where's your sister and brother?”. He said he didn't know where they were, so his mother continued to the school to search for them. Daughter Mary was found later at a hospital with burns to her legs. She had been carried down a ladder from Room 208 by fireman. Carmen's brother, John, was unable to escape and died in Room 212. Brother of John and Mary Louise Mele.
Michael NeriBoy105Like the rest of his class, Michael narrowly escaped his classroom.
Patricia PaolellaGirl116Students in Patricia's classroom, known as the 'Cheesebox', were waiting to be dismissed for the day when they suddenly saw flames and smoke through the transom above the front door of their classroom. Later, Patricia related to reporters what happened next: “Then we heard people shouting, 'Fire' and we all started screaming and crying. We couldn't go out the regular door because of the smoke. We all tried to go out the back door of the room into the cloakroom, be we couldn't budge it. It was locked, and in the excitement Sister dropped her keys.

“Sister told us to open the windows to get fresh air. She sent me and another boy down to pull down the fire escape. While we did that a janitor came by and broke down the cloakroom door so everybody could get out.

“A couple of children thought they were going to be sick, so Sister carried them down the fire escape. We all gout out safely, but it was all so horrible. We were all worried about our friends and cousins.”

James J. PasquesiBoy115James escaped without injury down the only second floor fire escape in the school, which was located between rooms 206 and 207. Brother of Louis Pasquesi.
Patricia PierroGirl105Patricia escaped without injury.
Matt PlovanichBoy105Matt escaped without injury, suffering only smoke inhalation.
Arlene PorcaroGirl116Arlene escaped without injury. Arlene currently [2021] lives in Fishers, Indiana married to Peter Barker. They have three grown children. Cousin of Joyce and Jayne Porcaro.
Karen Lolita PusateriGirl105Along with her classmates in room 207, Karen narrowly escaped the burning school. “Our room faced the only fire escape in the building, but the door that led out to the fire escape was locked. I sat in the first seat of the row next to the radiator and windows. This side of the building was right next door to the rectory.

“As we silently sat in our seats waiting for the bell to ring for dismisal, which never came, our sister opened the door to the hall to find out why the bell had not rung. When she did, the oxygen in the room fueled the fire that was already blazing in the hall. The room quickly filled with smoke and the floor and ceiling were burning. We all tried to get some air from the windows, piled on one another to breathe. Sister told us to remain calm and we lowered one of the boys onto the fire escape to go next door to the rectory to call for help. He returned quickly (it seemed like forever) with Father Hund and Father Ognibene (Father Joe). They climbed the fire escape. They had an axe and chopped through the door that was the barrier between us and safety. We climbed down the fire escape one at a time. I was the one of the last students to exit the room, Sister was right behind me. As soon as we exited the floor collapsed† and the ceiling was caving in. Sister led us to the church where we would wait for our parents to gather us.

“One of my best friends was burned 90% of her body and was hospitalized for three years† trying to repair her. I visited the hospitals often, most of my friends were there. I escaped without my winter boots on my feet, they started to burn as I tried to get out of the room as fast as I could. My hair was burned in spots as well as my clothing. I had no idea what I looked like. I did not know that I was black with soot. When my mother finally found me and we left the church, my teacher was out front doing what she could to help others and she even tried to go back into the school to find other children.” [†Some of Karen's recollections differ from those of her classmates and others.]

Connie RoseGirl116Connie escaped without injury, but just barely. She was second to last to escape from "The Cheesebox".
Sally ShillcuttGirl116Sally was at school in the morning, but left for a dental appointment in the afternoon, and thus was not in the school at the time of the fire. She and her mother heard the news on the car radio and feared for her sister, Donna, a second grader, but she escaped unharmed. Sister of Donna Shillcuttt, cousin of Wayne, Carmine and Annamarie Castrovillari.
Debbie TalianiGirl105“I escaped unharmed but something I have and will always remember. I remember the heat and smoke, we all ran to the windows and we saw the flames shooting out of other windows and heard the sound of kids screaming for help. We could not get out because the door was locked leading to the fire escape. Father Hund finally arrived thanks to our fellow classmate who was able to get out through the window and go for help. Father unlocked the door and we started to make our way to the fire escape. The smoke was blinding and it was difficult to breathe. Sister told us not to look back and run to the church next door but I turned around and saw students jumping from windows and crying for help. This is something I will never forget. Today [2012] I am retired from teaching and live in California. Everytime I hear a fire truck I cannot help but think of the events at OLA.” Sister of Donna Taliani.
Peter VerzaniBoy116Like the rest of his class, Peter escaped thanks to janitor James Raymond and Pastor Father Hund. “We had just gotten back to our classroom on the second floor from another room, where we were given a music lesson. Sister Mary Geraldita suddenly noticed smoke coming in from under the door. She opened the door and found the outside corridor filled with smoke. She rushed to close the door and a transom, too. She went to the rear of the classroom where she could look down into the school yard. She saw Msgr. Joseph Cussen and Father Charles Hund standing there. Both made motions to tell us not to get excited.

“When we went to the cloakroom, which leads to the fire escape, we found the door was locked. Sister said she didn't have the key. She opened a window and threw out a plastic flower pot to attract attention. One of the pupils, Henry Bertucci, opened a window and was able to get onto a fire escape and caused it to come down. Then we heard the janitor at the locked door. He told us 'Don't get excited.' Soon we heard a crash. He had broken open the door and we were able to escape to the ground. Two priests standing there told us to go into the church.”

Today [2004], Peter is married and resides in Barrington, IL with his wife, Halina. Brother of Jolanda Verzani.

Rochelle WenckowskiGirl115Rochelle escaped without injury. Later, she was married and lived in the northwest surburbs of Chicago. She passed away on May 4, 2017.
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Room 208
About This Classroom:
This classroom was located on the second floor in the northeast corner of the north wing, closest to the stairwell where the fire began. In the alley on the north side of the school, neighbors raced home and brought ladders in hopes of rescuing students through classroom windows. Of the numerous ladders in the alley prior to the arrival of the fire department, only one, placed at one of room 208's windows by part-time assistant janitor Mario Camerini, was long enough to reach the second floor windows. This ladder, and some men on it, allowed approximately 25 children to escape from Room 208 who might not otherwise have, and no doubt accounted for the somewhat lower death rate in this room. Still, 12 students and their teacher, Sister Mary St. Canice Lyng, perished in room 208.
NameBoy/GirlAgeGradeAbout This Person
Linda BarlettaGirl127Linda was pushed out a window but survived with just bruises and minor burn injuries. “Our backs were burning. Then someone pushed me out of a window,” said Linda the next day from her hospital bed. Cousin of Andrea Gagliardo and James Barletta.
Laura BiscontiGirl127Laura's hair and nose were burned and covered with blood. She sat on the window sill overlooking the alley, watching boys jump and crack their heads on the concrete. "I thought I was going to die either way because the window sill was burning. Next, Len Gramarossa told me to make a chain because the ladder only reached the first floor window." Kids were pushing and shoving and she had to hold on the the legs of the boy above her. James Raymond, the school janitor, helped her down and then she just took off running, but soon fainted. A neighbor found her, burned and covered with blood, and carried her home. "My dad was home and thought I was in a car accident. My little sister, JoAnn, was in second grade, but she was home with a cold that day. My mom was at work and by mistake, she heard my name on the death list. She left work and took a bus home, but they wouldn't let her near the scene. She got home and found no one home because my dad had taken me to the hospital. We got calls and mail from all over the world giving us their prayers. There really are no words that could ever describe the greatest disaster I have ever experienced. I will never forget, I cannot forget, the horror of that day." Sister of JoAnn Bisconti
Anthony CardamoneBoy127Anthony jumped out of the window and landed on the roof of the basement chapel entrance. He spent a week in the hospital with a injured back. He later married and together with wife, Kathy Pusateri, raised two children. Anthony passed away after losing a battle with pancreatic cancer. Brother of Antoinette Cardamone.
Jeanie CatalanoGirl137Jeanie suffered a broken leg jumping from her classroom. Cousin of Joseph and MaryAnne Modica.
Robert EarlyBoy127Robert suffered a fractured foot after falling from a window. “We couldn't get out the door to the corridor. It was too smoky.” Robert climbed out of his classroom onto a window ledge and was shoved off by someone trying to climb out. He landed hard, fracturing a foot, but limped away in a daze before a police officer saw him and placed him in a squadrol. He was taken to Franklin Blvd Hospital where he remained for three weeks.
Andrea GagliardoGirl127Andrea climbed out on a ledge and was eventually rescued by firemen. “Some of the boys jumped out of the window. When we looked down we saw them lying still on the ground. It was like a miracle when we saw the firemen with their ladders.” Cousin of Linda Barletta.
Michael GiacominoBoy137
Leonard GramarossaBoy127Today (2008), Len is principal of Divine Infant Jesus School in Westchester, IL. He has been with the Archdiocese of Chicago as a teacher and principal since 1975.
Joseph T. GrazianoBoy127Joseph escaped without injury. He was one of two boys named Joseph Graziano attending OLA at the time of the fire. The other was in room 209.
Thomas HandschiegelBoy127Thomas escaped down a ladder without injury. At the funeral mass for his nun, Sr. Mary St. Canice, Thomas said: “Our sister [Canice] was a wonderful teacher. She was real good to us--most of the time. When the fire came, she was trying to get the kids out the second floor window, and she helped me out onto a ladder there. The last I saw of her was when she went back into the room and disappeared into the smoke. I think she could have gotten out, but she stayed trying to help the kids.” He has several brothers and sisters who also attended the school and survived. He currently [2021] lives in Stillman Valley, Illinois, with his wife Linda and two grown children, Susan and Thomas. Brother of Catherine, James, Regina and Susan Handschiegel.
James KalangesBoy127James survived by jumping from a window, although he broke a hip, leg and arm in the fall. After the fire, his parents decided to withdraw him from OLA and enroll him in a public school. Sadly, he passed away at age 21.
Elizabeth KoncelGirl127Elizabeth was burned on her arm and back when she opened one of the room 208 doors to see if the class could get out via the main hallway - they of course could not. She spent three weeks in the hospital recovering from her injuries. Sister of Florence Koncel.
James KrajewskiBoy127Jimmy survived by jumping from a window of room 208, but broke his back and both ankles when he landed. “The door started to shake and rattle and when the sister opened it smoke poured in. Everyone was yelling. Another boy and I ran to the window and opened it. Everyone was pushing and it got real hot. Then I jumped. I think I was knocked out for a while. I still don't remember deciding to jump.” He was not released from the hospital until February 25, 1959. James passed away on October 17, 2016. Brother of Connie Krajewski.
Michele KroppGirl7Michele was helping with a first grade birthday party in room 107 when the fire alarm rang. She helped to quickly usher the first graders outside to safety.
Andrew LegoBoy127Andrew escaped from room 208 with only minor injuries by dropping from the window ledge to the roof covering the entrance to the basement chapel and then to the ground.
James LuberdaBoy127Jim escaped by hanging and dropping from the second floor window ledge located above the covered stairwell leading to the basement chapel of the school.
Diane MarcheschiGirl127Diane broke her arm when she fell from a window. “When we heard the fire bell, we didn't think anything of it. But then black smoke started coming under the cracks of the door and more black smoke came in. We tried calling through the doors. We opened the windows, but hardly anyone seemed to hear us. Then firemen came and set up ladders. I started to go for a ladder. But it was too short. I missed it and fell to the ground. Some of us got out, but I don't know how many didn't. I got out with just a broken arm.”
Margie MarzulloGirl7Margie escaped without injury. She was helping with a birthday party in the first grade classroom below room 208 when the fire broke out. She helped usher the first-graders safely out of the burning school.
Joann McDonaldGirl127“Everybody was screaming. Two men brought ladders from the garage and put them up to the second floor. One girl hung from the ledge and got her feet on the ladder, but it was too far away for the rest of us. Then the men put the ladders together and one girl started to climb down, but the ladder fell apart and she dropped. The fire started coming through the walls and everybody was screaming because the fire was hurting them. I jumped out the window and landed on the roof of a shed in the alley. I must have bounced because then I landed on the ground. I felt the pain right away and couldn't move my leg, so I knew it was broken.”
Mary Louise MeleGirl127Mary Louise was injured during her escape from her burning classroom. Her brothers, Carmen and John, were also on the second floor of the school. Carmen, a 6th grader, escaped uninjured but John, a 5th grader in room 212, did not. Mary Louise passed away in November 2005, after losing a battle with brain cancer. Sister of John and Carmen Mele.
Patricia MontanoGirl127Patricia escaped but suffered burn injuries for which she spent two months in St. Anne's Hospital. Sister of Cornel Montano.
Michaelene MootzGirl127Michaelene was the girl Joann McDonald saw escape just ahead of her. Michaelene climbed out and hung from the window ledge because the ladder was too short. “I always wondered what had happened to you, Joann, for I remember you being behind me, and a small statue of the Sacred Heart was falling out the window. I remember saying to you, lets put Him back inside the classroom. I have finally been able to put myself into this site, it has taken 51 years, but it is time. The last person I saw was our nun -- she was standing in the back of the room, she was looking at me. I turned around to look into the classroom before getting on the window ledge, and the smoke was so heavy and dark. The glass was breaking from the light fixtures, and my arm was burned from the intense heat, but Sister's face to this day is so vivid in my mind. Although I was a new student, I lost some very dear friends that day. OLA will always hold a very special place in my heart, and though some are gone, they will never be forgotten, nor will those left behind.”
Irene MordarskiGirl127Irene was hospitalized longer than any other survivor of the fire. She was discharged in June 1959 but had to undergo repeated operations for years afterwards, including several complete hip replacements. In August 1967, Irene married Gerry Andreoli, a survivor of room 209. Sister of Monica Mordarski.
Luciana MordiniGirl117Luciana fell or was pushed out of the window above the covering that led to the basement from the outside. She was picked up by a passerby and moved opposite the school, in front of the candy store. A man picked her up and took her to Saint Anne's Hospital in his own car. She suffered burns to her right arm and back, and was released from the hospital on Christmas Eve.
Michael NeagleBoy7Mike escaped without injury by hanging from a window in room 208 and dropping onto the small roof covering a stairway leading to the chapel. Brother of Carol Neagle, cousin of James Neagle.
Diane PalmisanoGirl7Diane suffered burns before escaping.
JoAnn PellettiereGirl127JoAnn was helping with a birthday party in the first grade classroom directly below room 208. When the fire alarm sounded, she helped march the first graders safely out of the building. Just as her mother looked out her front window across Avers Avenue and saw that the school was on fire, she saw JoAnn coming from the school with some of the first graders still in tow.
Patricia PerrymanGirl147Patricia escaped with minor injuries after falling head-first down a ladder and being caught by a fireman. She was admitted to Walther Memorial Hospital. Patricia escaped with minor injuries after falling head-first down a ladder and being caught by a fireman. She was admitted to Walther Memorial Hospital. Interviewed in the hospital, she said, “Most of them were fearful, and some of them started jumping up and running around.&requo; Patricia said Sister Canice attempted to calm the children before escape ladders were placed at the windows.
Nick RadognaBoy127Nick was injured while jumping from a window in his second floor classroom, and was transported to Walther Memorial Hospital.
Emily RuszczykGirl127Emily climbed onto a window ledge before firemen arrived and, with a firm push from behind by Sister Mary St. Canice, sailed out the window. She landed on a roof covering a basement entrance. She received minor burn injuries and serious contusions, but no broken bones.
Nancy ScanlonGirl127Nancy escaped by hanging onto a window ledge and dropping to the ground. She was either caught in a net or by a fireman, but was not hurt. She learned that her best friend, Lorraine Nieri, did not make it out. Later, she became Nancy Rodewald.
August ScolaroBoy117August, also known as Augie, was able to escape without injury from his 7th grade classroom by going down the only ladder that was high enough to reach the window. Once down, he was able to find his little brother, Joseph, a 3rd grader, and both went home. Augie lost his teacher Sister Mary Canice St. Lyng and several of his classmates. Brother of Joseph Scalaro and cousin of Joseph and Michael Prete.
Serge UccettaBoy127Serge escaped without injury down a ladder placed at his classroom window before the fire department arrived.
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Room 209
About This Classroom:
This classroom was located in the center of the north wing, overlooking a small courtyard that separated the north and south wings of the school. When Sister Mary Davidis Devine realized the school was on fire, she had students stack books and furniture around the cracks in the door to slow the entry of the toxic smoke. This probably bought her students a little extra valuable escape time. Parent Sam Tortorice, whose daughter Rose was in this room, ran into the school and climbed out onto an awning below the rear window of room 209. Father Joseph Ognibene soon joined him and they worked as a team, helping students escape through the rear window of the classroom, and into a window in the annex. From there, they went down the only metal staircase in the school, and exited via the main entrance on Iowa Street. As a result, only one student, Beverly Burda, was not able to escape from this room. Valerie Thoma, who did escape, later passed away in the hospital, leaving this room with the second lowest fatality rate of the six north wing second floor classrooms. From Phillip DeChristopher: "I'm convinced that the 'lifeline' to Room 209 was the awning over a small porch in that courtyard. That awning provided a escape route to either the courtyard floor or to Father Joe's waiting arms. Reportedly, Sister Davidis's heroic willingness to stay in the room, not allowing herself to be rescued by firemen until 'all students were evacuated', also had to be an important factor in minimizing loss of life. Of about 60 or so students from our classroom present at school that day, we lost only 1 (Beverly Burda) to the room itself."
NameBoy/GirlAgeGradeAbout This Person
Sister Mary Davidis DevineTeacher528Sister Devine ordered her students to quickly push their desks against the doors and push their arithmetic books into the crevices, in order to slow the suffocating smoke's entry into the room. Her quick thinking may have helped save lives. Only one student failed to escape from her classroom and only two room 209 students died. She was hospitalized for six days following the fire, recovering from burns and a deep cut on her face. Sister Davidis passed away on October 14, 2006, at age 100.
Gerry AndreoliBoy138Gerry was hospitalized at St. Anne's until March of 1959, after undergoing numerous skin graft operations. He later married Irene Mordarski, a survivor of room 208.
Ray ArenaBoy138Ray was the 3rd person to escape from room 209, having jumped from the last window onto a small roof, climbed back into the annex and exited at the main entrance in the south wing. He remained at the fire scene helping others and firemen until 10 pm. “As class officer I was asked to be a pallbearer for many of my 8th grade classmates. I returned to school at HOC [Our Lady Help of Christians] and then Orr till graduation. My uncle Ernie was the football coach and he forced me and some other classmates to go back into the burned school a few days later so we could retrieve books for everyone to use at HOC.”

