Mara “Mary Violet” Kos[s]

Mara “Mary Violet” Kos[s]
birth: 18 July 1900 in Dubranec, Austria-Hungary to Josip “Joseph” and Jana Kata “Anna Katherine” Grdenic Kos[s]
death: 5 June 1895 in Scottsdale, Maricopa, Arizona
burial: Oak Hill Cemetery, Glen Park, Lake, Indiana

marriage: 28 January 1917 in Chicago, Cook. Illinois
Ivan “John” Kos[s]
birth: 19 November 1892 in Dubranec, Austria-Hungary to Josip Opos “Joseph” and Katarina Cvetković Kos
death: 20 October 1970 in Gary, Lake, Indiana
burial: Oak Hill Cemetery, Glen Park, Lake, Indiana

Children of Mara “Mary Violet” Kos[s] and Ivan “John” Kos[s]:

  • Dorothy Elizabeth Koss (1918-2001) m. Orlo Guy Leininger
  • Anne Marie Katherine Koss (1919-2006) m. Michael Andrew Milinovich
  • George Joseph Kos (1921-2006) m. Elizabeth Dorothy “Betty” Altomere
  • Mary Louise “Mary Lou” Koss (1931-1999) m. 1st Paul Julius Domonkos m. 2nd Martin Jerome “Jerry” Vavrak m. 3 & 4 Robert Eugene Hamilton m. 5th Philip Savio

Ancestor here lived in:

  • Lake County, Indiana

Other Information:

