Betty Van Wyk (Vicha), 71, of Oak Park, died on Nov. 14, 2010, in Tampa, Fla., while battling pancreatic cancer.
A journalism graduate of Hope College, she taught high school in Normal before returning to Chicago where she was born in 1939. Moving to Oak Park, she became a reporter for Pioneer Press, handling the education beat for the Oak Leaves. Running as an independent, she was elected to serve on the Oak Park Township board as a trustee, 1981-1985, and as township clerk, 1985-1997.
Her knowledge of the community and public relations skills led to her appointment as communications director for Oak Park and River Forest High School where she also became advisor to Tau Gamma, a girls’ service organization. In this role, she assisted many young women in giving back to the community. In 1999, she began a career as a certified financial planner until her retirement in 2005. In retirement, she volunteered to give financial advice to residents through Township Senior Services.
Her devotion to friends and family, her passion for women’s issues, and a sense of adventure wherever it could be found — in Europe, China, Japan, or Africa — marked Betty’s life. Her legendary baklava, learned from a Greek chef on her first trip abroad in the ’50s, was a hallmark of many gatherings in the village. Her sense of humor and fun and her generous spirit endeared her to everyone who knew her. She annually participated in providing and delivering gift baskets and dinners through the Food Pantry for the holidays. Her friends recall her no-nonsense approach to tasks; she could always be counted on.
She worked tirelessly for the Oak Park chapter of Zonta International and offered financial planning insights to the organization through service on its local and national boards. She participated in choosing the most promising young woman to receive a scholarship in the chapter’s annual Young Woman in Public Affairs program, even as she became ill. A frequent and gracious hostess for Zonta gatherings at her home in the summers, she hosted a chapter-sponsored student from Estonia, who lived with her the entire year she studied at Dominican University.
A valued supporter of the Oak Park Conservatory, she helped with fundraisers. As an apartment building owner, she supported the Oak Park Housing Center. She was a member of Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Congregation.
Betty Van Wyk was preceded in death by her parents, Lou and Val Vicha, and her niece, Kathi Ogle. She is survived by her son, Mark (Linda and granddaughter Lily Lin) and her daughter, Laura (Bob); her sister and traveling companion, Diane Ogle; her nephews, Kevin (Lori) and Rob Ogle; her Aunt Grace Vicha; her cousins, Eric and Jean Topinka, Vicki Erickson (Tony), Don (Jesse) Vicha, Roger and Wayne Vicha; and neighbors and friends in every corner of the world.
A memorial service is scheduled for April 2011 in Oak Park. The family requests memorial donations be made for a memorial tree (checks payable to Mark Van Wyk, 8104 Pond Shadow Lane, Tampa FL 33635-6333); or to the Young Women in Public Affairs Program, Zonta Oak Park Foundation Inc., P.O. Box 2024, Oak Park IL 60303-2024.