Ray started at OLA in kindergarten, and remained there for 9 years. He became very familiar with the neighborhood, having lived one house away from the corner of Hamlin and Iowa streets. He was an excellant student and athlete, played football, basketball, and softball for OLA, and was the first student from OLA to attend St. Patrick High School.

After high school, he went on to St. Norbert and George Williams Colleges, and upon graduation, became a teacher. He returned to OLA in 1969 as teacher, coach and athletic director, and subsequently taught in Catholic schools for 11 years, both in Illinois and Arizona. He is still teaching, and today teaches in a rural Arizona public school.

John BarabaszBoy138John escaped and was admitted to Garfield Park Hospital with minor injuries.
Gloria BergGirl8Sister of Edward Berg.
Antoinette CardamoneGirl138Antoinette attended school in the morning but was feeling ill when she returned home for lunch. She ended up staying home in the afternoon, quite possibly saving her life. Sister of Anthony Cardamone.
Patricia CodutiGirl128Patti escaped without injury. In later years, she married Thomas Travers, and together they had three children. She passed away on February 23, 2005.
Josephine CusimanoGirl128Also known as Joyce, Josephine escaped without injury. She followed Sister Mary Davidas' instructions by throwing books at the door to block the smoke from entering the classroom, and opened a window to get attention from the rescuers below. Father Ognibene pulled her from the corner window of room 209, and swung her to Sam Tortorice in the annex, where escaped down the metal stairway. She then went into the church where she comforted the smaller crying children. She learned later that night that her friend, Mary Louise Tamburrino, also an 8th grader, did not survive.
Andrew D'AmoreBoy138Andrew escaped without injury. “I remember being in class and someone in the back of the room, I believe it was Richard Sacco, raised his hand and told Sister Davidis that he smelled smoke. She then told him to investigate. When he opened the back door, clouds of black smoke entered the room. He immediately shut the door. At seeing this, Sister Davidis ran to the front door and opened it. Realizing that there was no escape, she closed the door and ordered us to throw our books to the doors to block the smoke from entering the class.

“The students then rushed to the four windows and tried to get the attention of the classes across the courtyard. I then noticed Ed Maggerise from my classroom in the courtyard. I looked to my left and saw students jumping from the far left window onto the canopy below. From the canopy they then hung and dropped to the court yard below. I then left my window and moved toward the left window. I remember that my glasses darkened due to the smoke and heat, so I removed them and put them in my pocket. I then waited in line at the window to escape. Once at the window I jumped to the canopy. By the time I got to the canopy, people were no longer jumping to the ground below. From the canopy I was helped into another window which led into the annex, and from there I exited at the main entrance in the south wing.

“Once out, I began searching for my brother, Joe, who was in 6th grade in a classroom in the south wing. I found him in the church and waited with him there. Ed Maggerise was a tough neighborhood kid. He led the escape from room 209 and we all followed. Thanks to him, many lives were saved.”

After the fire, Andrew attended Our Lady help of Christrians. Following graduation from OLA he attended St. Mel High School. Upon graduation from Mels, he attended the University of Illinois and Northwestern University. He worked as an engineer for various Chicago area companies until 2002. He then switched careers and started teaching Math and Science at St. Louise de Marillac in LaGrange Park, where he still teaches today.

Annette DanesiGirl128Annette escaped without injury. “I was a student at OLA from Kindergarten through 8th grade. The fire was 4 days before my 13th birthday. My birthday remains a grim reminder of the saddest day in my childhood and the terrible experience of that tragic day. On the other hand, it helps me realize how prescious life is and how quickly it can be taken away. Each birthday and each anniversary of the fire reminds me that I am a survivor and I am grateful to have all that I have.

“Many of my classmates in Rm. 209 were not just friends, but classmates through all of my life at that point. I believe we had 6 rows of about 10-12 in each row. I believe I was in the 4th row from the door side of the room, about 4 seats back. Beverly Burda sat behind me. She did not survive and that has always haunted me...that someone so close in proximity to me wasn't able to escape with me. I remember that Richard Sacco sat at the back of the first row by the door side. At about 2:50 he called out to Sister Davidis that he smelled smoke. He said it outloud...when Sister got up from her desk...he repeated it, now even louder...SISTER, I SMELL SMOKE! He jumped up and opened the door. Immediately, the blackest, darkest smoke bellowed into the room Sister told us to throw our books against the door. As a youngster, I didn't realize she was helping us to block the smoke from entering the room.

“We all jumped up from our desks and ran to the windows. We were trying to tell the classroom across the courtyard the school was on fire. They paid no attention to us. I don't know why, but I do remember I grabbed my wallet and my hankie. I knew my housekey was in my wallet, and I used my hankie to cover my mouth and nose. I remember several of the boys scurried down the huge gutters to get into the courtyard so they could get help, only to find the huge iron gates locked. They couldn't get us help!!

“It seemed like an eternity, but then Fr. Joe Ognibene and Mr. Tortorice were at the corner window above the brass canopy...one by one they pulled kids across the canopy to exit out the metal stairway. I was rescued by them in that fashion. The boys of 209 that acted so bravely and so quickly were the true heros for their immediate response and braverly. Fr. Joe and Mr. Tortorice were also heros for working so fast and saving so many.” Sister of Susan Danesi.

Phillip J. DeChristopherBoy138“I was one of the students who obediently followed Sister Davidis's instructions to shove our arithmetic books under the front door. This was an OK move, but the room rapidly filled with smoke anyway. As we were trapped in Room 209 with black smoke billowing over our heads, I was amazed at the difficulty we had attracting the attention of teachers and students across the courtyard.

“Before anyone could get ladders to any window, the firemen had to literally chop down the high, locked wrought iron fence enclosing the courtyard. I remember as if it were today that I didn't start to feel that I was in mortal danger until I saw the tortured and anxious expressions on the faces of those firemen who fought and struggled to break that fence down, some even with their axes. The fence finally came down when they backed one of the fire engines either to push down the fence or to physically pull it out.

“Up to the point where I was still aware, the first ladder brought into the courtyeard was put at the window where I was situated, at the front of the Room 209, farthest away from the awning where Father Joe was rescuing other students from the back of the room. It is my understanding that the ladder placed at that front window was brought over by Mr. Tortorice who knew which classroom his daughter Rose was in (they lived on Hamlin at Iowa, one block east of the school). The wooden ladder, which was not a fireman's ladder, did not reach to the second floor window. We had to dangle from the exterior window sill to reach the top of the ladder. There was a mad rush to get to the ladder and a lot of screaming and pushing. I believe I was the second or third male student on that ladder. While on the first rung of the ladder, I remembered being stepped on from above, then I lost consciousness from smoke inhilation. One of our classmates, James Sturtevant, had already escaped, possibly from the rear window, was on the ground. At a 1989 reunion, he told me he watched me fall off the ladder and drop to the concrete, bouncing like a ball. Besides minor burns and contusions all over my body, the worse injury I suffered was a double basilar skull fracture, which caused acute hemorrhaging from my right ear. James Sturtevant picked me up and brought me to a Chicago police "paddywagon". He told me that he "stuck his tie in my ear so that I wouldn't bleed all over him". I do not think he quelled the hemorrhaging much at all, but in doing what he did, he helped save my life.

“I never really regained consciousness until 3 days later. I had been brought to Franklin Blvd. Hospital, unconscious and in hypovolemic shock. I had lost about 50% of my blood volume. I was hospitalized until Christmas, when they allowed me to go home, but I remained at "bed rest" (no raising my blood pressure by playing, running or even laughing!) for 2 more months because I was told that I still had "blood clots on my brain". I made a full physical recovery with only minor hearing loss in my right ear.

“At the scene, I'm convinced that my life was saved because of the heroic firemen (who didn't have the opportunity to continuing rescuing students from Room 209 while I was present to witness it), Rose Tortorice's father's ladder and strong and willing arms of James Sturtevant that got me to a police vehicle that got my unconscious body to the attendion of a hospital.”

Clifford J. DegrootBoy138Clifford was hospitalized at Garfield Park Hospital for minor injuries. Clifford passed away on November 26, 2009. Brother of Dorothy and Mary Joy DeGroot.
Richard DeVittoBoy8Richard escaped through the rear window like many of his classmates. Years later, he became a police officer with the Chicago Police Department.
Patrick FinniganBoy138Patrick escaped without injury. His brother Michael, a third grader on the first floor, also escaped without injury. But their older sister Nancy, also an 8th grader, but in room 211, did not survive. Later, Patrick, a Vietnam Army Veteran, was married and, together with wife, Elizabeth, raised four daughters and a son. Pat passed away on October 30, 2004. Brother of Michael and Nancy Finnigan.
Joseph GiglioBoy138Joseph had only been a student at OLA for a year or so. “This was my first day missing school. I had a fever that day and my father kept me and my brother Frank Giglio who was in second grade home. We were so blessed that day that our father came home and stopped us from leaving the house.” Brother of Frank Giglio.
Joseph A. GrazianoBoy138Joe was burned over 30% of body. Most of his third degree burns were on his right hand and right leg, and he also suffered second degree burns on his face and arm. Joe escaped the fire by jumping from the second floor window, and was taken to St. Anne Hospital, where he spend about a month. He was very happy to finally return home. “This is the day I will never forget. We heard somebody scream that the roof was on fire. We couldn't see anything. Kids fell on the floor screaming.” Joseph said the school had trouble with an overheated furnace the prior year.

“I still remember the smoke and when I saw the people jumping on 9/11, it brought back some memories.” Joe now (April 2009) lives in Knoxvile, TN and is married to Linda, and they have five children.

There were two boys named Joseph Graziano, the other was in room 208 and escaped uninjured.

Brother of Richard Graziano.

Vito GrimaldiGirl138Vito escaped through the rear window with the help of Father Joe and Sam Tortorice.
Rosemary GudzGirl138Rose recalls that she was the second person out the rear window, after Eddie Maggerise. Father Joe helped her off the awning and into the window in the annex. She then went to find brother, Jerome, in the church. He was also a student in the school. They ran straight home, knowing their mother would be worried when she heard the news. “I feel Eddie showed the way for all of us to get out. I never did thank him. I will never forget that day.” Sister of Jerome Gudz.
Frank GuzzoBoy138Frank escaped by jumping from the corner window to the canopy below, and then climbed over the iron fence enclosing the courtyard. He later married and, together with wife Shirley, raised two children.
Rosalie GuzzoGirl138Rosalie escaped like most of her classmates by the rear window with the help of Father Joe and Sam Tortorice. Her twin brother, Frank, got out the same window but he jumped onto the canopy then climbed the high fence that closed off the courtyard.

She later married and has two children. After her first husband died in 2006. She married her classmate William (Bill) O'Brien in 2014, who got out the same window as Rosalie.

Jean HartGirl138Jean went on to a career in education, teaching at St. Francis High School in Wheaton, St Patrick High School in Chicago and Notre Dame High School in Niles, Illinois. Jean passed away in October 2021.
James Howard, Jr.Boy138James was severly burned and remained hospitalized at St. Anne's through spring, 1959.
Stanley KalettaBoy138Stan escaped without injury. Stan married Susan and they have two daughters, Tina and Tammy. Twin brother of Ken Kaletta, uncle of Mary Dowling.
Cynthia KernGirl138“I escaped the fire by kneeling on the window sill waiting for the firemen to bring a ladder to the window. I tried to get to the back of the room so I could escape by climbing on to that small roof where Rose Tortorice's father was pulling some of my classmates to safety. I couldn't get there because of the smoke and intense heat. I was one of the fortunate ones to get a place at a window. I remember touching the brick on the side of the window when I climbed on the sill and how hot it was! Beverly Burda was my best friend and she was standing next to me at the window. I remember trying to give her some air by 'fanning' her with my hands because it was so hard to breathe. Beverly said 'thank you, Cynthia,' and then stepped back. I never saw her again. She died in the blaze. Til this day, I still pray to St. Theresa of the Little Flower as I did when hanging from that window ledge - 'Little Flower Show Your Power.'”
Edward MaggeriseBoy8Eddie was the first one to escape from room 209. He jumped from the rear window of the room to a small canopy covering a doorway in the courtyard.
Linda MarracciniGirl8Sister of Richard Marraccini.
Gloria Jean MastellGirl138Gloria “was a newcomer to Catholic school and OLA in September, 1958. I had few friends, among them Beverly Burda, who died. I did not care about obeying nuns in particular. Consequently when instructed to 'sit down, calm down, I did the opposite: ran to windows and started screaming my head off. One of the first out the window, along the ledge, back in through a window around corner and down the stairs. At last I know the man who was helping us escape. I remember first seeing wisps of smoke coming through the tiny holes in the old-fashioned asbestos ceiling tiles, then, seconds later, neon blue flames like a gas stove, lighting up the ceiling. Our Sister told us to stay in our seats; she started the Our Father. I had no qualms about ignoring such inane advice and went to the window instead and opened them to the freezing air. Thank goodness they actually opened -- imagine if they had been painted shut! I never had nightmares, or any particular fear of fire afterwards. However, I never respected nuns again, either.” Gloria was killed in a tragic hit-and-run accident caused by a drunk driver on January 25, 2013.
Michele McBrideGirl138Michele was burned over 60% of her body and hospitalized for four and a half months. She underwent numerous operations which continued for years afterwards. The fire that ravaged her body left her in continuous, lifelong pain. Her pain finally ended in July 2001 when she died of multiple organ failure, no doubt a result of damage inflicted by fire so many years before.

In 1979 Michele wrote a book ("The Fire That Will Not Die") about her experience the day of the fire, and her life thereafter. Michele's sister, Dae Hanna: “Michele died on July 4th 2001, from long term physical problems suffered from the fire many years ago. May she rest in peace. She never had a day without pain in her legs and joints. May she rest in peace. She disagreed vehemently with many of the theories in the 'To sleep with the angels book'. Her book THE FIRE THAT WILL NOT DIE was certainly well titled, and the only first hand account of that day. May she rest in peace.”

John MolitorBoy8John escaped by jumping out the rear window onto the canopy over a doorway in the northeast corner of the courtyard.
William O'BrienBoy138William escaped without injury by jumping from the rear window of his classroom to a small porch cover in the courtyard, and scrambling down from their to the concrete courtyard. He then climbed over the iron picket fence enclosing the front of the courtyard, and ran to Chicago Avenue. There, he ran to the fire alarm box (box 5182), and pulled the switch.

Bill later married Geraldine Sierwierski and together raised three children. After his wife's death in 2010, he married former classmate Rosalie (Guzzo) Lutzka in 2014. William passed away on April 10, 2016 at age 71. Brother of Colleen and Maureen O'Brien.

George O'ConnorBoy158George jumped out the window to same small porch cover that allowed many students to escape from room 209. He injured his arm but was able to run home. George passed away on December 23, 2021 in Lutz, Florida.
Susanne Rose PadulaGirl138Sue escaped without injury. She passed away on October 26, 2017.
JoAnn ParetiGirl138JoAnn escaped without injury. Years later, she married Joseph Abbate, and raised three daughters. She passed away on January 30, 2004.
Donald Michael PatanoBoy128Donald was about to do his task of taking waste paper to the basement when he felt the metal waste basket, and it was hot. He then escaped without injury. He died on February 11, 2006, at age 60, leaving behind a wife, Hanie-Yee, and daughter Jenna.
Carol PilasGirl8Cousin of Nancy Pilas
Rosemary PisaniGirl138Rosemary was rescued by parent Sam Tortorice and Father Ognibene through the rear window, onto an awning and then into a window in the annex where she escaped down the stairs and out the main entrance of the south wing. Today, Rosemary lives with her husband in Portland, Oregon and has two grown children.
Richard SaccoBoy168Richard escaped without injury. He is now [2007] living in Huntington Beach, CA. He has a beautiful daughter named Alisa and is loving retirement. He plans to attend the next class reunion. Brother of Anthony Sacco, cousin of Charlotte Ghilarducci.
John ScimoneBoy138Fortunately, John was not at school on the day of the fire. Cousin of Carol Gazzola.
Terrence ShotsbergerBoy148Terry escaped without injury by jumping from the rear window of his classroom to the small awning below, and then to the ground. Terry married Laura Williams in 1966 and they had no children. He passed away on November 15, 2009. Brother of James Shotsberger.
James SturtevantBoy8James escaped from his burning classroom without significant injury. As he stood in the courtyard watching the disaster unfold before him, he saw a classmate, Phillip DeChristopher, fall off a ladder and land on the concrete courtyard. James picked up Phillip and carried him to the street, where a policeman helped place Phillip in a police squadrol. Phillip was taken to the hospital where it was discovered he had a fractured skull causing acute hemorrhaging from his ear. James quick action in helping Phillip get to the hospital likely saved his life.
Mary TanziGirl128Mary was able to escape her classroom without injury. It was said that a mother, who spoke no English, ran to the school with tears in her eyes and shoved a piece of paper in front of firemen, that the crowd was also able to see. It read: “Mary....Room 209”. The rest of the note appeared to be written in a foreign language, and couldn't be translated.
Donna TedescoGirl138Donna escaped without injury thanks to Father Ognibene and Sam Totorice's brave actions. Her younger sister Joanne, who was a 5th grader, escaped with their cousin Mary Jane Nuccio. Donna later married Anthony Laterza and they raised two daughters. Sister of Joan Tedesco, cousin of Mary Jane Nuccio.
Rose TortoriceGirl138Rose was rescued, along with a number of her classmates, by her father, Sam, and by Father Joseph Ognibene. Mr. Tortorice and Father Ognibene together swung children from the rear window of room 209 into a window in the annex, where they could escape down an interior metal staircase and out to safety. Rose later married, becoming Rose Patzelt. Sadly, Rose passed away from cancer in 1992. Daughter of Sam Tortorice, sister of Judy Tortorice.
Joseph UrbanBoy138Thirteen-year-old Joey Urban was in a second-floor window when he saw his mother, Mrs. Lucille Urban, frantically waving to him in the turmoil directly below. “I hollered to my boy to jump, for God's sakes, jump, because I saw there was no time for the firemen to pick him up. Joey yelled something back, and then he came down. I stood there and just tried to catch him. Heavens be blessed, I did. I broke his fall with this here knee” (it was bloody and bruised) “and we both fell on the ground. But I saved my boy.”
Larry WalterBoy138Larry was hospitalized at Garfield Park Hospital with minor injuries.
James WarzechaBoy138James was one of the students interviewed on WGN-TV on the day of the fire. He later attended Weber High School, graduating in 1963, and went on to Roosevelt University. James passed away on May 29, 2003.
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Room 210
About This Classroom:
This classroom was located on the north side of the second floor in the center of the north wing, overlooking the alley. The children in this room were younger, smaller and generally less able to fend for themselves than children in the other five north wing second floor classrooms. While there were several ladders placed below the windows of this room before the fire department arrived, all were much too short and did little good. Many of the children, dutifully following the shouted pleas of adults in the alley not to jump, remained inside the room until it was too late. Some ignored the terrified adults who were warning not to jump, and jumped anyway. Others hung from of the window ledge and dropped onto a ladder or directly to the ground. By the time the fire department arrived, there was not enough time to get all the remaining students and their teacher, Sister Mary Seraphica Kelley, out of the room. Although 29 students from room 210 survived, 27 children, and their nun, did not. Only one other classroom suffered such a high death toll: room 212, whose children were just a year older, also lost 28.
NameBoy/GirlAgeGradeAbout This Person
Aurelia AbbatielloGirl4Aurelia suffered severe burns on both of her legs. Sister of Anthony and Alessandra Abbatiello.
Margaret Jane AkinGirl4Margaret escaped through the west window of room 210 and down a ladder. Other than numerous splinters in her hands from descending the ladder, she was uninjured.
Concetta BellinoGirl84As Concetta started climbing down a ladder, her hair was on fire. Firemen saw her burning hair and aimed a hose at her, but the powerful stream of water knocked her off the ladder. She was caught by one of the fathers on the alley side of the school, saving her from serious injury. She later married survivor Steve Friedeck, and together they had two daughters. Sister of Sam Bellino.
Joseph A. BorrelliBoy94Joseph escaped by jumping from a window of room 210. "I believe I landed in a fire net. I had 3rd degree burns over part of my body along with a few broken bones. I spent 4 months in Garfield Park Hospital. All things considered, I came away from this tragedy in fairly good condition and have lived a normal life (if there is such a thing). After being released from the hospital, I saw Theresa Whittaker and Marie Hartman several times. I am sorry to hear that Theresa has passed away." Today, Joseph is divorced and living in Batavia, IL., and is the father of a 25-year-old daughter, and 20-year-old son, a college student. Brother of Maria Borrelli.
Charlene CampanaleGirl94Charlene survived by jumping, or falling, from a window in room 210. The fall broke her back and hip, and she spent nearly three months in the hospital, having to lie completely immobile the entire time. When she finally went home, she spent seven months in a body cast, followed by a torso brace. She later attended the new Our Lady of the Angels school. After college, Charlene became a special education teacher. In 2003, she became very active in the Friends of OLA, becoming it's president. She passed away on November 30, 2003, of a brain aneurysm.
Mary CibelliGirl94Fortunately, Mary "played hookie" the day of the fire because she had not studied for a math test. Today, she lives in Lagrange, Illinois. She's married with 2 step children and 5 grandchildren. She works full time as an administrative assistant for a small family owned company. She also teaches Pilates part-time for the local Parks District. Her hobbies are mostly in health and fitness but, as she says “I love to travel and eat good food.”
Frank DellaBoy4Frank was badly burned on his face, scalp and arms. When firemen arrived and began rescuing children from the windows, they found Frank unconsious on the floor, his sweater pulled over his face. They quickly pulled him to safety. Brother of Darlene Della.
James DePhillipsBoy94This was Jimmy's first year at OLA. He made it out of the classroom via a ladder but was blown off the ladder when a fireman noticed that Jimmy was on fire and pointed a powerful stream of water at him. He suffered burns to his ear, face and leg. He spent the night at St. Anne's Emergency Room and was released. He graduated from OLA and today [2003] lives in Florida.
LeeRoy DiciglioBoy94LeeRoy escaped but suffered severe burns. His Family moved out of the neighborhood shortly after the fire. His older brother, Dennis escaped without injury. Apparently LeeRoy was burned as he attempted to save his friend Susan Smaldone by taking her hand to jump out the window with him. LeeRoy jumped but for some reason Susan did not. She died three weeks later of severe burns. Brother of Dennis Diciglio.
Steven FriedeckBoy104Steven was one of the first boys in room 210 to jump and received only a sprained ankle. After being married for many years to survivor Concetta Bellino, and becoming the father of two daughters, Stevie died in 1985 from a pulmonary embolism.
Frank GalloBoy94Frankie was hospitalized overnight with minor burns and for observation of minor injuries. “A kid in my room jumped up out of his seat and hollered, 'smoke.' And smoke started coming through the cracks in the door. Our nun was writing on the blackboard. She told us to open the windows and start praying. Then everybody started running toward the windows because they couldn't breathe. She just stood there, cool as a cucumber.” Frank said that after seeing several boys jump, he pulled himself onto the window sill, sat down and slid off, falling 25 feet to the hard ground below. “I felt like my back was broken. I crawled along a while and then got up. A lot of them couldn't get up.” Firemen found Frankie sitting on a curb in shock, and had him taken to the hospital. Frank passed away on May 8, 2011. Brother of Sam Gallo.
Frank GudzickBoy94Frank escaped his 4th grade classroom with injuries, and was transported to Franklin Blvd Hospital
Marie Luella HartmanGirl94Marie was severly burned on most of her body including her face and scalp. From her sister, Ramona: “She was badly burned and most in her class did not survive. She remembers going to a window and screaming to the others to come to the window because a fireman was there on a ladder. She said they couldn't hear her because of the roar. She kept saying 'it was so loud.'” She tried to help young boy in front of her get out, not realizing he was unconscious. A fireman pulled her out of a window with mere seconds to spare. Marie passed away on April 23, 2011, leaving her Husband, Daved, children Christopher and Elizabeth, and a grandson, Justin. Sister of Ramona Hartman.
Arthur K. JerardBoy94Arthur escaped down a ladder placed at the western most window of room 210. While he suffered minor burns, he was not hospitalized. He graduated from OLA in 1963 and remained in the neighborhood until 1967. In 2002, he suffered a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the waist down. He is now [2015] retired and living in Phoenix, Arizona. Brother of Paula Jerard.
James LeahyBoy84
Kenneth LeonardBoy104Ken was burned on his legs before being rescued from his burning classroom by an unknown fireman. He spent ten days in the hospital. Later he served in Vietnam, and entered the fire service after he returned. In 2001, Ken retired as Fire Chief of the Oak Lawn, Illinois Fire Department.
Sharon LimbachGirl94Sharon escaped with minor injuries. Today [2020] she is married and lives in Arizona, and has four children and numerous grandchildren.
Dina LosurdoGirl94Dina jumped into a firemen's net and was crushed by other students landing on top of her. She was also burned from the waist down. She later attended St. Francis High School, and eventually became a professor at Jamestown College in North Dakota.
Louise LovelessGirl94Linda was hosptialized at St. Anne's with severe burns. She and her family moved away in the early sixties.
Fred LubkeBoy104Fred climbed down the underneath side of a ladder because there were so many kids trying to climb down the front. He was then taken to Franklin Blvd Hospital suffering from burns. For hours his family did not know where he was of if he was even alive, because so many injured children were arriving at hospitals that staff did not initially have time to take names and notify families. Today (2006), Fred has is happily married and he and his wife of 35 years are the proud parents of 4 children and 2 grandchildren. They have a beautiful home in Rockford, IL, where he owns a very successful refinishing and remodeling business. Brother of John Lubke.
Vito MuilliBoy134Vito, recently arrived from Italy and speaking little English, was moved down to fourth grade while he mastered English. On the day of the fire, he was able to escape from the west window of room 210, landing on a too-short ladder placed below the window. He slid down the ladder and crashed into the ground, injuring his leg.
Anita OrlandoGirl94Anita was absent from school the day of the fire due to a low-grade fever.
Vito M. PierriBoy104“I am a survivor of that horrible day. I lived around the corner from the school, on Hamlin St. I was fortunate because two doors down from where we lived was a retired fireman -- I do not remember his name, but I owe him my life. I also helped save the life of a fellow classmate, Vito Mulli. We were close friends. Both of Italian Descent.”
James RippaBoy4James jumped, fell or was blown out of a window.
Mary Linda RoccoGirl94Mary Linda had severe burns all over, including her face, and eventually recovered after a lengthy stay at Walther Memorial Hospital. She later married Andy Salemi, a 1961 graduate Of OLA. Mary Linda died of lung cancer April 6, 2002.
Ronald (Peter) SarnoBoy104Ronnie was able to escape by jumping, but his sister, Joanne, did not make it out. Ronnie was naturally very traumatized that he did not somehow get his sister out with him. Brother of Joann and Billy Sarno, who perished, and cousin of Kathy and MaryAlice Galante.
Joseph SpataforeBoy94Joseph was burned on his shoulder and arm. He received one of the highest settlements from the OLA Fire Fund. After the fire, he battled multiple medical problems and was diagnosed with cancer in August 2009. He passed away just two months later, on October 26, 2009.
Diane TraynorGirl94Diane was burned badly on her back and upper arms. Today she is the mother of two and grandmother of 3. She has recovered from her injures. Sister of Don and Ray Traynor, cousin of Dennis Skinder.
Ellen Ann WassingerGirl94Ellen Ann was admitted to St. Anne's Hospital. She passed away in November 2019, leaving two children and one grandson.
Teresa WhittakerGirl94Teresa, who was badly burned, lived in the back of a store that her parents owned. She later opened up a dress shop with settlement money she received from the fire. She married Richard Tomich, and had a son, Richard Jr., who now has two sons of his own. Teresa died of leukemia at age 29.
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Room 211
About This Classroom:
This classroom was located in the southwest corner of the north wing second floor. While it was a large classroom, it was probably the most overcrowded of the six north wing second floor rooms, with approximately sixty three students in the class. On the day of the fire, 13 boys were out helping with the clothing drive at the church and two were ill, leaving 48 students and their teacher, Sister Mary Helaine O'Neill. Janet and Karen and one other girl (Frances or Nancy) were helping Sister Helaine with a project outside the room. They came back to the room around 2:25 p.m. and told Sister that there was smoke in the hall. The smoke soon invaded the room. It started out very light and then after about ten minutes, turned dark. Everyone surged to the windows overlooking the small courtyard that separated the north and south wings, hoping and praying for rescue. Some jumped and were injured by the fall - the courtyard was solid concrete. When firemen arrived and saw the crowd of children at the five windows of room 211, they discovered they could not enter the courtyard to place ladders because of a six foot iron spiked fence with a locked gate. After a minute or so, they were able to break down the gate and ladder the windows of the room, but by then only seconds remained before the room was engulfed in flames. Fireman Charles Kamin, working atop a ladder at the center window of the room, managed to extract 8 to 10 children before the entire room exploded in flames. To his horror, he watched helplessly as the remaining students disappeared in the flames. While 24 students managed to escape, 24 did not.
NameBoy/GirlAgeGradeAbout This Person
Sister Mary Helaine O'NeillTeacher8Sister Helaine was severely burned and spent several weeks in the hospital. She passed away on September 27, 1975.
Michele BaraleGirl148Michele was pulled from her classroom by fireman Charles Kamin. She sustained only minor burns.
Nicholas BiancoBoy138Nick was absent from school the day of the fire. He passed away on January 5, 2013.
Frank BucaroBoy148Frank was helping with the clothing drive the day of the fire. He and the other boys smelled smoke and went outside and realized the school on fire. From his son, Frank: “My father died October 8, 1995 of a heart attack. He is survived by his wife Rosemary, four sons, and nine grandchildren, with one on the way. May God bless all associated with this terrible disaster.”
James CampionBoy8Jim was helping with a clothing drive at the church and was not in the room at the time of the fire.
Ralph CannataroBoy138
Michael CascellaBoy138Mike was one of the students that was helping with the clothing drive on the day of the fire, so he was not inside the school during the fire. Mike recalls helping one of the sisters put items in her car, and upon turning to go back into the school, they noticed that smoke was billowing from the windows. Mike resided in the western suburbs of Chicago during is adult life. He married and raised two children. Mike found it difficult to talk about that day, as he vividly recalled the tragic loss of so many. He passed away on 1/13/22.
Louis CeroneBoy138Louis escaped but his parents couldn't find him for a while. He escaped his classroom when he climbed out a window and rolled down a ladder. He suffered a broken knee cap and smoke inhilation and was admitted to St. Anne's Hospital. Brother of Rosa Cerone.
Raymond CortesiBoy8Ray was absent from school the day of the fire.
Janet DellariaGirl8Janet was one of three girls (Karen Hobik and Frances Guzaldo were the others) who returned to room 211 from running some errand, and reported to Sister Helaine that there was smoke in the hallway. Although Janet survived the fire, Karen and Frances did not.
Prudence FelzanGirl128“I had a piano lesson at 2:30 across the street in the convent (with Sister Leonardo?). I left my classroom a few minutes before 2:30. Since I was going to the convent, I would have left by the stairwell closest to our room, and not the back stairwell where the fire came up. I did not smell smoke. I had my half hour lesson with Sister and then came out of the convent, where I saw and heard the crowd, saw tremendous smoke, fire trucks and ladders. I saw Anthony Sacco without a shirt come toward the convent. Then I met Mary Alice Galante who was in a state of shock. I held her and talked to her. I walked with her to her house which was nearby.

