Donna Cervini, 72, a life defined by service

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The Honorable Donna L. (Bost) Cervini, 72, a longtime resident of Oak Park, died peacefully at her daughter's home on March 25, 2014, surrounded by her family, in San Diego, Calif.

She leaves behind the legacy of a long and distinguished history of charitable work and community involvement. Attending Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, W.Va., the Jesuit spirit of service to others was instilled in her and fueled her until her final days. During college she volunteered at the Home of the Good Shepherd Orphanage, helping high school students and organizing programs for children. As a young woman, she was active in the Pittsburgh Catholic Interracial Counsel, working to promote open housing and participating in the anti-apartheid movement for South Africa.

In 1967, she moved from Pittsburgh to Oak Park, where she continued her charitable and community efforts, becoming a member and then later chair of the Oak Park-River Forest Citizens Committee for Human Rights and helping to lead the open housing movement in Oak Park with the Oak Park Housing Center, serving on the board for several years. She was a co-founder of the St. Giles Family Mass Community, marched for civil rights, and was a draft counselor against the Vietnam War.

Spurred on by those activities, in 1971 Ms. Cervini began her legal career as a student at Northwestern University Law School, graduating in 1975 with a Juris Doctor degree. At the time she attended law school, only 50 of the 500 students in her class were women. Upon graduation, she worked for the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation for four years, prosecuting medical, pharmaceutical, and nursing cases. Next, she worked in private practice and, in 1985, was appointed associate judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, last presiding over cases in the Juvenile Justice Court, Abuse and Neglect Division, until retiring in 2002. Using her experience from her time on the bench in Juvenile Court, she continued her work on the Illinois Child Death Review Team until 2013.

Ms. Cervini was co-founder of the Lawyers' Assistance Program, created in 1980, and served as its chair for 14 years, helping depressed and alcohol-, drug-, and medically-impaired judges and lawyers with recovery. She also served on the American Bar Association's Commission for the Impaired Attorney (now the Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs), traveling North America to perform mock interventions and counseling attorneys and judges — work that was incredibly rewarding for her and those she touched with her service. While on the bench, she also volunteered with West Suburban PADS Shelter in Oak Park.

After retiring from the bench in 2002, Donna served on the Oak Park Police and Fire Commission, mainly as chair, through late 2013. She also served on the board of the International Women Associates of Chicago, 2000-2004. In addition to her active public work, Donna quietly financially supported many underprivileged persons, some of whom she met through her time volunteering with the Appalachian Service Project in West Virginia.

She loved to travel, was an avid snow skier and scuba diver with hundreds of dives all over the world to her credit, many of which were enjoyed with her dear friends at DJ's Scuba Locker of Brookfield.


Donna Cervini was the former spouse of the late Lawrence A. Cervini; the mother of Cynthia Cervini, and Christine C. (Joe) Wong; daughter of the late Mary Ellen (McDermott) and the late John William Bost; sister of Joanne (Steve) Halle, Mary (Mike) Silbaugh, Faith (Alan) Katchmar, Jim (Jackie) Connolly, Carol (Gary) Ostrander, and Nancy Makela; grandmother of Drew, Siena, and Stephen Wong; and the aunt of Matthew (Michelle) and Joshua Heckel and many more.

A memorial service to honor Donna will be held on Saturday, May 3, 2014 at St. Giles Church in Oak Park. Family and friends will be received from 9 a.m., followed immediately by Mass at 10:30 a.m. and a reception thereafter.

In lieu of flowers, her family has requested donations be made in her name to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC) ( and Westwood Elementary, 17449 Matinal Road, San Diego, CA 92127 (donations are tax deductible; Tax ID# 23-7350795).

Alternatively, she would have appreciated simply that you perform an act of service and kindness for someone in need.

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RaeLynne toperoff from Oak park / San Diego  

Posted: April 20th, 2014 8:24 PM

We knew Donna and liked her and admired her over many years. Her family members and close friends are in our thoughts.

Andrea Santer from Vienna, WV  

Posted: April 8th, 2014 2:48 PM

I am still finding it hard to belief Donna is gone. I remember the moment I met her and how we immediately bonded and became best friends sharing bunk bunds in a tiny alcove in Avila Hall. My favorite memory is of Sophomore year when we were assigned to read the Miller's Tale by Chaucer and we laughed so long and so hard we cried. I can still her in high heels walking to campus loaded down with books and more determination than anyone I have ever known. I miss her. Andrea Santer

J.L. Lyons from Washington, D.C.  

Posted: April 4th, 2014 8:00 AM

Donna and I were classmates at Wheeling Jesuit University. She was one of my closest and dearest friends. She and I both became lawyers and we kept in touch over the years both professionally and personally. Donna was a remarkable person whom I respected and loved. She was truly an inspiration to all of us. She and her family are in my prayers. J.L. Lyons

Jane S. Friday from Pittsburgh, PA 15243  

Posted: March 30th, 2014 12:38 PM

Such great memories from our days at Wheeling! Donna was my "little sister" while there and we spent many great times in Pittsburgh with Donna and Larry in those early years. My prayers that God grant you peace and strength in coping with her loss. Feel my hugs! Jane

John V Di Bacco Jr. from Morgantown, WV  

Posted: March 28th, 2014 10:20 AM

My prayers and deepest sympathy on the death of Donna. Many fond memories of her from the days at Wheeling College. She truly embodied the Ignatian Spirit of helping the other. Be assured of continued prayers at our parish community for this good and faithful servant of the Lord.

dana joy altman from los angeles  

Posted: March 27th, 2014 11:12 AM

Cyn and family, I was very moved and inspired reading this. How involved, passionate and dedicated she was in her lifetime, how much she gave to others. My thoughts are with you. I send you so much love.

Michelle Miller from Oak Park  

Posted: March 27th, 2014 10:27 AM

Ms. Cervini was an incredible woman. I am fortunate to have known her and to have experienced her caring heart.

mhairi from wilmette  

Posted: March 27th, 2014 10:13 AM

The world was a better place with her in it... Donna, the cherished mother of a dear friend and the woman who officiated our wedding ceremony, will always be in our hearts. Our deepest condolences .

Lee Malone from Lansdowne, PA  

Posted: March 27th, 2014 9:57 AM

I treasure the last time I saw Donna, at our latest college reunion at Wheeling Jesuit. She was determined to come, and traveled after that. My condolences to her family; I was also glad to meet her sister on that trip to Wheeling, WV. She had a unique way of carefully articulating her ideas and a cheerful,buoyant spirit.

Kathy Oliver Burgoyne from Wheeling  

Posted: March 27th, 2014 7:14 AM

Donna was a classmate and friend of mine at WJU and a quiet spoken dynamo - intelligent, humorous,caring,petite,beautiful - inside and out, a special friend to many. My sincere condolences and prayers to Donna's family and loved ones. I will think of her often and remember how she shared herself with so many.

Cheri from Oak Park  

Posted: March 26th, 2014 8:31 PM

Wow Cindy, what a Great Life Your Mom lead. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Gail Moran from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 26th, 2014 5:29 PM

I know our paths crossed - I just don't remember where. My sincere condolences to her family and close friends. Taken much too young.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: March 26th, 2014 4:38 PM

Wow. How sad. I had the honor of reporting on Donna Cervini's service to Oak Park while on the Bd. of Police/Fire Commissioners on several occasions. She always conducted herself with dignity and a fair-minded intelligence. A real public servant. My sincere condolences to those who loved her.

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