French Canadian Interview Project

Suzanne (Smith) Pruchnicki was born on June 24, 1929 in Chicago. In French-Canada, June 24th is celebrated as the Feast of St. John the Baptist, the Patron Saint of Quebec. Suzanne was born to Dorothy (Schilling) and Edmond Smith, who were married in 1928. Suzanne and her sister Elmira were the only children in the family. Her French-Canadian ancestry comes from her father's side of the family. She is a descendant of twelve of the founding families of Nova Scotia.

At the time of her birth, her father Edmond Smith was working for International Harvester, but he was soon transferred to Bismarck, North Dakota. Edmond Smith took over his father's business in 1931, which had been established since 1863. In 1933, she and her family moved to Manteno, Illinois after living in Peotone, Illinois for a short time.

Growing up, Suzanne and her sister attended Our Lady Academy for twelve years. She graduated in 1947 in a class of six. Then, she attended Rosary College for two years and finished at the University of Illinois in Champagne. Later she earned her Masters Degree in Mexico where she had the opportunity to take craft classes, such as weaving, sculpture, and printmaking. Suzanne taught for a number of years on the eastern seaboard, at the old Kankakee High School, and at Bishop McNamara High School—twenty-nine years in all.

Suzanne was first married to Harry J. Granzow in 1951. She and Harry had two children--Harry and Charlotte--born in 1953 and 1956 respectively. Later their marriage was annulled, and Suzanne married Paul J. Pruchnicki in 1981.

The Catholic faith is important to the French-Canadian people. For example, Suzanne's great grandmother attended Mass everyday. One fond memory of Suzanne's took place at St. Joseph's Church in Manteno. It was Christmas Eve and she was anxious to get home, but she had to wait for the priest to hear her confession while six elderly women went to confession ahead of her. They spoke only in French, and took their time in the confessional. At this time the older generations were the only people who did not speak English. Growing up, Suzanne spoke English, but she also speaks French.

Today, Suzanne sees little French influence in our area. Many of the Catholic Churches have been changed, so they no longer have the French Canadian interior style in which they were originally designed. Suzanne's heritage is a very important aspect of her life; this can be perceived by the museum (Bronte History & Printing Museum) that she has constructed from her collection of family heirlooms and European prints—etching, engraving, early water color printing—and operating presses.

Suzanne studied etching with Vera Berdich at the Art Institute of Chicago; water colors with Edgar Whitney in Maine; book binding at Capricornes Bindery in San Francisco; and creativity with materials with Margaret Phillips at the Art Institute of Chicago. Suzanne's daughter Charlotte is an art teacher and her son Harry is a master watch maker in Iowa.