Carol Lydecker Dwyer, 57, of Forest Park, formerly of Oak Park, died on Oct. 2, 2012 after battling cancer for more than two years. She was a dancer, choreographer, community theater actress and administrative manager for the Urban Innovations property management company.
Though she didn't start formal dance training until she was 19, Lydecker danced, acted in or choreographed some 30 community theater productions, including several Village Players and Open Door productions.
She also ran her own dance studio, Kicks, in Chicago from 1985 to 1987.
"She was so great to work with," said Lynn Kirsch, Open Door Repertory Theater board president, "always a fun, laughing person that the cast members would migrate to."
"She was the same as a friend," said Mary Pat Sieck, Open Door founder and artistic director. "She gave everything she was to her friends and always made you feel as if you were the gift."
In April 2010, she was diagnosed with anal cancer that had spread to her hip, blocking a lymph gland. She began undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatments on May 10, her 55th birthday.
"Her dignity never wavered in the face of debilitating radiation treatments, three separate chemotherapy regimens and two surgical ablations to kill tumors in her lungs," said her husband, local journalist Bill Dwyer.
The two met in 1985 while both were in a massage class in Chicago.
"I asked her if she wanted to massage each other's feet," Dwyer recalled, adding with a smile, "She said yes." They married in 1988.
In 2011, Lydecker joined her longtime friend Alice Brown, a cancer survivor, in performing an adaptation of the 14 "Stations of the Cross," telling the stories of cancer survivors and their journeys. Carol and Alice were featured in a Chicago Tribune Easter Sunday edition titled, "The 15th Station."
In her performance, Carol stated she "never wanted to be a poster child for cancer," but she did want to share her experience with others.
"The first time we presented the stations in 2011, Carol wore a colorful silk scarf on her head," Brown recalled. "She purposely chose not to wear a wig, because she wanted people to see that she was actively in treatment."
"I want them to know that even if you have cancer, you can still do the things that are important to you," Lydecker said.
Four months later, she received a terminal prognosis. She returned home to Forest Park for hospice care, overseen by her husband and other family members and friends.
On Aug. 29, Carol was honored with a "living wake" at FitzGerald's Nightclub. Several of their friends performed musically, and Carol gave a moving thank you to the 140 friends and family in attendance.
She died in her bedroom with Bill and family members, less than an hour after their 24th wedding anniversary.
A memorial service is planned for Saturday, Oct. 20 at noon at Unity of Oak Park, 405 N. Euclid Ave., Oak Park.
The ceremonies will be conducted by Rev. Richard Billings, pastor emeritus at Unity, who married Carol and Bill in 1988. Donations may be made to the Animal Care League of Oak Park and/or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).