The original Biz Mama: a tribute to my late grandmother


My grandmother as a young woman. Four generations under one roof—when grandma was a young 103.

Last Friday, we lost my beloved grandmother, Baki. She lived an amazing life of 104-and-half years. She was the original Biz Mama. Born in the former Yugoslavia in 1908, she raised three children and worked as a seamstress with her husband who was a tailor. It wasn’t an easy life. She lost both her husband and oldest daughter at a young age, and lived through several wars. The stress of the Yugoslav wars in the early 90s resulted in my parents bringing Baki to live with us in Chicago. She stayed with us ever since. She was a wonderful addition to our house. She always had treats in her pockets—both for herself and the family dog (her new best friend). She didn’t speak English, but she never missed an episode of Wheel of Fortune or Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. She enjoyed traveling and navigated the airport with the ease of someone half her age. The airport staff was always amazed when they discovered her age. We celebrated her 100th birthday with a trip to Florida. As is common for her generation, she was always working. She spent her days helping with household duties—and even raked leaves in the yard until she was well into her 90s. She was a very strong woman, with a handshake that could crush your hand. But what was most strong was her faith. She attended church without fail every morning. When she was no longer able to walk unassisted, she “attended” daily from her chair facing the church across the street. She was a devout and caring woman, praying for her family as well as anyone else who needed her prayers. She was always smiling—especially when my son and I visited. Her face lit up and she practically jumped out of her chair—even when she wasn’t feeling well—upon seeing her great-grandchild. Having four generations under one roof was an amazing blessing for our family. Her love, strength and devotion to her family inspires me to be a better person. Baki, we love you and miss you!