Exhibit honors city’s immigrants

By Keisha Howerth

The fall exhibit at the DeKalb Area Women’s Center, 1021 State St., celebrates history, genealogy and immigration through the lives of the Pesut family.

A Memorial Tribute to the Pesut Family: Croatian Immigrant Experience in Finn Town, DeKalb, will be on display through Oct. 27. The exhibit is free and can be viewed from 7 to 9 p.m. Fridays or by appointment at 815-758-1351.

Frances “Peppy” Pesut died at 95 and was the last of seven children of Croatian immigrants who married in America. She grew up on the east end of DeKalb known as Finn Town, where her parents owned a house on 11th Street. She lived the rest of her life in DeKalb.

Though the center usually holds an art gallery or a fine arts show, gallery director Anna Marie Coveny chose to honor Pesut and her family this fall.

“I’d like to show what’s common in the immigrant experience — family, loyalty, languages, customs, church, work and home,” Coveny said.

Each of the exhibit’s display cases show items Pesut saved in her family’s memory, like her mother’s crotchet, legal papers, service awards, tools, household items and family photographs.

The Pesut family contributed to the DeKalb community and remained loyal to businesses they worked for, like General Electric and Cyclone Fence.

“Frances was a Rosie,” Coveny said on Pesut’s commitment to her factory jobs.

Coveny said there were some challenges in putting the exhibit together, like the different spellings for the family’s last name on documents — Pesut, Peshut, Peshet, Pesuit, Pesuth — as well as varied dates on documents.

Coveny hopes visitors will use the display learn to document their own personal photographs.

“Please write on the back of your pictures,” Coveny said. “Or find a way to label them on your computer.”

In addition to the display cases dedicated to members of the Pesut family, there is also a case for Helen Alexander, another Finn Town resident who was also the child of Croatian immigrants.

Items from the exhibit will be donated to the Regional History Center in Founders Memorial Library.