Marge Britton (Eulogy by daughter Christine Britton Valadez)


Eulogy for Marge Britton
Mom and Nana, Marge Britton has been known by a great many titles—beloved wife, dear friend, cherished aunt and cousin, devoted sister, talented journalist and debater, political leader and Edgewater neighborhood legend—but the titles that meant most to her were MOM and NANA because they represented what she did best.
Marge was such a great mother that the entire neighborhood called her Mom Britton. She often said that she fed whoever sat down at her table, and she did. When the cowbell rang out for the family meal, you know the one—clank, clank, clank—Joe, Cindy, Margie, John, Jimmy, Chrissy, Monica, Sheila, Paul, Danny, Tabby, Lucy, Amanda, Kathleen, Ziggy, Eddie, Mike… whoever—it’s dinner time, people came running. It wasn’t that mom was a particularly good cook, but children flocked to the Britton house because they knew mom would find a place for them. Her home at 5414 N. Magnolia was a spot people could feel comfortable, welcome, and safe. My mother loved every minute of it. Marge relished being Mom Britton, and it’s a title that surely fit. You need only walk into the Britton house on a holiday to know that my mom appreciated nothing more than to see her children happy and she spoiled every single one of us, but especially me.
I had a very special bond with my mom. As the youngest, I needed extra protection, I guess. No matter the reason, Mom gave me her time and energy. Every morning, from the time I was 10, she arose at 6 AM to take me to skating before school. I believe I may be the only child whose parent was actually thrilled when I got a driver’s license. It meant she could sleep in. But, even on those early mornings wrapped in a heavy coat sitting on cold, aluminum bleachers, my mother never complained. She gave, and gave, and gave. That was her thing. I know that I would not be the person I am today if it were not for my mom’s generosity. In turn, I wanted to make her proud.
I remember once, during a skating competition, when I was performing at Nationals to I Love Him, I Love Him, I Love Him and where he goes I’ll Follow…dressed in a big floppy dog costume, the audience was roaring with laughter. When the song finished, I remember looking into the stands. As if time stood still, I peered through the fuzzy holes in my puppy headpiece and locked eyes with my mom, who was crying, not tears of sadness, but tears of pride…in me…in my performance…. At that point, nothing else mattered to me. I placed first that day, but I didn’t care. All that I knew was that I had made mom proud of me, and that made my heart full.
You see, mom was a person to admire, a force to be reckoned with. She was strong and wise. Perhaps because she lost her father when she was only five, she learned to cope, to stand up for her beliefs, to fight for what is right, and to be both stubborn and lovingly fierce. For her, making a safe and comfortable home meant securing the neighborhood too. She had grown up in Lakewood-Balmoral, and she was not going to stand for this place she loved to become unsafe for her extended Edgewater family. Mom was a co-founder and the first president of the Lakewood/Balmoral Residents Council. In fact, its first meeting was held in her Magnolia living room in 1969. She was also vice president and chairman of the Edgewater Community Council (ECC). In 1976, after negotiating which of the two mothers would run, which legend has it was decided over a coin toss, mom helped Marion Volini take on the Chicago political machine. Even when odds were against them, when phones were tapped and chicken blood thrown on our front porch, these two housewives were able to take over the 48th Ward alderman’s office. Many Edgewater heroes, like Ed Marciniak, LeRoy Blommaert, Camillo Volini, and of course my dad were involved, but it was these two incredible women who changed Edgewater for good. Marion was inducted into her new office on July 7, 1978—my mother’s, father’s, and brother John’s birthday—a special date indeed. Together, Alderman Volini and Chief of Staff Britton reduced gangs and crime, preventing Edgewater from becoming “rough around the edges” and helping it to become one of the most flourishing neighborhoods in the city. For her efforts, Marge was named a living treasure by the Edgewater Historical Society in 2014. They said of her, “Marge cares deeply about the community and stepped up where others were ‘just too busy.’ She accomplished so much and at the same time raised six children.” It was the fight in mom that had my five siblings and me working at polling places campaigning against political powerhouses, guys like Marty Touchow, every election day from the time I was an infant. To mom, sitting still wasn’t an option, not when it was her job to keep her children and the neighborhood she loved and grew up in safe.
But all this fight in her never took my mom away from her family. She was always there for her kids. She worked out of our basement. She made us lunches every morning and welcomed us and all our friends home after school. She gave us love, kindness and attention. She took care of my dad, Hal Britton, who she married on September 23, 1961 until his death on June 1, 2015. My mom thought of everyone else first and herself second. She loved being a wife and a mother. Mom Britton—it was a name she cherished.
This title was only to be supplanted by her becoming a Nana, a role which she performed to perfection. Angelina, Molly, Chloe, Luke, Elliott, Cameron, Phoebe, Patrick, Sean, Polina and honorary grandson Jacob—it was for their smiles, their laughs and their love that Marge Britton lived. Her love lives on through them. Grand kids and grand pets (dogs, cats, and lizards too), Nana loved you so much.
In her living treasures interview, Nana said this about you “And grandkids – I’m just…they are the best thing that ever happened to me.” She wanted you to have this advice for life, “My advice to the younger generation: Get involved. Not just because of what you can accomplish, but because it does a lot for the individual… making friends… doing things that give you a sense of accomplishment…. If there’s enough time, you have to learn to use it well. If there’s enough time, get involved with the neighborhood or with a volunteer organization or something because, as I said, they not only do a lot of good, but you also do a lot of good for yourself…and I think it’s worth it.”
It’s worth it. Remember that Nana felt that way. My mom, Marge Britton, lived a great life. At 84, she was still as strong, lovingly fierce, and yes, stubborn…as ever. She walked 5414’s grand staircase up to her room every night until the day she passed. This persistent lady even debated with the paramedics for 30 minutes before she agreed to go with them to the hospital last Friday. She lived and died the way she wanted to, on her terms, with her family together—every one of her children and grandchildren, including Molly in from Ireland, here in Chicago. Today we celebrate her life, her legend. Marge Britton, MOM and NANA most of all, I love you. I miss you. You are and forever will be my hero!