Then I went back to the school area and eventually met my mother who had been told of the fire when she got off the bus from her job as a teacher at Cameron. My father who worked downtown at City Hall (as a electrical draftsman in the Street Lighting Department) had been told of the fire by friends in the Central Fire Alarm Office. He also made his way from downtown to the school.

My brother, John, was in fifth grade and was able to evacuate the building with his class. I have been called by the nickname 'Jill' since high school, and made it my legal name in 1983. I live in Maryland, but was able to attend the 1998 reunion of the eighth grade class that was organized by Bill O.”

Sister of John Felzan.

Kenneth Paul FerraBoy128Kenneth was on an errand for his teacher at the time of the fire, so he was not injured. Everyone in his row of his classroom was killed. Kenneth, who served in the Air Force, passed away at age 74 on December 3, 2020, leaving behind Linda, his wife of 37 years, three grown children and four grandchildren. He joins his son also named Kenneth who passed away in 2002. Cousin of Patricia Paolella, and JoAnn and John Pellettiere.
Robert FugielBoy138Says Robert: “I remember the first ladders that came were too short. That is why kids started jumping. Finally, I got out the window and down a ladder, not knowing that half of my classmates (24) would perish that day.” Brother of Judith Fugiel.
MaryAlice GalanteGirl138MaryAlice was at a window, holding hands with a girlfriend, when a fireman arrived to rescue them. He carried MaryAlice down first and by the time he returned for her friend, the room had flashed over and no further rescues were possible. MaryAlice was found three hours later by her mother and sister, Kathy, sitting in front of a neighbor's home near the school. She was wrapped in a blanket and crying after searching for, and failing to find, Kathy. MaryAlice and her husband Joseph Aiello were married at the OLA Church and raised two children, Anthony and Melissa, and a grandson named Vincenzo. MaryAlice passed away on September 29, 2019 at age 74. Sister of Kathy Galante, cousin of Ronald, Joann and Billy Sarno.
Edward GlanzBoy138Edward was rescued through a window by fireman Charles Kamin. Larry Grasso and Millicent Corsiglia were next to him at the same window but did not make it out -- Edward was one of the last to be rescued before the room flashed over.

“ The 3 girls that were helping sister were Janet Dellaria, Karen Hobik, and Frances Guzaldo. Karen and Frances died. I sat by the rear door when they came in. They told sister that there was smoke in the hall. It was a light smoke, as I could see across the hall, and they had just walked down the hall.

Mary Louis Tamburrino sat behind me, and she did not make it. Carol Gazzola was also in room 211 and was one of the 24 that died. Sister Helaine went to the front door and looked down the hall, and then told us to go to the windows. In retrospect it was a big mistake. We were in that room for at least 10 minutes before the fire alarm went off. We could have all gotten out of the room because the front door was next to the west stairwell.” If only...

Edward passed away on March 6, 2012.

Marie GlasgowGirl138From Michele Barale: “Marie was in 8th grade, as was I. She became a French teacher. I believe that she died quite young. Her family was still living in the OLA neighborhood a few years after the fire. She was a sweet and quiet girl.”
John GuerrieriBoy138John was helping with a clothing drive at the church and was not in the room at the time of the fire.
Marne HudsonGirl138Marne remembers looking at the clock which read 2:45 PM. Quickly, the smoke in the room became thick and black. After being overcome by smoke, Marne either fell or was pushed from a window. In the resulting fall to the concrete courtyard, she suffered internal injuries including a lacerated tongue, multiple broken bones, and had cinders and stones embedded in the skin of her face. She was hospitalized at St. Anne's Hospital until Christmas Eve 1958. She lived in a northwest Chicago suburb until her passing in October 2012.
At the time of her passing she was survived by her husband of 27 years, Stephen White; her children, Lisa (Jay) Michalak, Mary (John) Martens, Mark (Anna) O'Toole, Dawn (James) Boyer, Michael O'Toole and Thomas (Erica) O'Toole, plus several grandchildren. Sister of Andrew Hudson.
Kenneth KalettaBoy8Ken survived by jumping from a window. His twin brother Stan, in a different classroom, also survived. In 1966, Ken married Diane Bielawa and had a son also named Kenneth. Kenneth Sr. passed away on November 22, 2019 at age 74, joining his wife and son who preceeded him in death. Twin brother of Stanley Kaletta, uncle of Mary Dowling.
Thomas KinsellaBoy148Tom escaped but suffered injuries. He jumped from a second floor window to a fireman on a ladder, although the ladders didn't reach and he fell to the courtyard below. A tree trimmer watching nearby noticed Tom's plight and ran to Tom and used his body to break the fall, suffering a broken nose from the impact. His efforts may have saved Tom's life, however. Tom was taken to St. Anne's hospital where he remained for 40 days recovering from broken shoulder bones, shattered teeth, broken bones in his back and arms, in addition to burns all across his back and shoulders. Brother of James Kinsella.
James KowalczykBoy138James was rescued from a window in room 211 by fireman Charles Kamin. James did not realize until he was halfway to the hospital how severely he had been burned. “My whole back was burned. The heat burned my back, my ears, and the sides of my hands.”
Geraldine KrauseGirl158Geraldine escaped through a window of room 211, but sustained injuries in the process, and was transported to St. Anne's Hospital.
John LubkeBoy138John was hospitalized with a injury to his back that he suffered when jumping from a window. Today, he is an accountant and the father of two daughters. Brother of Fred Lubke.
Pauline MazzoneGirl138Pauline was admitted to St. Anne's Hospital.
Carol NeagleGirl8Carol barely escaped when a fireman snatched her from room 211 just before it flashed over, and dropped her onto onto the ladder below. Sister of Mike Neagle, cousin of James Neagle.
Rita PalumboGirl128Rita was critically injured while escaping from her classroom, and was admitted to Franklin Blvd Hospital for treatment.
Robert RaymondBoy148Bob was helping with a clothing drive at the church and was not in the room at the time of the fire. Son of James Raymond, brother of Mary Kay, Thomas, John and Marty Raymond.
Jennifer RebolettiGirl128Jennifer was rescued by fireman Charles Kamin. “Everything happened so quickly. Someone came in the room and told sister there was smoke in the hall. It started to pour in through the transom. She must have made a decision that the hallway was too dangerous and that we would wait for rescue. She told us to kneel down at our desks and pray. That is where I stayed until I could not breathe anymore and made my way to the window.” Fireman Kamin soon came up a ladder to her window and “had me put my arms around his neck so he could pull me out of the crowded window and set me on the ladder behind him. He told me to go home.”
Anthony SaccoBoy138“A few weeks after the fire, my mother asked me to walk with her from our home on Central Park Avenue to the site of the burned out school. As we stood on the sidewalk on Avers Avenue, looking into the courtyard area towards the north wing where my classroom was, my mother began to sob. In my naivetť I asked her 'mom, why are you crying?'

