The Novena Machine

Anna Duffner (Chicago Sun-Times)The grandchildren of Anna Duffner had so much faith in the 85-year-old matriarch’s prayer connection with a higher power, that they often asked her to “crank up the novena machine” for them, according to the obituary Maureen O’Donnell wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times.

“Mrs. Duffner prayed her rosary for them and nursed their ills with endless cups of hot tea, her famous ‘lello’ (yellow) cake, and caraway-studded Irish soda bread,” O’Donnell wrote. “She taught them that there was no shame in washing a floor until it shone, and that the ability to diagram a sentence could help you with the English language all your life.”

The mother of six also excelled in culinary arts and penny-pinching.

Duffner “could perform kitchen alchemy with a little gravy, rice and tomatoes, somehow turning modest ingredients into a meal that made mouths water,” O’Donnell wrote.

“She could stretch a dollar with a little meat and a lot of starch. She had a special flair with potato dishes. ‘That was the essential ingredient to life,’ her son said. ‘It could be boiled, it could be roasted, it could have parsley and be buttered, it could be anything — but not deep-fried. Somehow, that’s a violation of the potato law.’”

The news obituary contains lots of other gems. You can also read the obituary published by the family or leave a message in the online Guest Book.

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This post was contributed by Alana Baranick, a freelance obituary writer. She is director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers and chief author of Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers.