Mary Irene Zotti (nee Caplice), 93, a resident of Oak Park since 1966, died quietly in her sleep at home on Feb. 7, 2015. Energetic and gregarious, with an astonishing memory, she was the glue that bound her large family and vast circle of friends together. A devout Catholic born and raised on the West Side of Chicago, she was active in the Young Christian Workers, an international organization of Catholic youth, traveling as one of two American delegates to the group’s congress in Paris in 1946 at age 25. 

One of a long line of schoolteachers, she taught for many years in the Chicago public elementary schools, taking time off in the 1950s to marry Ray Zotti and raise six children. Returning to work as a school librarian and counselor in the 1960s, she earned two master’s degrees; was a Cub Scout den mother; helped Ray extensively reconstruct their Victorian home in Oak Park; raised gigantic tomatoes; served as chief cashier, chaperone and bouncer for Zottifest, Oak Park’s answer to Woodstock, which was held annually in her backyard by her children in the late ’70s and early ’80s; and throughout it all put up with her husband’s inexplicable love of racing pigeons, which he kept in a loft in the garage. 

Inexhaustibly cheerful, known to have become angry just once in her life, she supported her widowed mother and numerous widowed or spinster aunts throughout their long lives. She could talk to anyone on any subject for any length of time. She possessed a comprehensive knowledge of her complex family tree down to the level of third cousins, which she drew upon to write a detailed history of both sides of the family upon her retirement in 1984. That done, she wrote the definitive history of the YCW, A Time of Awakening, published by Loyola University Press in 1991. 

Adventurous to the end, she insisted on making a pilgrimage to Israel with a group from St. Edmund Parish in 1999, despite having broken her arm in a fall one week before.

Mary Irene Zotti is survived by Ray, who still has the pigeons; her children, Ed, Bob, John, Eileen, Peg and Bill; 18 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren (thus far). Visitation will be held at Drechsler, Brown & Williams, 203 S. Marion St., Oak Park, from 3 till 8 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 12. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 13 at St. Edmund Church, followed by interment at Queen of Heaven Cemetery.

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