“My name is Anthony Sacco. I was a student in Sister Helaineís eighth grade class in Room 211 on December 1, 1958. It was a big class, and our desks were crowded into the room. Mine was in the second or third row from the window wall, about 4 desks from the front. On that cold and clear December day I remember looking at the clock on the front wall; we would recess for the day in 15 or 20 minutes. That was shortly before a girl knocked on the classroom door and entered to say 'Sister, thereís smoke in the hall.'

“Sister Helaine rose from her desk and walked to the front door of the classroom, opened it, and immediately pulled it shut with a loud bang. I looked at her as she turned around and I saw that her face was blackened with soot. I noticed especially that her eyeglasses were covered with a black oily film. I knew then that something was seriously wrong.

“It didnít take long for the room to start filling with smoke, light brown at first, but with a peculiar tar-like odor that I still recognize and remember to this day. Through the transom windows I could see that the hall was filled with a much darker smoke. Then it began getting warm in the room. Sister tried to calm the class, but by then the situation was getting worse fast. The smoke got thicker, to the point where I began having difficulty breathing. It got hotter. Then I heard the sound of glass breaking; maybe it was the transoms. By then students had opened the windows wide and were jammed at the windows.

“They were seeking breathable air, and so was I. Still seated at my desk, I pulled off my blue gingham shirt and used it as a filter. It worked long enough for me to silently recite my Act of Contrition, the final petition for forgiveness you make just before you die and receive your judgment. In the midst of this nightmarish event I accepted the inevitability of my death, even though it seemed totally incomprehensible to me. I knew only that I was trapped, and that I was now having real trouble breathing.

“I think it was a reflex: impelled by a lack of oxygen more than the fear of death, I made my way to the windows. There were many children already piled up at the windows: I cannot say what condition they were in, only that there was a stack of them. Somehow I got on top of the stack, and looked out into the courtyard. I looked out and down to see a ladder, only it didnít quite reach to the level of our window. It was several feet too short. I think, too, that I saw bodies in the courtyard: I donít know whether they were moving or not, alive or dead.

“I donít know what made me do it. Maybe it was just momentum, maybe an angel pushed me. But I found myself falling from the window, head first, towards the ladder. My hands finally got a hold of one of the top rungs of the ladder and I landed on the ladder with my back against the rungs. I had done a complete head-over-heels summersault, in free fall, to reach that position. I carefully climbed down the ladder on my back until I reached the concrete courtyard. I walked past what was left of the iron gates, barely noticing the firemen and the crowd. It was all a dream at that point. Without looking back, I walked to a fire hydrant on the northwest corner of Iowa and Avers and stuck my head underneath it. I donít know why I did that: it was not out of thirst, but perhaps to experience the shock of the cold water, to wake me to the reality of my survival.

“I moved through the crowd, shirtless in the cold, and in a daze. I donít remember any of their faces, and didnít speak to any of them. I didnít know where to go or what to do. From the fire hydrant, I crossed the street diagonally to the convent. Just before I entered it I turned to look at the school. Then, and only then, did I see flames. They were coming out the east wall by the fire escape on the second floor. That was near the location of Room 206, my cousin Charlotteís classroom.

“I entered the convent and went for some reason to the basement. I only remember that it was like a big recreation room with a piano and tile floors. I donít remember talking with anyone there. Soon I wandered out of the convent, and walked east to Hamlin Avenue, then south to Chicago Avenue, in the same direction as my house. But I never got home on my own. By this time Hamlin Avenue had become crowded with people, all trying to get to the school. I made my way through the crowd, which was difficult as I was going in the direction opposite the surging and frenzied mass, and reached a small cafť on the northwest corner of Hamlin and Chicago. I entered it, and asked to use a phone to call my mother who was working at Zenith Radio on Dickens and Austin, a few miles west of the school. I reached my mom and told her that there had been a fire at the school. She told me that she would come to get me.

“After that conversation, someone in the cafť told me that I was injured. I didnít understand this. Oblivious of my appearance, I didnít feel like I had been injured. But in a while I was taken in an ambulance to Franklin Boulevard Community Hospital. I recall only that the hospital was very busy, with lots of ambulances arriving and lots of people moving about. I donít remember anything about my treatment there, except that somebody must have looked after my left arm and placed some ointment and bandages on it. Later I learned that I had second or third degree burns, which always puzzled me because I never remembered seeing any flames except those I saw after I had escaped the school.

“After a while, my uncle Julius came to pick me up at the hospital and took me home to my mother and grandparents. I got home sometime after 5:30 PM, or maybe later. The television was showing film of the fire, but I was removed from its view and put to bed. What else was there to do? Nobody could see that my most serious injury was emotional. So I lay there, coughing a lot, sputum filled with black tarry blobs. My lungs were full of that tar. And although I couldnít see it, my face was probably as black as that of Sister Helaineís.

“I donít remember if my father was home yet, as he was combing the crowds looking for my brother Richard who had been in Sister Davidisís classroom, Room 209, just next to mine. Richard had escaped with most of his class, unharmed, by jumping from their classroomís rear window on to the canopy of a door on the first floor. My brother was observing the rescue operations while my father was frantically searching for him, unaware of his fate. Thatís what most of the crowd was doing Ė searching for a son or daughter, brother or sister, friend or relative.

“When instruction resumed we eighth graders doubled up at Our Lady Help of Christians, but that was very crowded. After a few more weeks we were attending classes on the top floor of John Hay Ė a public school that seemed almost as old as the OLA building. And that made me very frightened. It was even farther to the ground than my second floor classroom at OLA, and I was always worried about how we would get out in case of a fire. My mother, as usual, knew just how to calm me Ė she packed a coil of laundry rope into the briefcase that I used to carry my books to school every day!

“For many years, especially during high school, I suffered from undiagnosed panic attacks. Sometimes they mimicked a kind of seizure. Nobody knew what to do. I suspect many of the victims of the school fire suffered mentally as I did. None of us really received counseling beyond the 10 or 15 minutes we got with a parish priest. We were not encouraged to talk about the fire; we were expected to just get on with our lives. This expectation, and lack of treatment, extended to all the victims of the fire - whether they were students in the building, or family members who had experienced loss, or near loss, or spectators who witnessed the event from the street.

“After the fire, I attended the St. Mel High School and graduated in 1963. My family moved to California in 1963, where I have lived ever since. I graduated from the University of California, Riverside, with a degree in Physics. At age 46 I finally received a medical diagnosis of panic disorder and post-traumatic stress syndrome. I am managing well now, but occasional bouts with panic attacks always serve to remind me of how I got this condition. For the past 22 years Iíve worked in an engineering capacity in the semiconductor industry in Silicon Valley, where I make my home in San Jose. I make occasional trips back to Chicago where I have many cousins. My cousin Charlotte, who was in the fifth grade at OLA, escaped the fire without physical injury.

“The category of victims of the OLA fire is far broader than what I imagined at the time. I did not realize its extent until after I visited the OLA school fire website just after the death of Sister Davidis in October 2006. On this website I saw for the first time, in the faces in the crowds surrounding the burning school, the horror, agony, and sorrow that was common to all the fireís victims. For the first time I understood what my parents, my grandparents, and my aunts and uncles must have felt that day, and in the days that came afterward.

“Shortly before my mother died in 2004 she asked me if I wanted to discuss the fire. I told her no, because I didnít want to relive any of those events. Only after her death did I realize that she may have wanted to discuss the fire in order to unburden herself of over forty years of grief and sorrow long buried. I now regret not giving her that opportunity. Not all of the fireís victims were in the classrooms of Our Lady of Angels School that day.”

Brother of Richard Sacco, cousin of Charlotte Ghilarducci.

Arlene SerafiniGirl138Although Arlene was able to escape her 8th grade classroom, she suffered injuries in the process, for which she was admitted to St. Anne's Hospital for treatment.
Mary SomedicsGirl138Mary suffered burns to her hand and leg, and fractured her pelvis while jumping from a window. She was admitted to St. Anne's Hospital.
Larry SorceBoy138Larry was rescued from room 211 by firefighter Charles Kamin. Larry is a retired senior Vice President of an investment firm located in Milwaukee. He relocated to Nashville in 2017 so that he could dote on his three granddaughters who live in the area.

Heís a very active volunteer and devotes much of his time to his parish, The Cathedral of the Incarnation.

Sylvia TesauroGirl138Sylvia escaped down a ladder without injury. In Walther Memorial Hospital, where she was examined and released, Sylvia told her story. “Two girls entered our classroom and said the hall was filled with smoke. Sister tried to lead the classroom downstairs. We were forced back by the thick black smoke and had to go to the windows to get air. Many of the girls were crying, sobbing like everything. Firemen raised ladders up against the ledge and I came down a ladder. Other pupils were jumping and falling from the windows. On the ground children were lying all around and there was a lot of blood on the ground.” Later she added, “I was scared and I wanted air. Everybody wanted air. But just smoke kept coming in -- in clouds and clouds. And there was screaming because everybody was going frantic and there was crying. I cried, too. And we finally got down a ladder.”
Robert TrybalskiBoy138Robert escaped, but with injuries, and was admitted to Garfield park Hospital.
Anthony VerdoneBoy8Anthony was one of several students from his classroom who were helping with a clothing drive at the church when the fire broke out. As a result, he was not injured. Anthony passed away at age 39. Brother of Carl and James Verdone.
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Room 212
About This Classroom:
This classroom was located in the northwest corner of the north wing second floor, adjacent to Avers Avenue and the alley just to the north. Because it was slightly farther from the the fire's origin, flames did not invade this this room as quickly, and were much less intense than the other north wing second floor rooms. The fire department was able to extinguish the flames in this room relatively quickly. Unfortunately, the smoke and toxic fire gases were as deadly here as anywhere, and those who died in this room, including the teacher, Sister Mary Clare Therese Champaigne, were asphyxiated before they could escape or be rescued. From this room 27 escaped - 28 did not. This was the only classroom with more fatalities than survivors. Recalls Johnna Uting, “So much hot black smoke above our heads in the classroom I was ducking my head many times. I thought I would burn up and never get out!”
NameBoy/GirlAgeGradeAbout This Person
Barbara AdamsGirl105Barbara was kept home from school that day by her parents as relatives were coming over for a party. In the afternoon, her father called home about the fire at the school. They went down to the scene and watched the horror unfolding in front of them. Barbara's parents did whatever they could to help. Barbara lost her teacher Sister Mary Clare Therese Champagne and many of her beloved friendsl In the days following the disaster, she attended countless funerals and visited many of her injured friends and classmates in the hospital.
Mary BrockGirl105Mary was rescued by firemen. She first learned of the fire when someone shouted 'I smell smoke.' “When the room door was opened, a gust of smoke blew in. Sister Mary Clare Therese said 'Get out of the window and get on the ledge and stay there.' I got out the window and stood on the ledge, but lots of others jumped.” After being rescued, Mary ran home looking for her brothers. To her relief, they were already home. Her mother then took her to the hospital for treatment of burns on her face. Sister of Gerald Brock and Dennis Brock.
Frank ConsiglioBoy105Frank was unconscious on the floor when someone stepped on him and he woke up. He managed to climb onto a window ledge where he saw children jumping but decided not to jump himself. He heard the fire engines approaching and fought to remain conscious. The next thing he remembers is a fireman carrying him down a ladder. He wandered into a nearby store and was eventually put into an ambulance and taken to Franklin Hospital. Today (2003) Frank resides in Melrose Park, Illinois where he owns and trains harness horses for area race tracks.
Joseph CurcioBoy5
Johanna DavisGirl105Johanna escaped but suffered injuries and was transported to St. Anne's hospital. Her parents, Ted and Mildred Davis, searched several hospitals before finally locating her at St. Anne's, to their great relief.
Theresa DepalmaGirl105Theresa was hospitalized with burns until February 24, 1959. In later years, she married and became Theresa LoMonaco, and gave birth to a son and daughter. Theresa passed away on June 23, 2018 at age 70. Sister of Dominic DePalma.
Raymond DuncanBoy5Raymond was the first student to jump from room 212. He was hospitalized with burns at Franklin Blvd Hospital.
James Arthur ErbstoesserBoy105Jimmy survived by jumping from a window in room 212. He broke one wrist and crushed both ankles in the fall, and was hospitalized for approximately two weeks following the fire. James vividly remembers that “when the smoke began to fill the room, John Raymond stood up and gave his handkerchief to Sister Mary Clare Therese Champaigne without being asked to do so.” From James' son, Pace: “My father recounts that Sister Mary Clare Theresa asked everyone to sit at their desks and pray as the smoke filled the room. Once he and others realized that there was no more breathable air, he went to the window and jumped.” James has five sons and two grandchildren (as of June 2006), and resides in Georgetown, Texas.
Judith FugielGirl105Judy and her older brother Robert, an 8th grader, were both trapped in their classrooms on the second floor when the fire roared through the school. Judy was able to escape her classroom by jumping out of a window. It's unclear if she was injured in the fall or was caught by someone. Her brother Robert in room 211 was able to escape down a fire department ladder just moments before the room flashed over. Sister of Robert Fugiel.
Carolyn HannemanGirl105Carol escaped with only minor burns after being led down a ladder that didn't quite reach the second floor window. “I remember how hard it was to breathe because of the thick black smoke that at times went outside the window, leaving no air at all. It seemed like an eternity before help came.”
Casey LaRoccoBoy105
Carlos LozanoBoy105Carlos suffered a leg injury when he jumped from a window of his second floor classroom. “Everybody was jumping. The smoke was terrible. Everybody was screaming. Everybody was trying to get on the firemen's ladders at the same time.” He was transported to St. Anne's Hospital where he was admitted for treatment of his injury.
Frank MolaBoy5
Maureen O'BrienGirl105Maureen was carried down a ladder by a fireman and spent three days in the hospital, recovering from smoke inhalation and burns on her leg. “The room was totally black. The heat, the smell, the stench was awful. And then everybody was screaming ... I got trampled on ... I think the worst part is the panic. That's the worst memory, lying on the floor wanting out.” Sister of William and Colleen O'Brien.
Donald OenesBoy105Donald was badly burned but survived. He remained hospitalized until spring, 1959.
Richard OuimetBoy105Richard survived the fire but not without injury - he suffered from smoke inhalation, a collapsed lung and burns over much of his body. He spent considerable time in the hospital recovering from his injuries. Today, he has three children and three grandchildren and lives in Melrose Park.
Frances PannoGirl105The night before the fire, Fran had a premonition of something bad happening at school the next day. When she found herself in the midst of her worst nightmare the next day, she climbed out onto a window sill where a fireman soon carried her down a ladder. “As other pupils pushed and screamed behind me, firemen on ladders suddenly appeared at the window and took me down the ladder to the ground.” Frances was treated at Franklin Blvd Hospital for smoke inhalation and superficial burns.

