Susan McDonald Vanek, 77, a longtime resident of Oak Park, died on March 22, 2018 after a brief battle with cancer. Born in Chicago, she was a fixture in St. Catherine-St. Lucy Parish and worked at West Suburban Hospital for over 30 years as a medical technician. She had a remarkable life. She spent summers during her youth at the family cottage in Michigan, was nearly ordained a nun (her name would’ve been Sister Mary Jason), raised five children while attaining a 4.0 for her M.S. in Microbiology at IIT at the age of 40 (working at McDonald’s to pay for it) and, despite her quiet personality, was married and a devoted wife to Dick, her husband of 45 years, an absolute character who regaled neighbors with tall tales on their front porch steps.
She will be remembered as someone who had a large capacity to care for an ever-widening, connected universe of family and friends. Those closer to her remember her biting wit and sense of the absurd, along with several quirks, including odd checkbook entries, “worry lists,” and unusual pre-travel rituals, which she employed while traveling to most of the U.S. National Parks and over 20 countries.
Susan is survived by her children, Charles (Jenifer), Victor, Laura (Brooks) Blevins, Adam (Bonnie), and Amanda (Matthew) Walton; and her grandchildren, Tess, Aaron, Kevin, Leah, Mary, William, Charles, Hugh, Leo, Ellie, Hank, and her namesake, Susie. She was pre-deceased by her husband, Dick Vanek, and two amazing parents, Leo J. and Mildred McDonald. It was Susan’s wish to be cremated as soon as it was practical.
A memorial Mass will be celebrated in honor of her life at Oak Park’s St. Catherine-St. Lucy Church, 38 N. Austin Blvd., on Saturday, May 19 at 10:30 a.m. Friends and family will gather in the back of the church at 10 a.m. Memorials can be sent to St. Catherine-St. Lucy or Susan’s would-be order, the Sinsinawa Dominicans, affiliated with Dominican University in River Forest, at sinsinawa.org.
Arrangements were handled by Ahern Funeral Home.