Catherine Deam, 69, park commissioner, realtor, foster parent

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Catherine (nee Clausen) Deam, 69, a longtime Oak Park volunteer and community leader, died on June 26, 2013. Born on March 23, 1944 in Chicago, she spent her youth in Chicago, was valedictorian of her high school class and graduated from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., with a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics, and a minor in French. She and her husband moved to Oak Park in the early 1970s, shortly after the birth of their first daughter.

Described by a friend as the "Grand Dame of Oak Park," she was a dynamic director of many local organizations including the Park District of Oak Park board of commissioners, Pleasant Home Foundation, Parenthesis, and the League of Women Voters. She not only served these non-profits but was pivotal in creating the Parenthesis Kitchen Walk, getting Cheney Mansion donated to the park district; and helping Pleasant Home become a National Historic Landmark.

Always a humanitarian, Catherine and her family provided short-term foster care for more than 25 children through Hephzibah Children's Association in Oak Park. Many remembered her long into adulthood. She worked as a math and French teacher in the Denver area elementary schools, served as a Strikers and AYSO soccer coach and Brownie/Girl Scout leader, and hosted many International Exchange students from Germany, Spain and Argentina. In 1985, she was named Illinois Citizen of the Year by the Illinois Association of School Social Workers for her outstanding community service on behalf of children.

Recently, she turned her love of history and community into work as a real estate agent for BHG/Gloor Realty Co. She enjoyed introducing newcomers to the historic housing stock in Oak Park and sharing her breadth of knowledge on many house tours. She was a member of the First United Church of Oak Park and the Rotary Club of Oak Park-River Forest.

Ms. Deam also loved her Colorado home and traveled there often to enjoy nature and the slopes. She served as host to the Steamboat Springs Ski School and brought many Oak Park skiers to the mountains, asking them to "make a donation to Pleasant Home" as payment for staying at her home.

Catherine lived her life for her family, friends, volunteering and travel. Her adventurous spirit and love of history took her to historic homes, cities, and landmarks across the United States and around the world, including France, Guatemala, Turkey, Budapest, Greece, Croatia, South America, and Morocco.

Catherine Deam is survived by her husband, Dr. Malcolm Deam; her brother, George Clausen; her children, Holly (Todd) Larson; Matthew (Jackie); and Erica Deam (Omar) Elbekri; four grandchildren; and her dog Annie Doodle. She was preceded in death by her parents, Sara Lee and Richard Clausen.

Services will be private. A celebration of Catherine's life will be held for family and friends on July 4. Her family requests that memorial donations be made to the Pleasant Home Foundation, 217 Home Ave., Oak Park IL 60302, pleasanthome.org; or Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation; or Heifer International.

Reader Comments

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Marsha Moseley from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: July 19th, 2013 10:24 AM

I served on the board of the Pleasant Home Foundation with Cartherine some years ago. She was good people. The heart and soul of the organization, really. So glad to have known her.

Dan Haley from Wednesday Journal Wednesday Journal Employee

Posted: July 3rd, 2013 4:08 PM

Always enjoyed covering the park district when Catherine Deam was a member. There were interesting things going on and the board was sincerely interested in telling the town about it. Catherine was always positive and thoughtful.

Elizabeth Olympio from Oak Park  

Posted: July 3rd, 2013 3:44 PM

What an amazing, generous, giving soul. What a gift her life was to the Oak Park community and beyond--a true gem of a woman whose dedication to others made a difference in so many lives.

Edward Solan from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 3rd, 2013 12:53 PM

I had the pleasure of serving with Catherine on the board of the Pleasant Home Foundation. In the Foundation's early days we didn't have any money to speak of, just the good name and support of dedicated Oak Parkers and Maher enthusiasts, like Catherine. We'll miss her.

Tom Wheeler   

Posted: July 3rd, 2013 12:11 PM

I had the privilege of serving with Catherine on the Park District of Oak Park's Board of Commissioners. Catherine just loved her Park District and had an even deeper special devotion for The Pleasant Home and the Cheney Mansion. Catherine's energy, dedication to the many causes for which she deeply believed and her free spirit was contagious. Catherine was one of Oak Park's visionary leaders and her lifetime work made Oak Park a better place to live. Thanks Catherine, may you rest in Peace.

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