Today (December 2007), she lives in Florida and is the proud mother of four children and two grandchildren.

Marianne PawelekGirl5Marianne “either fell or was pushed out the window. I was in the hosptial for three months due to having a factured hip and being in a bodycast. I also needed surgery on my chin for a cut I received from the fall.”
Joseph PerettiBoy105Joseph was admitted to Walther Memorial Hospital for treatment of injuries sustained during a frantic escape from the fire.
Anita Mary Katherine PollackGirl115Anita escaped without injury. At the funeral mass for her teacher, Sr. Mary Clare Therese Champagne, Anita said “I was confirmed November 23, just a little before the fire, and Sister Therese was one of my confirmation sisters. She was young, and I liked her so much. All the kids felt that way about her.”
George PomiliaBoy105George suffered a broken femur bone jumping from his second floor classroom window. “We were reading in our classroom and we saw the smoke come over the door. A kid in the back of the room opened the door and the smoke started coming in.

“Everybody started screaming. The nun told us to open the window and told everybody to say 'Hail Mary.'

“It got so dark in the room that I couldn't see anything. I pushed a couple of kids away so I could jump. I climbed out the window and hung from the ledge by my hands, then I let go. I didn't hit anything until I hit the pavement in the alley behind the building. I didn't feel any pain, but I heard a little crack. I couldn't move my leg so I knew something was broken. I started crawling to the side of the alley. Then kids started falling behind me. I crawled about half way across the alley. Then a man grabbed me and dragged me the rest of the way.”
George spent 6 weeks in traction in the hospital and came home in a body cast, where he spent another couple of months in bed in a cast.

John RaymondBoy115John, son of school janitor James Raymond, survived by jumping from a window. He was first transported to Walther Memorial Hospital, then moved to Franklin Boulevard Hosptial, where he spent a week recovering from a back injury and badly bruised hip from the fall. “Although we did not have fire in our class, the heat and smoke were unbearable. Sister did all she could do to buy us time but it was just not to be. She gave her life trying to save kids right to the end.” John passed away on March 14, 2022. Son of James Raymond, brother of Mary Kay, Robert, Thomas and Marty Raymond.
Sebastian RivanBoy115From John Raymond: “Sebastian opened the back door to see if we could escape; of course we could not and he and Sister closed the door. Sebby was big kid for his age and helped many kids at the windows. He was a hero that day -- he had smoke inhalation and was taken to Franklin Blvd Hospital; I know because he was in the bed next to me.” Brother of Anna Rivan.
Kenneth SienkiewiczBoy105Kenneth was absent that day and heard about the fire at his school on TV. He ran to the school and witnessed students jumping out of the windows. He lost his teacher Sister Mary Clare Therese Champagne and many of his friends and classmates.
Donald TraynorBoy105Don suffered smoke inhalation and minor burns to his hands and arms.

From Don Rudny, friend of Don Traynor: “I was good friends with Donnie in our early years. I attended St. Francis of Assisi and was one year older than he. I remember the day of the fire quite vividly. When school ended that day we had to march in procession to the southeast corner of the school property. We could see the smoke rising in the sky and ran to the scene once we reached the corner.

“I saw Don later that day and he had run home without his shoes and had burns on his hands and ears. Don lived with the Pargo family in an apartment that was across the alley from us. I later found out that his sister was badly burned in the fire. Don was a good baseball player and we would usually pass the summer months by playing sandlot baseball with another Don with the last name of Schonecker. We were the three Dons and were much like the three Musketeers, inseparable. We also played a lot of chess together and became quite good at it. Don taught me some good moves and it paid off later when I finished second in our high school chess championship in 1965.

“When the three of us graduated from grammar school and moved on to high school, we fell out of touch.

“That horrible day in December of 1958 will live with me always. A few years ago when I was the mayor of Gurnee, Illinois, I spoke before our high school board to urge them to go for a referendum to pay for sprinklers to be installed in the school. The school was rebuilt in the 80s.”

Don passed away on October 18, 2017. Brother of Diane and Ray Traynor, cousin of Dennis Skinder.

Johnna UtingGirl105Johnna broke five connecting bones in her right ankle jumping from a window of room 212. She was taken to Franklin Hospital, where her family found her later that evening around 8:00 pm. Because her name was Johnna she was listed as John, in all the confusion. “I was labeled as John, not Johnna Mass Uting. My two brothers Harry and Phillip went to many hospital morgues looking for my body. My mother collasped in Walther Memorial Hospital parking lot as they were bringing in more bodies while she was looking for me!” Sister of Francesca Uting.
Diane VoskresenskiGirl105Diane spent several weeks in the hospital recovering from her injuries. Sister of Noreen Voskresenski.
Linda ZagoneGirl105From Linda: “I do not remember the tragedy of the fire because of my injuries, but when we have reunions we all have a very special bond. I was a very lucky victim. For all of us children who did suffer, God has still been with us. I have two daughters and one grandson.” Today, Linda still lives in Chicago.
Rosemary ZagoneGirl105Rosemary escaped by jumping from her classroom window and was hosptialized at Walther Memorial with broken bones and burns. “Like many of my classmates it has taken me along time to come forward about the school fire. I still remember it like it was yesterday. I had taken my sister Geraldine Zagone home that afternoon, because she was sick. I had gone back to school because we had a geography test that day.

“I looked up and can remember the black smoke coming through the door, and the fire alarm going off. Crying and praying because Sister asked us to say three Hail Mary's, I remember hanging out the window and calling for my mom to come and get me, that the school was on fire. It was so cold and my legs were so hot, I came away from the window. I couldn't breathe so I pushed my way back to the window and climbed up on the sill and jumped. I remember hurting and being brought to the wall of the candy store and crying to Threase De Plama 'why did this happen to us?'. My arms were so burned they had bubbles on them and the army blanket someone had on me pinched terribly.

“Somehow I was put into a squad car and sent to the hospital. I cried when they put me on a gurney and cut off my uniform -- I needed it the next day for school. I had second and third degree burns on my face and arms. I had one eye pushed in from the fall. I broke my arms, four bones in each, fractured my pelvis, and had a concussion that burst, which they said saved my life. I healed very well. I did not need skin grafting which was another miracle. My mom did come looking for me. I have a picture of her and my Aunt on the front page of The Chicago Tribune.

“Today, my wrists are locked and will not turn, but I still do all I can. I am married and living in Addison since 1969. I have three girls who are now married and have given me 7 grandchildren. My mom passed away in January of 2006, and had saved quite a few newspapers from that time.” Sister of Geraldine Zagone.

