Editor’s note: This is one in a series of profiles in the Humans of Wausau series, which is funded in part through a grant from the B. A. & Esther Greenheck Foundation. Follow the Humans of Wausau Facebook page here.
By Kelli Oligney for Wausau Pilot and Review
Maryrose Pries, 51
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: Bagheria, Sicily. I live in Wausau now.
What do you do for a living?
I work at Cellar 70 and I am a photographer.
How long have you been doing photography?
Since I was 15.
How did you get into it?
I have no idea. When I was younger, I had one of those little PlaySkool cameras and I also looked through National Geographic magazines. I think, also, being in Sicily and seeing the beauty and wanting to capture it.
When did you move from Sicily to here?
1972. My parents wanted “The American Dream.” They came over with four kids; my brother John was 11, my brother Nick was 10, my sister was 8, and I was 4. My parents didn’t speak the language and I believe had $400 in their pocket and moved to Chicago. Four years later, they bought a house. We lived on a loop by the train. I don’t know how much longer, but we moved to Madison and lived in an area called The Bush, which is concentrated Sicilians off Park Street and then moved to Golden Oak and that was the house I grew up in.
How old were you when you moved to Wausau?
I was either 22 or 23. Mike, my husband, got a job. His friend from high school opened a business up here and he needed his help.
Did Mike live in Chicago as well at that time?
No, Mike and Damon came up here to be in a band called Paradox in the 80’s and then both of them moved to Madison. They were in school and were in a band called London USA. Years later we moved up here.
What is your favorite memory of living in Wausau?
This is one that comes to mind to most – It was Christmas and Mike would take a picture of the Christmas tree. He’d then go online and find a picture of Santa and superimpose it by the Christmas tree and print it out with a letter from Santa on the back. The kids thought that Santa was at the house.
That’s brilliant! Well done, Mike.
We’d open family presents on Christmas Eve and then Christmas morning were the presents from Santa and usually Mike and I would be up until 3 a.m. wrapping presents and the kids would get up at 6 a.m. I remember, once, Cooper and Johnny coming down the stairs. Cooper was probably 6 and Johnny was 3 and they both had their onesie PJ’s on. I have a closet full. I should start wearing them at work. It’s cold in there!
I have a ton if you want to borrow one!
They’d be a little long. I could roll them up. But seriously, it was Norman Rockwell, right there. They came around the corner and they’d see the Christmas tree and all the presents. That’s what it’s all about. All my best memories of Wausau are with the kids.
What has been one of the hardest moments in your life and something you learned from it?
When my dad died. That really sucked. He he had cancer. It started as lung and then progressed onto everything. The night before he died, Mike and I were down in Madison and decided to stay an extra day. Suddenly, I heard my mom screaming for help and my dad slept on the couch because that was most comfortable for him and my mom slept on the loveseat. So, she was calling for help and I went in there and my dad was getting up and – I know it’s called something, but he was messing himself and he couldn’t stop. Mike was holding my dad up and my mom and I were constantly cleaning him up and cleaning the floor. I didn’t think I could ever do something like that. You know what I mean? To have that strength in me and set aside all the grossness that it was and to just deal with that moment. My dad and my mom needed my help and at the time it was like – it is what it is. The next day, my dad died. Seeing my dad go through all that pain….It was Monday, December 12th. It’ll be two years this year. Seeing him go through that, he was in so much pain. They would just shoot him up with morphine. The hospice nurses came to help him and there was nothing they could do. When he finally passed, we were all there and holding his hand. It was such a relief. He wasn’t hurting anymore. You know what I mean? Seeing my dad suffer so bad helped me deal with the mourning and grieving process because God told me he’s up there and he’s good. He’s hanging out with his brothers and sisters and he’s having a great time. My dad was frickin’ awesome. He and my mom are my heroes. Can you imagine just packing up your kids? My dad never went to school!
So, what did your parents do?
My dad worked in construction and then he worked with Gino Gargano. He owned Gino’s restaurant on State St in Madison. My dad worked there for many years. Like I said, it was all the Sicilians – they helped each other out. Then, he got a job working as a janitor at a lab. My dad always had a job. My mom was a seamstress. It was so nice having a seamstress – with my pants, it was so nice! It’s like, if you need something hemmed up, “Ma!”
What was your hardest age growing up and why?
I don’t think there is a certain age. I think life is just a continuous struggle. You just have moments, you know what I mean?
For sure, some moments that are easier than others.
Yeah. So, I don’t think that I have a particular age. Just moments through life – some are great, some not so great, some really suck, but all in all, it is what you perceive it and how you deal with it.
What’s your favorite local spot and why?
I really don’t go out much. I like the Back When – I never go there, but the food is really good. I also like La Taquiera – that place is really good and it’s quick.
What motivates you each day?
I’m so lazy. I had a quick photo shoot today. Those days, when I have a photo shoot, are so much better because I have something to look forward to that I love, you know what I mean? That motivates me. As stupid as it sounds, Mike and I will just sit together in the morning, when he gets up and have coffee, and we will chit chat. Sometimes we are just on our phones, but we are there together and I love that. I look forward to that in the morning. Just to spend that quiet time – no TV, no anything, and just sitting there together and being in each other’s presence. I love that.
What’s a hidden talent of yours?
I love dancing and I’m pretty damn good at it!
What keeps you in Wausau?
My husband. We have the foundation and I really do like it here. I don’t drive the highway. So, even if I could go anywhere, I couldn’t because I don’t drive the highway!
Is it because you aren’t comfortable with it?
I had an anxiety attack years ago and it scared the shit out of me. It felt like the car was going to flip and I had the kids in the back seat. It was scary.
What is a moment that changed you as a person?
When I first started listening to the Indigo Girls. Showing me that lifestyle, and opening my heart up to that, changed my life completely. As a Sicilian, I grew up Roman Catholic and that’s the way it was. Men and women would get married and have kids and that’s life. I lived in this closed world with blinders on and I started listening to their music and it opened up a floodgate of emotions. It made me realize that everyone’s the same and love is love is love and there’s nothing wrong with that and God is love – that’s the way it is. It made me see human beings in a totally different aspect. That was one moment in life where things really opened up for me. It was really cool.
If you had any advice to give anyone, what would it be?
Just be kind – that’s all.