Eunice Lillian Engardio 1913 — 2009
Two weeks shy of 96 years, Eunice Lillian Engardio died with one regret she loved others knowing about. In a Cincinnati hotel ballroom in the early 1930s, baseball star Lou Gehrig asked her to dance. If only she had gotten his autograph.
A piano prodigy, Eunice Haynes was offered a music scholarship in Europe. Her parents didn’t let her go. She almost signed up to be a nurse but became an elevator operator at the Saginaw County courthouse. She met her husband Peter Engardio in the elevator.
Eunice married late, at 32, and was widowed young, at 48. “I had a good young life,” she liked to say, telling stories of moonlight row boating from Port Huron to Canada where alcohol was legal during Prohibition.
When Eunice was seven, she saw her mother win the right to vote in 1920. At 95, Eunice made a YouTube video called “Eunice for Hillary.” She hoped to see the first woman president. Eunice was a lifelong democrat and Saginaw resident.
Raised protestant, she married Catholic and her daughter, Mary Kaye, became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Eunice, who believed in Jesus, preferred to read her Bible and pray at home.
Eunice loved dogs. She had more than a dozen over 90 years. Music was her other passion. Her dogs sat under the piano bench while she played.
After her husband died in 1961, Michigan Lutheran Seminary hired Eunice as a piano teacher. She was a single, working mom ahead of her time. She also helped raise her grandson, Joel, who made a YouTube music video of her life called “Eunice Lillian: A 1913 original.” She watched it, smiling, days before peacefully dying May 19, 2009 in hospice care.