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About This Classroom:
NameBoy/GirlAgeGradeAbout This Person
Michael AffatatoBoy6(Classroom unknown)
Anita AmadeiGirl4(Classroom unknown)
Randy AndreoliBoy2Brother of Gerry and Barbara Andreoli. (Classroom unknown)
Maria AndrewGirl(Classroom unknown)
Frances BavaroGirl4(Classroom unknown)
Sam BellinoBoy7Sammy escaped from his first floor classroom without injury. Brother of Concentta Bellino. (Classroom unknown)
Veronica BenzaGirl72Daughter of Joseph and Ella Benza and mother of Joseph, mother-in-law of Shannon and proud grandmother of Carissa, Noah and Alex. “Ronnie” worked for North Central, Republic and Northwest Airlines at O`Hare Airport from 1976-1997. She married Lance Haworth in 1981. Ronnie was also a volunteer Docent at Brookfield Zoo from 1996-2006. She passed away February 26, 2006 from lung cancer. Cousin of Charlene Campanale Benza. (Classroom unknown)
Edward BergBoy105Brother of Gloria Berg. (Classroom unknown).
Linda BertucciGirl83Sister of Henry and Diane Bertucci, cousin of George and Janice Pomilia, and Joanne, Mary Ellen, and John Pettenon.
Luisella BiancalanaGirl61“I remember The Sister's words to us students in first grade. Her words were, 'get your coats now, just leave everything in your desk, let's just get out now!' No explanation at all. All the first grade students got our coats on immediately and followed her orders. SHE SAVED OUR LIVES in the 1st grade room, can't remember the room number, however we were on the 1st floor. Our beloved Sister had smelled smoke from the room above us, and thanks to her great judgement, our classroom was the first one out - before a tragedy could strike her 1st grade students. Thank you, Sister, thank you for saving my live and my classmates lives in 1st grade. I will LOVE YOU forever, Sister, for I know that you are at God's side today. God bless you!” (Classroom unknown)
Robert BilottiBoy72Brother of Theresa Bilotti. (Classroom unknown)
Theresa BilottiGirl116Sister of Robert Bolotti. Later married James Sansone. (Classroom unknown)
Alan BiscanBoy72Alan escaped from his first floor classroom without injury. He was found at 7:00 pm being sheltered in a home near the school. His brother, David, died in room 212. Brother of David Biscan. (Classroom unknown)
JoAnn BiscontiGirl2JoAnn was at home with a cold on the day of the fire. Sister of Laura Bisconti. (Classroom unknown)
Patricia BluchinGirl6(Classroom unknown)
Linda BluhmGirl4(Classroom unknown)
Thelma BobrowiczGirl2Sister of Richard Bobrowicz. (Classroom unknown)
Maria BorrelliGirl1Maria escaped without injury. Sister of Joseph Borrelli. (Classroom unknown)
Dennis BrockBoy72Dennis escaped without injury. Brother of Mary Brock and Gerald Brock. (Classroom unknown)
Gerald BrockBoy94Gerald escaped without injury. Brother of Mary Brock and Dennis Brock. (Classroom unknown)
Carol BrownGirl4(Classroom unknown)
Raymond BrownBoy4(Classroom unknown)
Frank BurdaBoy1Brother of Beverly and Dale Burda and cousin of Dennis and David DeBoer and of Laura Hoblit. (Classroom unknown)
Frances CalavaccaGirl(Classroom unknown)
Mary Ellen CampionGirl5(Classroom unknown)
Marlene CannellaGirl3Sister of George and Michael Cannella, cousin of Sam Cannella. (Classroom unknown)
Michael CannellaBoy1Brother of George and Marlene Cannella, cousin of Sam Cannella. (Classroom unknown)
Sam CannellaBoy2Cousin of George, Marlene and Michael Cannella. (Classroom unknown)
Peggy CaputoGirl4(Classroom unknown)
Robert CarrBoy4(Classroom unknown)
John CasaleBoy72&ladqo;I remember the fire alarm going off and we all stood up and left the room. I was on the lower level close to the door. We were one of the first classes to leave. We went across the street and were told to stay in line. I looked back across the street and I saw smoke pouring out of the second story window. I then saw kids starting to jump out of the second story window like balls of fire.” Brother of Jennifer Casale. (Classroom unknown)
Annamarie CastrovillariGirl72Escaped without injury. Sister of Wayne and Carmine Castrovillari, cousin of Carmella Comorato, Sally and Donna Shillcut. (Classroom unknown)
Mary Frances CerceoGirl2Cousin-in-law of Betti Marino. (Classroom unknown)
Arthur ChiappettaBoy7Brother of Joan Ann and Robert Chiappetta. (Classroom unknown)
Ralph CimperaleBoy(Classroom unknown)
Sarah CiolinoGirl3Sister of Jo Ann Ciolino. (Classroom unknown)
Rita CiucciGirl9Rita died of cancer in July 2000 at age 51. Sister of Orlando Ciucci. (Classroom unknown)
Tom ClearyBoy72Tom escaped without injury. (Classroom unknown)
Carmella ComaroloGirl4(Classroom unknown)
Carmella ComerolaGirl(Classroom unknown)
Richard CorvoBoy(Classroom unknown)
Paul CulpBoy1Brother of Karen Culp. (Classroom unknown)
John CurcioBoy3(Classroom unknown)
Ronald CurioBoy127(Classroom unknown)
Rosemary CurioGirl4(Classroom unknown)
Rosalind D'AmicoGirl4(Classroom unknown)
Joseph D'AmoreBoy6(Classroom unknown)
Susan DanesiGirl83Susan escaped without injury. Sister of Annette Danesi. (Classroom unknown)
David DeBoerBoy1Brother of Dennis DeBoer and cousin of Beverly, Dale and Frank Burda and of Laura Hoblit (Classroom unknown)
Dennis DeBoerBoy5Brother of David DeBoer and cousin of Beverly, Dale and Frank Burda and of Laura Hoblit (Classroom unknown)
Davis DeciglioBoy(Classroom unknown)
Mary Joy DegrootGirl2Sister of Clifford and Mary Joy DeGroot. (Classroom unknown)
James DeGuilioBoy2(Classroom unknown)
Patricia Del DebbioGirl4Sister of Paul Del Debbio. (Classroom unknown)
Paul Del DebbioBoy6Paul survived along with his sister, as well as another who was home sick that day. Paul now lives in a northwest suburb of Chicago. Brother of Patricia Del Debbio. (Classroom unknown)
Gerald DelJuidiceBoy5(Classroom unknown)
Dominic DePalmaBoy137Dom escaped without injury. Once outside, he found his younger sister Theresa and led her to an ambulance. She had suffered burns before escaping from Room 212. Brother of Theresa DePalma. (Classroom unknown)
Sam DePasqualeBoy4(Classroom unknown)
Joseph DeSantoBoy115Joseph passed away on August 17, 2021, leaving behind two daughters, two stepsons and seven grandchildren. Brother of Nancy DeSanto. (Classroom unknown)
Dennis DiciglioBoy11Brother of LeeRoy Diciglio. (Classroom unknown)
Joseph DigioieBoy6(Classroom unknown)
Nancy Rose DiGiulioGirl83(Classroom unknown)
Donna DiniGirl94Donna escaped without injury. (Classroom unknown)
Theresa Di OrioGirl127“I escaped with no injuries. I remember holding on to someone in front of me and someone holding on behind me and then all of a sudden I felt no one in front or behind me. I could feel it was getting hotter and hotter so I turned around and touched the walls which lead me to find the staircase. I proceeded down the staircase until I saw light at the bottom of the stairs. That's when I saw a priest at the bottom telling me to keep coming.”
Emmet DovickBoyToday Emmet is a eacher at MCC. (Classroom unknown)
Catherine DunnGirl2Catherine's classroom was on the second floor and she managed to find her brother, David, after leaving the building. Sister of Larry, David and Thomas Dunn. (Classroom unknown)
David DunnBoy3David's classroom was on the second floor and he was able to find sister Catherine after escaping the school. Brother of Larry, Catherine and Thomas Dunn. (Classroom unknown)
Carol EdingtonGirl2Sister of William, Ronald and Patricia Edington. (Classroom unknown)
Patricia EdingtonGirl4Sister of William, Ronald and Carol Edington. (Classroom unknown)
Margaret ElkinsGirl4(Classroom unknown)
George EnglishBoy4(Classroom unknown)
Theresa FabinoGirl4(Classroom unknown)
Nola Marie FedanzoGirl72Nola escaped without injury. She passed away at age 42 on June 4, 1993. Sister of Robert and Eugene Fedanzo, cousin of Mike Fedanzo. (Classroom unknown)
Robert FedanzoBoy8Robert passed away on June 12, 2021, at age 76, leaving his wife of 52 years, Blanche Pesce. Their only son, Matthew, preceeded him in death. Brother of Gene and Nola Fedanzo, cousin of Mike Fedanzo (Classroom unknown)
Phyllis FilipponioGirl127Phyllis was called out of school on an emergency to watch her younger sister Annette at 2:30 PM. Her younger sister Lucille, was killed, but her body was never identified. (Classroom unknown)
JoAnn FinaGirl5(Classroom unknown)
John FinaBoy5(Classroom unknown)
Michael FinniganBoy3Brother of Nancy and Patrick Finnigan. (Classroom unknown)
Anthony FioritaBoy4Cousin of Patrick McGee. (Classroom unknown)
Celeste FlorioGirl94Sister of Dominic Florio and cousin of Cynthia Campagna. (Classroom unknown)
Patrick FrancioneBoy5(Classroom unknown)
Robert GagliardiBoy104Robert was one of the students assigned to carry wastepaper from his classroom to the basement on the day of the fire. (Classroom unknown)
Wendollyn GajdaGirl106Wendy, eleven days away from her eleventh birthday, was sick at home on the day of the fire. In later years, she was known as Wendy Seymour. She passed away on February 7, 2019, leaving behind a son and daughter. (Classroom unknown)
Mike GalloBoy5(Classroom unknown)
Sam GalloBoy72Sam escaped without injury from his first floor classroom. Neighbor Alice Tarsa took him into her home until his parents could get him. Brother of Frank Gallo. (Classroom unknown)
James GasinskiBoy4(Classroom unknown)
Danny GazzolaBoy116Twin brother of Dianne Gazzola and cousin of Carol Ann Gazzola. (Classroom unknown)
Micheal GeantoBoy94Micheal escaped without injury. (Classroom unknown)
Michael GecanBoy4(Classroom unknown)
Phillip GeraciBoy3Phillip escaped Mrs. Louis' first floor north wing classroom without injury. “We were fortunate to exit safely, but to this day I can see the kids on the upper floors screaming for help and jumping to avoid the smoke and flames. What a tragedy.” Today, Phillip and his wife (married in 1969) reside in Morton Grove and are the proud parents of two grown children and 5 grandchildren. (Classroom unknown)
Helena GlowackiGirl72(Classroom unknown)
Michael GnoffoBoy116Michael currently [2021] lives in Palm Desert, CA. Brother of Madelyn Gnoffo, cousin of Joe Bonadonna and Vivian Guercio. (Classroom unknown)
John GorskiBoy83“I had flunked second grade and missed being upstairs when the fire occured. I would have been in the same classroom as Mark Stachura. We were Best Friends. I lived at 935 North Avers and was a neighborhood rebel. Always messing around the school and church. Always getting in trouble and very keen as to the happenings of the neighborhood. I now [2008] live in Janesville Wisconsin and am pursuing an education in IT Networking after many years in the transportation industry. I would love to hear from others from the old neighborhood.” Brother of Theresa Gorski. (Classroom unknown)
Richard S. GrazianoBoy94Richie escaped from his first-floor classroom without injury. He and his family later moved to Three Oaks, Michigan. He owned “Graziano's Pizza Parlor” with his wife, Cynthia Sebak, with their sons, Bryan (and wife Monica), and Steven (and wife Theresa), helping out. He passed away on January 2, 2007. Brother of Joseph A. Graziano. (Classroom unknown)
Terry GriffinBoy4Brother of Kevin, Colleen and Connell Griffin. (Classroom unknown)
Mary Anne GrimaldiGirl8Mary Anne escaped without injury. Sister of Frank Grimaldi (Classroom unknown)
Jerome GudzBoy116Brother of Rosemary Gudz. (Classroom unknown)
Katherine GuerinoGirl4(Classroom unknown)
Patrick GuzaldoBoy115Pat escaped without injury. He passed away on February 4, 1994. (Classroom unknown)
Catherine HandschiegelGirl116Sister of James, Regina, Susan and Thomas Handschiegel. (Classroom unknown)
James HandschiegelBoy83James passed away in December 1995 at age 45, leaving behind his wife, Barbara Lio and four children, Jason, Mocelyn, Joseph and Janessa. Brother of Catherine, Regina, Susan and Thomas Handschiegel. (Classroom unknown)
Regina HandschiegelGirl105Sister of Catherine, James, Susan and Thomas Handschiegel. (Classroom unknown)
Ron HardersBoy6(Classroom unknown)
Raymond HardyBoy2Brother of Richard and Robert Hardy. (Classroom unknown)
Robert HardyBoy7Brother of Richard and Raymond Hardy. (Classroom unknown)
Michael Hasking82Brother of Barbara Hosking. (Classroom unknown)
Richard HagertyBoy6Brother of Kathleen and William Hagerty. (Classroom unknown)
William HagertyBoy3Brother of Kathleen and Richard Hagerty. (Classroom unknown)
Wayne HobikBoy6Brother of Mary Ellen and Karen Hobik. (Classroom unknown)
Laura HoblitGirl6Cousin of Beverly, Dale and Frank Burda and of Dennis and David DeBoer (Classroom unknown)
Michael HoskingBoy82(Classroom unknown)
Andrew HudsonBoy116Andrew passed away on January 22, 2011. Brother of Marne Hudson.
Ronald JalowieckiBoy61(Classroom unknown)
John JoyceBoy4(Classroom unknown)
Josephine KafkaGirl137Josephine went directly home only to find that her parents were not there. Josephine's parents went to the school immediately after hearing news of the fire. When Josephine's parents came home, they were more than relieved to see their little girl alive and unharmed. (Classroom unknown)
James KellnerBoyJames passed away on August 26, 2022. Brother of Wayne Kellner, cousin of Cheryl McLean. (Classroom unknown)
Tom KernBoy12Tom escaped without injury from his south wing classroom. “All I remember is that I saw a lot of smoke in the hallway and we all marched out.” (Classroom unknown)
Mary KingGirl94Mary escaped without injury. Sister of Joseph, Carolyn and William King. (Classroom unknown)
William KingBoy10Billy was at home sick at the time of the fire. Brother of Joseph and Mary King. (Classroom unknown)
James KinsellaBoy2James escaped without injury. Brother of Thomas Kinsella. (Classroom unknown)
Joyce KleinaitisGirl4(Classroom unknown)
John KobusBoy2John became an Archdiocean Priest. From Irene Becker: "John is now [2003] a wonderful Spiritual Director at Saint Mary of Nazareth Hospital Center. He has always been 'down to earth', loving, caring and wanting to help everyone. I never realized he was a survivor of Our Lady of the Angels, but I'm glad God spared him so that we may benefit from knowing him. He has helped me personally on many occasions. Thank you John and God love you." John passed away on September 17, 2011.(Classroom unknown)
Milt KobusBoy7Milt Kobus is now principal of Saint Ladislaus School, located on the northwest side of Chicago. “Along with many wonderful things he has done for the school, he has stressed fire safety.” (Classroom unknown)
John KomperdaBoy4(Classroom unknown)
Florence KoncelGirl94Sister of Elizabeth Koncel. (Classroom unknown)
Theodore D. KopisBoy72From his sister, Deborah: “My brother escaped without injury. He doesn't remember the classroom he was in, just that he was on the first floor. When the fire started, he said he remembered looking at the sisters face when the fire alarm went off and it was of panic. It obviously wasn't a drill. Being on the first floor, he was able to just exit through the doorway. At the time, we lived at 932 N. Hamlin Avenue on the second floor and I was only 4 1/2 years old. On that day, I was playing on our back porch which faced the alleyway and to the left about a half block was the school. I remember seeing smoke and telling that to my Mom. In a panic, she rushed with me down to the school to find my brother. I don't recall how long it took but it seemed like forever. People were screaming and crying...my mom was crying, I was crying and we couldn't find my brother. It was chaos. As it turned out, kids that left school went to area homes to keep warm and we eventually found my brother. Our neighbor and family friends were not as fortunate and lost their son Mark Stachura in the fire. Even though I was very young, that day is etched in my memory. Our family stayed in the area for many more years and we went on to attend the new OLA school. My brother has not been on this site. I have encouraged him to do so and to add whatever pieces he may remember about that day! May God bless everyone connected to this tragedy.” (Classroom unknown)