Mara “Mary Violet” Kos was born to Josip “Joseph” and Jana Kata “Anna Katherine” Grdenich Kos[s] on 18 July 1900 in the tiny village of Dubranec, Austria-Hungary. Mary was the third child born to the couple but her older brothers had died as infants. Her parents would go on to have three more children, one who died as a child. Mary learned to read and write Croatian in the village. In later years, the country’s name changed to Yugoslavia and then, Croatia. Her father, a military man serving in the cavalry, was injured by a horse and was forced to leave the service. When she was 9, he left the family and set off for America. Three years later he sent for the family to join him. Mary recalled to this submitter that she enjoyed the trip over the Atlantic in July 1913 on the President Lincoln, entertaining passengers by singing. Her height was not recorded; she had brown hair and blue eyes, though green were written on the arriving passenger sheet. The family spent their first night in their new country in a hotel in New York City. Mary recalled years later she was excited by all the people, noise, and items available for purchase in the stores. Ever the apple of her father’s eye, she told her father he had made the right decision to relocate. Her mother and brother weren’t so sure about that. Mary adapted and embraced American customs, though she was known for her delicate Croatian pastries. Traveling by train, her father had found a temporary residence for his family in a backroom of a church between Adams and Jefferson Streets on West Ridge Road in Gary, Lake, Indiana. He returned to live in Chicago where he was employed. Mary continued her education in Gary and learned English quickly. After a short stay in Gary, Mary, her mother, and brother joined their father in Blue Island, Cook, Illinois where her youngest sister was born. The family had considered moving to Bethlehem or Alquipa, Pennsylvania where work with the steel mills was available but decided to stay in the midwest. The family later moved to the Lincoln Park area of Chicago. Mary acknowledged as an adult that she liked to flirt and that gave her father concern. He took it upon himself to arrange for her to be married to a distant cousin who the family discovered had also emigrated to Chicago. At age 16, Mary wed Ivan “John” Kos[s] on 28 January 1917 at Chicago, Cook, Illinois. Within a year, their first child was born in Pullman housing as Mary feared giving birth in a hospital. She had heard tales of children being given to the wrong family. Although the family laughed at her for years, DNA has since proved her correct. Job prospects in Gary, Lake, Indiana, took the family there by late 1918. The family lived together in a rented house at 1521 Garfield Street. Her father and husband bicycled to their jobs at I.I.B. Teaming Company. The couples second child was born shortly after they relocated to Gary. Difficult times lay ahead for the family as Mary’s father died in 1919 from complication of influenza. Soon after, John was hired by U.S. Steel. It was there that he lost a leg saving a fellow employee from being crushed by an incoming train. John had been the sole breadwinner of the family consisting of Mary, three small children, her mother, her brother, and her sister. The family, living at 2636 Harrison Street in Gary had their home flood from the nearby Calumet River. Their oldest child, Dorothy, recalled in later years that the backyard had a grape arbor, lots of snakes and a hill where the children liked to play. They also became ill with scarlet fever and health officials quarantined the family. With the help of two minority neighbors, Mary was able to nurse the children back to health. The family used money received from the mill accident to purchase their first home at 336 West Ridge Road. It was a farmhouse that Mary later had bricked. The country home was so far out that the streetcar line did not extend there. Mary took in boarders and became an active member of St. Marks Roman Catholic Church. It is not known why the KuKluxKlan decided to terrorize the family shortly after they moved into their new home in 1923. They were immigrants, Roman Catholic, and had minority friends who would visit. They also grew grapes and were known for their exceptional wine they sold which became problematic during Prohibition. Their oldest child recalled the terror of hiding in the home’s fruit celler as the Klan burned a cross on the sand dune across from the family’s residence. Mary became active with the Croatian Fraternal Union and as a soprano, joined Preradovic, a glee club, that toured in Yugoslavia in 1960. She and her husband also helped found St. Joseph the Worker Roman Catholic Croatian Church in Gary. Once her children were grown she became a beautician working for Mike Caulif at a salon on Broadway and 39th Avenue. Mary became a naturalized citizen in 1941. She later found work at U.S. Steel in the sorting mill but due to her short stature had difficulty reaching the platform. John was concerned so she found work at the Ball plant. She left her job shortly after John retired from U.S. Steel. In the late 1950s, Mary and John had a smaller home built on the east side of Glen Park, giving her son their Ridge Road home. Within a year, he had decided to relocate to Florida so the couple moved back to their old homestead. Mary’s oldest daughter and granddaughter, along with her mother, resided there through the 1960s, though the home was put up for sale in 1966. After John’s death on 20 October 1970, Mary continued to be active with her many lady friends. Throughout her life, she enjoyed playing bunco, going to movies, and visiting those that had relocated to California and Florida. After her daughter Dorothy relocated to Florida, Mary sold her home to her former daughter-in-law, Betty Altomere Kos, and moved to St. Petersburg, Pinellas, Florida in October 1973. Her daughter, Mary Lou, had moved to Arizona and after a visit, Mary decided she would move there. She returned to Florida in 1977, living in the same apartment complex, Brookside Square, as her daughter. Due to the onset of Alzheimers Disease, her children decided she should live with her daughter Anne Marie in Pennsylvania in October 1979. Anne Marie had difficulty with the arrangement and after one month, Mary was living with her daughter Mary Lou in Arizona. Mary died in Scottsdale on 5 June 1985 and was interred at Oak Hill Cemetery, Glen Park, Indiana.

Mary was barely 5 feet tall and her mother, Anna, was shorter than her. Anna was recorded as being 5′ 2″ at the time she emigrated. Mary was only 12 and still growing which is possibly why she and her brother Joseph had no height information recorded.
The family had a name change after arriving in the U.S. Manifests show they left Austria-Hungary with the surname Kos and were still using that spelling in 1914. Sometime between 1914 and 1917, however, the name was changed to Koss as is shown on Mary’s wedding certificate. This submitter asked Mary why the name was changed; she stated that it was a recommendation of a clerk at Ellis Island. He said to think about it as most American names are longer than three letters. The family continued to use the original spelling but as they became assimilated, decided to add a letter to their surname. It was at that time that also Americanized their first names. Barbara continued to use the original surname spelling of her maiden name throughout her life. Mary’s son, George, changes his name from Koss to Kos while serving in the Coast Guard during World War 2.

Submitted by:
Lori Samuelson


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