Family History of Francis Kinsella Family as told by Mary Ange Kinsella Ziegenhagen Francis Kinsella, son of Michael and Margaret Larkin Kinsella, was born February 14, 1910. He married Irene Sleevar. He farmed 1/4 mile east of Merna on the Kinsella family farm until he moved to Minnesota in 1947. Francis and Irene had seven children: Patricia Kinsella Svenkeson, Elinor Kinsella Smith, Michael, Mary Ange Kinsella Ziegenhagen, Alice Kinsella Olson, Rita Kinsella Kimmel and Anthony. His daughter, Mary Ziegenhagen, recounted this story of depression days that he told the family many times. The Great Depression was devastating central Illinois as it did most of the country. As a last-ditch effort, it was decided that Francis-23 years old, good looking, well-mannered, and good-natured--would take the train to Bloomington and try to persuade the mortgage holder, Aetna Insurance Company, to delay foreclosure. His mother rehearsed with Francis what he would say, then starched and ironed his best white shirt, and he made the journey. With four strong boys in the family, Francis explained, they would meet the mortgage payments if only they had more time. The loan officer scoffed and said, "Get this straight: Mike Kinsella is never going to pay off that farm. Never." Then this version of a miracle occurred. That very evening, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave one of his radio Fireside Chats to the nation. In it, he declared a moratorium on farm foreclosures. Francis liked to imitate that eloquent New York diction: "I realize that many of you out there are about to lose your homes to foreclosure, and 1 want you to know, we're going to stop it. From today forward there will be no more foreclosures until we can get the economy back on its feet and you'll be able to meet your obligations."* Sometime in the 1930's, Francis faced repossession of his truck and Irene decided to ask a favor. She dressed up nicely in a suit, hat, and gloves, and went to see Mr. George Mecherle, founder of the State Farm Insurance Company and a Merna Neighbor. At Mr. Mecherle's office, Irene explained, "Francis has no way to earn a living without the truck." Francis recalled how much he admired her for doing this. Mr. Mecherle wrote a check for $1000---not a gift, he said, but a loan to be paid without interest as soon as they could manage it. Francis and Irene repaid the debt and recalled the incident together 40 years later. Clearly, it was an important time for both of them. Francis M. Kinsella died at home of a heart attack on January 25, 1985, and is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Merna. Irene died on July 25, 2004 and is buried beside Francis at Holy Cross Cemetery. * I have publicly asked that foreclosures on farms and chattels and on homes be delayed until every mortgagor in the country shall have had full opportunity to take advantage of Federal credit. 1 make the further request which many of you know has already been made through the great Federal credit organizations that if there is any family in the United
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States about to lose its home or about to lose its chattels, that family should telegraph at once either to the Farm Credit Administration or the Home Owners Loan Corporation in Washington requesting their help." FDR's Fireside Chat #4, October 22, 1933 (transcript from Hyde Park Library).
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Illinois State University, Milner Library, Normal, IL, 61790 - for the Towanda Area Historical Society/Towanda District Library
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