Mary Catherine Hopkins, 96, a River Forest resident since 1946, died peacefully in her home on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14, 2011. Born on May 7, 1914 in Chicago, she was raised with her young uncles Patrick (an engineer on the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad) and James (a boxer who as a child lost his ability to hear and speak as a result of encephalitis). As a result she became proficient in sign language — a skill that served her well when her own hearing failed later in her life.
She spent idyllic summers with her grandmother in Somonauk, where her uncle Ernest ran the local newspaper. During her young life, she earned medals in running, diving and swimming (including mile-long swims across Lake Michigan).
A graduate of Austin High School, Wright College, and Gregg College of Business, she met her husband when she was in the fourth grade at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish School. They didn't begin dating until she was in college, and they were married at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Oak Park in 1940.
She became a young widow when he died suddenly in 1961. He was the great love of her life.
Mrs. Hopkins worked as a secretary at various engineering and law firms, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Illinois Casket Company, and as a legal secretary for Dranius, Harrington and Wilson, retiring in 2002. She was involved with NAIM (a spiritual and social support group for Catholic widows and widowers), volunteered with Villa Scalabrini, was assistant den mother for the Washington School Cub Scout Troupe, and during World War II, she was a Red Cross volunteer.
Since 1954, when her son, Gary, was stricken with polio, she dedicated herself to his recovery. Thanks to her devoted care, he has been able to lead a full and active life.
She loved to travel the world with her family and friends.
Mary Catherine Hopkins is survived by her children, Joan and Gary; her cousin, Mickey Spencer; many nieces and nephews, including her godchild Mary Reiling, Kathy (Raymond) Hill, Mary Ann Budzynski, Jim (Karen) Erwin, Nancy Eckert, Jerry Hopkins and their children and grandchildren.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Aloysius L. Hopkins, a World War II veteran, a D-Day survivor who was in the first wave of landings on Omaha Beach and the Battle of St. Lo. A master sergeant in the U.S. Army, he served with the 11th Port Engineers building piers and bridges throughout Normandy. She was also preceded by her father, Thomas Geary; her mother, Caroline (Callie) Geary; and her brother, Joseph Geary.
Special thanks to La Arne, Lida, and Lija for their expert, loving and prayerful nursing care during the last months of her life. The family also wishes to thank the River Forest Fire and Police departments for their prompt, professional, and respectful assistance. Our mom died as she lived — with great courage and dignity, strong-willed, centered by her love for her family, her deep faith in God and her strong belief in the power of prayer.
Memorial donations may be sent to: St. Bernardine Church, 7246 Harrison Street, Forest Park, IL 60130-2067. A funeral Mass was celebrated on Feb. 17 by Rev. George Velloorattil at St. Bernardine Church, followed by interment at Mount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside.
Arrangements were handled by Drechsler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home in Oak Park.
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