If we momentarily return to the turn of the century, to the time when the Roberts were living in the Castle and enjoying its many opportunities for entertaining, we can pick up the story of another family which would shape the Castle history. Joseph and Bessie Kriz, a couple whose families immigrated to Chicago from Czechoslovakia, were married around 1900. The Kriz’s had four children. Their first born was a son, Edward, followed by twin girls, Laura and Lilly and the youngest, Libuse, who was affectionately known as Libby.
Libby was born on February 23, 1916. She was well-loved and free-spirited with a heavy dose of American “can-do” pride. Libby was smart, athletic, and undaunted by challenges and apparently was doted on by her family. Libby loved to knit with her dog Patches by her side. Libby was a remarkable woman and even more remarkable given the culture of her time. She loved the traditional arts of sewing, knitting, cooking, and of course, she loved animals. But she also was a champion archer and astute business woman. Like so many of her generation, she believed in using what one had and making sure nothing ever went to waste, while giving others a chance to better themselves.
Libby attended the Illinois Institute of Technology in the 1930s where she became a dietician. Libby was very proud of her Czechoslovakian heritage and frequently referred to herself as a “Bohemian.” After graduation she moved to Lawrence to become a dietician at the University of Kansas. Libby was known to many as “Miss Kriz.”
In 1948, Libby married Dr. Louis Fiorito, a native of Joliet, Illinois who moved to Lawrence in 1947. She absolutely adored him and spoke with friends before she died about getting up and getting his breakfast every morning before he drove to Leavenworth. She expounded that all wives should cook for their husbands before sending them off to work.
When she bought a Mercedes sports car in 1958, it created quite a stir in town. She owned one of the first in the Midwest and since there weren’t any other cars like it around; it was displayed in the Kansas Union for all to see. She loved to go buy her groceries in this car!
While Libby loved the Castle, she remarked, “People are what it’s all about.” She enjoyed feeding people, loved parties and relished the wedding celebrations that occurred in the Castle Tea Room over the years. This place where so many special events have been celebrated was always a home first. Libby lived in this home longer than any other resident—from 1947 to 2004. Dining room walls were adorned with Audubon prints and Norman Rockwell plates. She also had photographs of Sidney Endacott’s paintings framed and displayed. She was eager to tell people the story about this young Englishman who carved the woodwork and went on to be knighted as an artist.
Libby loved helping people. She had a special place in her heart for people with especially serious problems. Towards the end of her life she was heard to say she needed to make more money so she could “give it away.” However, Libby believed in loaning the money to give people a start, but believed they should pay it back. Over the years she contributed generously to numerous local organizations, including the Lawrence Fire Department.
During her later years, Libby lived in the Castle with her older sister Laura after the death of Dr. Fiorito in May of 1982. Several years before her death in 2004, Libby established the Libuse Kriz-Fiorito Historical Foundation, with the intention of providing for the preservation of the Castle and its continued use by the public to celebrate the special occasions in people’s lives.
And so this “can-do” woman twice saved the castle General Roberts built. She saved it from being demolished in 1947 and saved it again for posterity by establishing a foundation to maintain this beautiful structure and insure its continued use by the public.