Catholic Herald staff
Delores Sova, a 2017 Pax Christi finalist from Holy Rosary in Medford, was honored, yet surprised, at her nomination. She didn’t think she’d earned it through any special merit – and that is what makes her so special.
Sova was reluctant at first to be interviewed. She said she doesn’t remember things too well these days. But with her daughter participating in the conversation, Sova stepped back in time and opened a window into a world that now exists mostly in documentaries and history books.
She was born in Milwaukee and lived there until she was 8 years old. She remembers walking 3 miles to catechism classes each week. Sova enjoyed these and didn’t give a second thought to the distance, because it was just what they did.
“It was a simple, but good life,” she said.
Then the Depression hit, and hit hard in Milwaukee. According the Wisconsin Historical Society, the number of employed people fell 75 percent between 1929 and 1933. Sova’s parents, with eight children under their roof, struggled to put food on the table and meet basic needs.
The family moved north to Medford seeking opportunity. Farming provided better stability for food and housing.
“My father had never farmed, but Ma knew about milking cows,” Sova remembers. “My Pa would hold the umbrella for Ma while she milked.”
They had four cows, and their only means of transportation was horses. In a simple one-room house, the girls shared a bed on the main floor near their parents, while the brothers all slept in a loft area. They patched holes in the winter to keep out the cold winds.
Sova and her siblings still walked to catechism in Medford. She loved accompanying her mother to Saturday evening gatherings, although her brothers weren’t as keen on attending.
These seeds of faith have been passed to her own children, who all continue practicing the Catholic faith, some more than others.
Sova told the Catholic Herald she feels lucky to have finished eighth grade. After that, she earned $3 a week doing odd jobs around their small town, helping women who were pregnant or had young children and doing some housekeeping.
Married at 17 years old, Sova and her husband, Alvin, were struck by tragedy when a fire burned down their home. They were both doing farm chores. Inside the house, their resting 3-year-old twins were unable to be saved. Sova acknowledged it was one of the most difficult times of her life.
“You just have to move forward,” said Sova, who was pregnant at the time. “You can’t dwell too much on it; but looking back, sometimes I can’t believe we lived through that.”
Including the twins, the Sovas had 14 children. Their 12 surviving children live within driving distance with their own families.
Referring to a sheet the family prepared to keep track of their growing numbers, Sova said she has 25 grandchildren, 16 step-grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren, 26 step-great-grandchildren and even two great-great-grandchildren.
True to her active nature, she has made and gifted numerous mop dolls and crocheted afghans to these next generations.
Family is central to Sova. Her husband passed away in 2015, after 73 years of marriage. She is able to continue living at home with the help of her eldest daughter, Carol, who often stays with her.
Carol recounted some memories of their growing-up years: “There were enough of us to have our own softball team. We’d spend Sunday afternoons playing ball or swimming at the beach. It didn’t need to cost money, but we sure enjoyed those afternoons all together.”
Asked what her best memory of her mother was, Carol answered, “It was the smell of baking in the kitchen when I’d come home from high school.”
Carol shared how her mother was always available for them and put her own needs after the children’s, even waiting until after they’d gone to bed to wash and wax floors.
Asked to give advice to younger women who are raising families in ever-changing times, Sova’s response was, “Keep the faith and stay with the church; that is your support group. And don’t sit around. Hardships will come, stay busy and don’t dwell on the difficulties. Don’t sit still too long and don’t let your mind be idle.”