Mary LarkinGirl(Classroom unknown)
Bonnie LaRoccoGirl61(Classroom unknown)
Dina LaSordoGirl(Classroom unknown)
Nancyann LemakGirl61Nancyann escaped without injury. “I remember the fire alarm going off and standing across the street from the school. I saw some of the older kids (4th, 5th, or maybe 6th) graders running past me without their coats on or maybe only one shoe on. It seemed to me, from where I was standing, that there was a fire at the corner of the bldg about as large as two open arms, and a lot of smoke.” She was taken into the home of a nearby resident and kept warm until her family could be located. “Because I was only in first grade, I didn't remember too much, other than going to a public school while the new OLA was being rebuilt. I graduated from OLA in 1966.” (Classroom unknown)
Robert LeonardBoy(Classroom unknown)
Diane LeskowkiGirl(Classroom unknown)
Gail LockGirl4(Classroom unknown)
Donald LoContiBoy3(Classroom unknown)
Ronald LoContiBoy1(Classroom unknown)
Teressa LombardoGirl94Teressa escaped without injury. She later married Louis Cerone, survivor of room 211. Sister of Anthony Lombardo and cousin of Philip Tampone. (Classroom unknown)
Martin LoPrestoBoy6(Classroom unknown)
Susan LoucksGirl4(Classroom unknown)
Sam MacalusoBoy14(Classroom unknown)
Joseph MakowskiBoy1Brother of Raymond Makowski. (Classroom unknown)
Jerry MalinskiBoy127(Classroom unknown)
John ManciniBoy9John had Had moved to the United States from Italy in October 1958, and therefore knew very little English. He had been in a classroom on the second floor, but was transferred to a classroom on the first floor just a week before the fire. It is possible the transfer played a part in John's survival. (Classroom unknown)
James MarcelloBoyCousin of Carl and Joann Olandese. (Classroom unknown)
Diane MarcheselleGirl12(Classroom unknown)
Richard MarracciniBoy94Brother of Linda Marraccini. (Classroom unknown)
Don MartinelliBoy3(Classroom unknown)
Doreen MatesiGirl138(Classroom unknown)
William McCormicBoy4(Classroom unknown)
Cheryl McLeanGirl(Classroom unknown)
Jerry MeansBoy94Jerry escaped uninjured, found his sister Anita, and they walked home together. Today, Jerry is married and living in the Western suburbs. (Classroom unknown)
Kathy MeissingerGirl(Classroom unknown)
Ralph MeneghettiBoy72(Classroom unknown)
Mike MichaelskiBoy4(Classroom unknown)
Steve MichieluttiBoy4(Classroom unknown)
Judy MikaGirl83(Classroom unknown)
George MilazzoBoy5(Classroom unknown)
Diane MillerGirl71(Classroom unknown)
Janice MillerGirl94(Classroom unknown)
Peter MinervaBoy72Brother of Elaine Ann Minerva. (Classroom unknown)
Carmen Daniel MinutilloBoy83Cousin of Frank Piscopo and Francis Guzaldo. (Classroom unknown)
MaryAnne ModicaGirl72MaryAnne escaped without injury. Sister of Joseph Modica, cousin of Jeanie Catalano. (Classroom unknown)
Cornel MontanoBoy8Brother of Patricia Montano. (Classroom unknown)
Linda MoravecGirl72Linda later married Robert Ehlert and they had two children, Robert and Melissa. Linda passed away from cancel on January 16, 2007. Sister of James Moravec. (Classroom unknown)
Monica MordarskiGirl7Sister of Irene Mordarski. (Classroom unknown)
Alice MujicaGirl2Sister of Josephine and Robert Mujica. (Classroom unknown)
Josephine MujicaGirl6Sister of Alice and Robert Mujica. (Classroom unknown)
Joseph MugnaniBoy4(Classroom unknown)
Dominic NardiBoy5(Classroom unknown)
Michael NeubertBoy1Michael escaped without injury and, along with his brothers, Arthur and Samuel, were taken in by families living near the school. Brother of Charles, Arthur and Samuel Neubert. (Classroom unknown)
Samuel NeubertBoy72Samuel escaped without injury and, along with his brothers, Arthur and Michael, were taken in by families living near the school. He was married in 1972 to Shirley Schike and they raised three daughters, Samantha, Rebecca and Katherine. Sam passsed away on June 6, 2008. Brother of Charles, Michael and Arthur Neubert. (Classroom unknown)
Michael NyznykBoy125Michael's real name was Nicolas Nyznyk. His family had recently come to the U.S. from the Ukraine, and being unfamiliar with the English language, his parents didn't know how to communicate the correct spelling of his name, so he went by the name Michael. His account of that horrible day included evacuating the school through a crowded stairway and being thrown to safety by a nun. His family were members of St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church, located east of OLA. Nicolas passed away 2/7/92 from a heart attack. He was a loving husband to Mary (nee Leeper) and a loving father to Amy. From Amy: “Unfortunately, my father is no longer with us, and this is all the information we have.” (Classroom unknown)
Edward O'BoyleBoy4(Classroom unknown)
Patricia O'BrienGirl4(Classroom unknown)
Rosemary O'DonnellGirlRosemary passed away in March 1999. (Classroom unknown)
James J. O'NeillBoy94James passed away on June 11, 2004. He is survived by his wife, two children, two step-children, and six grand-children. (Classroom unknown)
Carol OgnibeneGirl7The cousin of Father Joe. (Classroom unknown)
Carl OlandeseBoy6Brother of Joann Olandese, cousin of James Marcello. (Classroom unknown)
Joann OlandeseGirl105Sister of Carl Olandese, cousin of James Marcello. (Classroom unknown)
Barbara OlechowskiGirl7Cousin of Janet and Michaeline Olechowski. (Classroom unknown)
Patricia OlenGirl5(Classroom unknown)
Louis OrlandoBoy4(Classroom unknown)
Carol PadulaGirl116Sister of Michael Padula. (Classroom unknown)
Camile PalmisanoGirl4(Classroom unknown)
Catherine ParentiGirl4(Classroom unknown)
Joseph Peretti, Jr.BoyJoseph has hospitalized at Walther Memorial Hospital with burn injuries. (Classroom unknown)
John ParolinBoy115John passed away at age 70 on January 9, 2018, leaving behind his wife, Nancy Arancio, four sons, and six grandchildren. Brother of Livio Parolin. (Classroom unknown)
Casimer PawelekBoy127Brother of Marianne and Joseph Pawelek. (Classroom unknown)
Joseph PawelekBoy72Brother of Casimer and Marianne Pawelek. (Classroom unknown)
Barbara PerryGirl7Sister of Carolyn and Dorothy Perry, cousin of Joan, Kathy, Margaret and Mary Ann Perry. (Classroom unknown)
Dorothy PerryGirl2Sister of Barbara and Carolyn Perry, cousin of Joan, Kathy, Margaret and Mary Ann Perry. (Classroom unknown)
Kathleen PerryGirl94Kathleen escaped without injury. Sister of Joan, Margaret and Mary Ann Perry, cousin of Barbara, Carolyn and Dorothy Perry. (Classroom unknown)
Margaret Perry2Sister of Joan, Kathy and Mary Ann Perry, cousin of Barbara, Carolyn and Dorothy Perry. (Classroom unknown)
Mary Ann PerryGirl4Sister of Joan, Kathy and Margaret Perry, cousin of Barbara, Carolyn and Dorothy Perry. (Classroom unknown)
Albert PeruzzoBoy62Albert escaped without injury. Brother of Maria Peruzzo. (Classroom unknown)
Maria PeruzzoGirl5KMaria escaped without injury. Sister of Albert Peruzzo. (Classroom unknown)
Frank PesoliBoy1Brother of Elaine and Dennis Pesoli. (Classroom unknown)
Joanne PetrelliGirl2Sister of Mary Jo Petrelli. (Classroom unknown)
Joseph PetruzziBoy72Cousin of Betti Marino. (Classroom unknown)
John PettenonBoy3(Classroom unknown)
Michael PiscopoBoy94(Classroom unknown)
Darlene PizzolatoGirl94Darlene escaped from her first floor classroom without injury. She later married fellow survivor, Dennis Gioffredi, and they raised three daughters. (Classroom unknown)
Joyce PorcaroGirl94Joyce married John Kleinaitis in 1973, and they have two sons, Jason and Traci. Sister of Jayne Porcaro, cousin of Arlene Porcaro. (Classroom unknown)
John PowellBoy72Brother of Linda Powell. (Classroom unknown)
Benjeman PratolaBoy4(Classroom unknown)
Joseph PreteBoy128Joseph escaped without injury. Brother of Michael Prete and cousin of August and Joseph Scolaro. (Classroom unknown)
Grace PrezziaGirl(Classroom unknown)
Margeret ProfitaGirl7Sister of James and Thomas Profita. (Classroom unknown)
Thomas PryzboBoy(Classroom unknown)
Vito RacanelliBoy5(Classroom unknown)
Gary RamlowBoy61Brother of Roger Ramlow. (Classroom unknown)
Edward ReebBoy116Eddie escaped the fire without injury. Unfortunately his sister Marilyn, in room 212, did not. Eddie died a year and a half later -- of a broken heart over the loss of Marilyn, it was said. Brother of Marilyn Reeb. (Classroom unknown)
Florence RianiGirl4(Classroom unknown)
Donna RizzoGirl72Donna was taken into one of the nearby homes, where her dad found her that evening. Sister of Mark Rizzo. (Classroom unknown)
Katharine RobargeGirl2First Floor (Classroom unknown)
Robert CarrBoy4(Classroom unknown)
Rick RocoszBoy5(Classroom unknown)
Robert RodriguezBoy5(Classroom unknown)
Ronald RolewiczBoy4(Classroom unknown)
Wanda RozkuszkaGirl4(Classroom unknown)
Vito RuggieroBoy8(Classroom unknown)
James William RyanBoy82(Classroom unknown)
Carol SaccomontoGirl71Sister of Mark Soccomonto. (Classroom unknown)
Mark SaccomontoBoy82“I remember the smoke, the chaos outside, and the fire engines not being able to get to the site. I also remember being bused for a year until we moved to another part of the city.” Brother of Carol Saccomonto. (Classroom unknown)
Maria SalemiGirl4Sister of Andrew Salemi, aunt of Cheryl Curtis. (Classroom unknown)
Diane SalettaGirl8(Classroom unknown)
James SalettaBoy94James escaped without injury. Today he is Fire Chief with the Huntley, Illinois Fire Protection District. (Classroom unknown)
Mary SandiesGirl(Classroom unknown)
Carolyn SansonettiGirl72Sister of Rosalie Sansonetti, cousin of Kathy and Peggy Sansonetti. (Classroom unknown)
Carmen ScardinaBoy138Carmen passed away on October 12, 2004, at age 59. Brother of Lucille Scardina. (Classroom unknown)
Lucille ScardinaGirl2Sister of Carmen Scardina. (Classroom unknown)
Carol ScarmuzzoGirl4(Classroom unknown)
Craig ScarmuzzoBoy3(Classroom unknown)
Arlene SerafineGirl(Classroom unknown)
Edna ShanahanTeacher(Classroom unknown)
Frank ShawBoy105Frank escaped without injury. Brother of Margie and Marienne Shaw. (Classroom unknown)
Margie ShawGirl94Margie escaped without injury. She passed away a few years ago. Sister of Frank and Marianne Shaw. (Classroom unknown)
Marianne ShawGirl6Marianne escaped without injury. Sister of Frank and Margie Shaw. (Classroom unknown)
James ShotsbergerBoy3Brother of Terrence Shotsberger. (Classroom unknown)
Mariann SiragusaGirl83Cousin of Louis Tatone. (Classroom unknown)
Mary Ann SmaldoneGirl72“I was sick that day and was told I could not return to school until Tuesday. My sister [Susan] was also recovering from being sick but she was allowed to go to school after begging my mother for hours on Sunday. She made a deal with my mother that if she stayed home from church on Sunday she could go to school on Monday. She never came home and died on the 22 of Dec.” Sister of Susan Smaldone. (Classroom unknown)
Marc SparacelloBoy(Classroom unknown)
Mauro SpennacchioBoy106 Mauro survived because while delivering a message for a teacher, he saw smoke and ran out. Brother of Patricia Spennacchio. (Classroom unknown)
Patricia SpennacchioGirl7Patti escaped without injury. She heard the fire alarm while in the restroom and was able to run out of the school in time. When she first heard the alarm, she assumed it was a routine fire drill. She quickly realized it was no drill. Once outdoors she saw fire trucks and realized the seriousness of the situation. Sister of Mauro Spennacchio. (Classroom unknown)
Clifford StevensBoy4(Classroom unknown)
Kathleen StobierskiGirl72Sister of Michael Stobierski. (Classroom unknown)
Christopher StollerBoy94Chris was one of the students assigned to carry wastepaper from his classroom to the basement on the day of the fire. (Classroom unknown)
Gregory StrativarisBoy4(Classroom unknown)
Barbara SullivanGirl4(Classroom unknown)
Carl TamburrinoBoy6Brother of Mary Louise Tamburrino. (Classroom unknown)
Frank TamponeBoy6Today, Frank lives in New Hampshire. He is married with no children and drives an oil tanker truck. (Classroom unknown)
Mary TanzieGirl(Classroom unknown)
Joanne TedescoGirl5Sister of Donna Tedesco, cousin of Mary Jane Nuccio. (Classroom unknown)
Donna ThibodeauGirl8Sister of Roger Thibodeau. (Classroom unknown)
Roger ThibodeauBoy94From his daughter, Nicole: “My father was a survivor of the fire. He never spoke about it much; he didn't like to talk about it. He dealt with the pain and memory all on his own. He died January 16, 2004. He's survived by his wife, three daughters, and beautiful grandson who will all miss him dearly.” Brother of Donna Thibodeau. (Classroom unknown)
John TianpBoy72From Pat Hastings: “Johnnie was my neighbor. I did not attend OLA at the time. I remember seeing the smoke rising to the already gray clouds and wondering if he was alright. He was. He graduated from OLA in 1965.” (Classroom unknown)
Vallerie TillmerGirl(Classroom unknown)
Sam TortoriceGirl(Classroom unknown)
Kenny TraversBoy72(Classroom unknown)
Joanne TreppiediGirl4(Classroom unknown)
James Vincent TruppaBoy138Jim passed away after a long battle of cancer on August 18, 2013, leaving behind his wife, Geraldine, a son (also named James), daughters Gina and Jaclyn, and three grandsons. Cousin of Rosemarie Truppa. (Classroom unknown)
Rosmarie TruppaGirl83Cousin of James Truppa. (Classroom unknown)
Judith Van GeertryGirl94(Classroom unknown)
Carl VellerBoy4(Classroom unknown)
Carl VerdoneBoy83Carl escaped without injury. He passed away at age 45. Brother of Anthony and James Verdone. (Classroom unknown)
James VerdoneBoy61James escaped without injury. He left behind a wife, Tammi and son, Joseph, when he passed away on April 12, 2008 at age 55. Brother of Anthony and Carl Verdone. (Classroom unknown)
Frank VitaccoBoy72(Classroom unknown)
Barbara Ann VitaleGirl127Cousin of Thea Vitale. (Classroom unknown)
Noreen VoskresenskiGirl83Sister of Diane Voskresenski. (Classroom unknown)
Regina WadeGirl72The day of the fire was Regina's first day of school at OLA, and she escaped without injury. (Classroom unknown)
Donald WarzekaBoy127(Classroom unknown)
Eugene Peter WaswilBoy106Eugene turned 11 on the December 21, a few weeks after escaping from the fire. He married Donna Kiesielente and had 2 sons, Peter and Paul. Eugene passed away on April 2, 2011. Brother of Stanley Waswil. (Classroom unknown)
Stanley WaswilBoy137Stanley passed away in 2014. (Classroom unknown)
Charlene WenckowskiGirl82Charlene resided in Otsego, Michigan. She had two children and three grandchildren. She passed away on December 29, 2007. (Classroom unknown)
Margaret WentworthGirl4(Classroom unknown)
Kathryn WiaterGirl125Kathryn escaped without injury and today (2008) lives in Addison, IL. (Classroom unknown)
Cathy WilliamsGirl4(Classroom unknown)
John WlasBoy7(Classroom unknown)
Richard WronaBoy127(Classroom unknown)
Geraldine ZagoneGirl1(Classroom unknown)
Paulette Marie ZagoneGirl61Paulette escaped without injury and today is married and living in a Chicago suburb. (Classroom unknown). (Classroom unknown)
Yolanda ZitoGirl94Yolanda escaped without injury. (Classroom unknown)
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Page last updated: 1/23/2024