Getting to Know the Heart of Margaret Staine

Getting to Know the Heart of… Margaret Staine
A constant, friendly and familiar face, Margaret has been at the front of Glencoe's Grand Food Center for 17 years and knows nearly every customer's name by heart

Untitled design (14)

By: Annice Moses, Community Relations Forum Member

After trading numerous text messages and voicemails, Margaret and I finally connect. “Hi Margaret! I…” Margaret interrupts, “So? When are we going to do this interview thing?” Margaret gets right down to business, and she has demands! When I suggest a bench by the Library, she says we must sit away from the trees. More specifically, we must sit away from jumping, biting spiders that live in trees. I promise Margaret I will scout out a bench as far away from the dangers of nature as possible. A little more than a week later, at a tree-less, bug-less, spider-less, nature-less spot, Margaret and I sit down to chat about everything from surviving a zombie apocalypse to her celebrity crush.

We begin with the jumping spider thing and, funnily enough, that takes us right to Margaret’s origin story. Belize is where both Margaret and her fear of jumping spiders were born. It is also where Margaret cultivated her love for Belizean food, music and dancing. Margaret is one of eight children, and all but one immigrated to the United States in 1987.

Moving from Belize to Chicago was a major transition. Margaret recalls crying every day wishing she were home in Belize where things were familiar (and warmer!) The streets of Chicago felt confusing and unsafe. As Margaret slowly got her bearings, her fear and longing for home lifted, and she began to adjust to her new life. That positive transition continued when she secured her first job in Glencoe at Big Al’s, a hot dog and hamburger joint located where Hometown Coffee & Juice currently resides. Margaret remembers Big Al and his wife as kind people and her three years working there as a cook, cashier and server were happy ones. The job came to an end when a kitchen fire closed the restaurants doors in 1989.  

For the next two years, Margaret worked retail for the now shuttered TH Mandy in Deerfield and then began nannying for the McClintic family in Winnetka. The job of caring for the five children lasted 12 years, but the connection to them has lasted a lifetime. Margaret’s face lights up as she shares pictures of the McClintic family mingled with Margaret’s family at weddings, birthdays and holiday celebrations.

Margaret is incredibly proud of her four children – two girls and two boys – Vanessa, Diandra, Andrei and Clive. She shares dozens of photos of her beautiful family. Margaret then scrolls to a picture of herself wearing a memorial t-shirt with her youngest son’s picture on it. Clive was murdered at age 19 on March 28, 2006. Clive was an innocent victim of a gang initiation, murdered because of the color of his skin. His murderer was told to kill a Black person and that person was Margaret’s son. Margaret shakes her head at the recalling of it all and says it is something that never leaves her. Her son’s story is an inseparable part of Margaret’s story.

Margaret’s vulnerability and resilience are demonstrated equally as she moves from the sharing the loss of her son to the joy of finding love again at age 50. Married 13 years, Margaret both credits/blames her husband for her early retirement from cooking. He has taken over everything culinary with what Margaret refers to as husband’s “new best friend” – the hot pot.  Although Margaret talks about her years of cooking Belizean cuisine – rice, beans, stewed chicken, fried fish and more -- with a sense of pride and fondness, she genuinely appreciates the break. “He makes me lazy!” she laughs. “Him and his hotpot!”

Margaret contracted COVID-19 in early December, as did her husband and one of her daughters. She longs for the days before the pandemic when her family gathered with many other Belizean families on the first Sunday in August for Belize Day, where there were carnivals, costumes, and dancing in the streets of Hyde Park. While the celebrations have been thwarted by the pandemic, Margaret has continued to stay connected to joy. She loves to play cards – specifically a card game that originated in Belize called Pitty Pat. Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, Margaret can be found playing Pitty Pat for hours with family and friends. She also enjoys puzzling (she is on puzzle number 13!) and buys all her 1000-piece puzzles locally from The Wild Child.

 Along with family, friends, food, cards and culture, Margaret’s spirit is buoyed by chatting it up with Grand customers. She told me, “God gives you breath to speak to people.” So, the next time you see Margaret, please make sure to say hello!

Oh, and Margaret would not survive a zombie apocalypse (they often have spiders crawling in and out of them) and Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr. -- better known as Snoop Dogg -- is her celebrity crush.

Do you know someone in Glencoe we should know? Send us an e-mail at forum@villageofglencoe.org.