ArtThe SouthSider

Grim prospects turn happy for Madelyn Gaasch

(This is one in a series about the more than 100 people area author Jim Merkel interviewed about growing up in St. Louis for his newly released book, “Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades.”)

“My mother? She was a good lady, a hard-working lady, and my father was a nice, good man, too, at least the way I remember him,’’ Madelyn Gaasch recounts in Jim Merkel’s recently released book, “Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades.” “I do not have bad feelings for him.”

“Then he met this lady, and you know how ladies can be. He was with her and she was not going to accept just living with somebody. She wanted marriage, and that’s what she insisted on. So he asked my mother for a divorce, but she did not want it. And so he left her, which was awful—I don’t even like to tell the story,” recalled Gaasch, who was born in 1917. 

“Then I woke up one morning, and my mother was gone, too. They took her to the hospital, but it was too late. I was just 8 years old when she died.” 

After that incident in the middle of the 1920s, Madelyn Gaasch could have spent the rest of her childhood in an orphanage. Instead, an Italian couple named Elsie and Charles Pedrotti took her into their happy home near the Bevo Mill. And that’s made all the difference for Gaasch. 

Gaasch’s story turned out happily, but there also are sad ones, violent ones and stories of love. Those who told their stories were black, white, rich and poor, representing the whole range of St. Louis. 

The book is available through




Jim Merkel Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit

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