CALUMET CITY | Rosa Idora Belisle Guitterrez is a native of Belize who during her 100 years of life has cared for nearly 40 children, her relatives say.
Rosa came to the Chicago area under less that pleasant circumstances. Her daughter had died, and somebody needed to take responsibility for the grandchildren.
Despite the fact that she was already 64 at the time, Rosa took it upon herself to raise more children. She moved to Chicago from Brooklyn in New York in 1978, where she had immigrated to from her native village of Burrell Boom just five years earlier, so she could care for the kids.
Yet Maxine Hooper, a Calumet City resident who now cares for her grandmother after having been raised by her, said she is far from the only child that Rosa took care of during her lifetime.
She wound up being the woman who cared for most of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, with Hooper estimating that Rosa cared for nearly 40 children during her lifetime.
“She always took care of us,” Hooper said. “She wouldn’t hesitate. She always had room for us kids.”
Rosa doesn’t do that anymore, as she now lives with Hooper at her Warren Street residence. She makes daily trips to a day care center, where professionals are able to ensure that her condition is being maintained properly.
Yet Hooper says her grandmother is holding up well, despite her age and the fact that she is diagnosed with dementia.
“She knows who she is and where she is now,” Hooper said of her grandmother. “She’s very independent, considering her situation.”
Hooper said her grandmother still likes to bake bread and a Belizean black cake for special occasions, and said she was generous with all.
“My grandmother is a wonderful woman, and she would give the shirt off her back for her family and friends,” Hooper said.
Which is why family members plan to hold a private party at a relative’s house on Chicago’s North side to celebrate her 100th birthday. She was born Jan. 31, 1914.
Hooper said family members also are planning a larger-scale family reunion in June, at which Rosa will be the focal point of the festivities.
Fifth Ward Alderman Roger Munda, in whose ward Hooper lives, said he plans to put together a resolution honoring Rosa’s life.
He said he hopes to have the resolution prepared for City Council consideration when aldermen hold their next regularly scheduled meeting on Feb. 13.