Almost 70 years after leaving home in Illinois Midge Malyjurek never imagined she’d run into someone from the same town and same high school as her now living in the same retirement community in Ahwatukee Foothills.
Malyjurek is a resident and volunteer in charge of hospitality for Mountain Park Senior Living. When a new resident moves in she greets them with a gift and gives a brief overview of where they can go to get food and what activities are going on. As part of her greeting she has also made it a habit to ask where they’re from, just because she finds it interesting, she said. That’s how she met Keith Andrews.
“He said, ‘Oh I’m from Illinois’ and I said, ‘Oh, me too,’” Malyjurek said. “I’ve run into people from Chicago and other nearby towns but then he said Decatur and it was a shock. We’ve become pretty good friends.”
Decatur isn’t a small town but Andrews estimates the population was near 57,000 when they were growing up in the ’30s and early ’40s. Andrews and Malyjurek discovered they not only grew up in the same town but they graduated from the same high school just a year apart. Andrews was a neighbor of Malyjurek’s brother-in-law and he remembers visiting the local restaurant owned by Malyjurek’s parents.
Despite being so close in age and proximity the two didn’t know each other growing up. Running into each other all these years later has caused some very fond memories of Decatur to resurface and the two said it’s like a blast from the past each time they’re together.
“What one of us has forgotten the other remembers,” Malyjurek said. “Sometimes what we both remember the other can expound on it. It just falls into place. Keith has been kind enough to loan me some books on our hometown and what isn’t in there is in our memory. It’s been fun.”
Both remember events taking place in Decatur’s Central Park, including bands playing and church services during the summer. They also remember the smell of corn starch being made by A.E. Staley Manufacturing Company, which also processed soy beans. During the war both remember their mothers volunteering to prepare food and sweets for the troops when they stopped in town.
Malyjurek left Decatur shortly after graduation and moved to Arizona with her husband. Andrews left Decatur in the late ’50s and lived in many places before retiring to Arizona in 1990 to be close to his daughter. Now both are living in Mountain Park Senior Living.
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