GRANITE CITY — Millie Chomko loves Granite City.
“I was born here,” Chomko said. “I just didn’t think of moving.”
Millie celebrated her 100th birthday on April 29. She was born in Granite City and has lived there all her life.
But there’s one part of the city Millie hasn’t visited.
“I lived here all of my life and I don’t know West Granite,” Millie said.
Millie lives in the Anchorage Homes neighborhood in East Granite City. She lived in four homes before moving to her current residence in 1997.
“She decided that she was tired of cutting grass and washing windows,” said Marsha Chomko, Millie’s daughter-in-law. “So she sold her house and moved over here.”
Millie was married to Michael Chomko for 34 years before Michael’s death in 1979. Millie has two sons, Jim and John; 17 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Jim, 68, has two children and is married to Marsha. John, 67, has 15 children; 10 of them are adopted. Jim is a barber in Granite City and John works at Ameren.
During her 100 years on Earth, Millie has lived through 17 presidents and 13 Granite City mayors.
“I had a good life,” Millie said.
Millie said the best moments of her life were seeing three of her grandchildren get married.
“I was glad to be here,” Millie said.
Sewing and cooking are Millie’s favorite hobbies.
“Our family reaped the benefits of her life because she cooked for us and she sewed for us,” Marsha said. “She did all of those things for us. So that was really nice.”
Millie Chomko was born Amelia Lombardi on April 29, 1915, to parents Louis and Louise Lombardi. Millie was the fourth oldest of six children.
“She was born when her parents lived in an apartment on 2100 and Grand,” Marsha said. “Then, they moved to Monroe Avenue when she still was a baby. Then, they moved to East 24th Street by Washington Avenue, and that’s where she grew up and their parents lived there the rest of their lives. Then, she moved to Sheridan Avenue after she got married.”
When Millie was born, Granite City had about 9,000 people and had been incorporated as a city for 19 years. Today, the city has about 30,000 people. Millie said the city has changed a lot since she was a child.
“On every corner, they had fruit and vegetable stands,” Millie said. “But you don’t find any of those things today. A lot of buildings, like the dime store and Newberry’s (a variety store) and all of that, were all torn down.”
Millie started working when she was a teenager during the Great Depression. In 1930, she got a job at age 15 as an examiner at Marx & Haas, a men’s suit factory in St. Louis.
“She sewed for people,” Marsha said. “She’s a really good seamstress. She learned that from the suit factory. For years, she made clothes for people and she altered clothes.”
Millie worked 44 years at Marx & Haas before the factory closed in 1974.
“From (age) 59 to 62, I didn’t have anything to go by,” Millie said. “I had to wait until 62 in order to get my Social Security (benefits).”
Even though she was out of work, Millie stayed busy by continuing to cook.
“She’s a very good cook,” Marsha said. “She made Christmas cookies. She used to sell Christmas cookies. She made 500 pounds of cookies. That’s a lot of cookies. People would buy her cookies of all different kinds.”
Millie also cooked Italian food.
“She made her own ravioli from scratch and made the dough and everything,” Marsha said. “She also made pierogis, which is the Russian equivalent of ravioli. When she made lasagna, she made her own noodles.”
Millie also worked 12,000 hours as a volunteer at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Granite City (now Gateway Regional Medical Center). After she moved to the Anchorage Homes neighborhood, she would clean Jim’s barber shop every Monday.
“I kept busy,” Millie said.
Millie suffered a fall in early January. A caretaker comes to her house every morning to help out.
“I was healthy from the time I was born until I hit 98 and then the bottom dropped out,” Millie said.
When Millie turned 98, she had to give up driving.
“She decided with the cost of gas and insurance and license and upkeep and all of that, it wasn’t worth it because she just drove to the store and church,” Marsha said.
Marsha said she’s happy to see her mother-in-law turn 100 years old.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Marsha said. “She’s been in such good health all of this time.”