Mary Daly Lewis, 73, of Oak Park, died peacefully from Alzheimer’s Disease on Saturday, March 13, 2021 at Wittenberg Village in Crown Point, Indiana. A Chicago native, born on March 30, 1947, she grew up on the South Side along with her four siblings, Sharon, Patrick (Lorraine), Edward (Sharon) and Michael. She was the first born of Christopher and Julia Daly, and first generation American on her father’s side of the family.
After finishing high school at Academy of Our Lady, she a B.A. in English and Education from St. Xavier College, becoming the first college graduate in her family. She then received her M.S. in Reading Education from Chicago State University, a Certificate of Advanced Study in Reading Consulting from the University of Chicago, and her PhD in Public Policy Analysis from the University of Illinois Chicago. She is the only one in the family to have a doctorate, which she earned while working full time and raising two children on her own. Neighbors were used to seeing her study light on late into the night. A dedicated educator, she began her career in the Chicago Public School system as a reading specialist, and ended it as a professor and dean at Aurora University. She was a champion of education, access and human rights.
When she moved to Oak Park with her two small children in the early ’80s at the recommendation of friends, it was a bit of a leap of faith. She talked often about how happy she was that she took that leap. The community, the schools, and the friendships formed all shaped who she was. Mary became and remained an active member of the Oak Park community from the time she moved there. Among a long list of community service involvement, she was a longstanding member of the League of Women Voters, and sat on the District 97 school board from 1987-1995, serving as the president from 1990-1993.
She met the love of her life in Oak Park, John Lukehart, who was also a fixture in the community, while they were at Comiskey Park during an Oak Park baseball outing. John and Mary joined their families and their friends together, serving the greater community until their respective illnesses made that impossible. She was a devoted Democrat, and was often active in political campaigns. While education and public service were her callings, she loved literature (her favorite poet was Keats), and always had a book on her bedside table and she had much-used memberships to the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Symphony, and Chicago Shakespeare Theatre.
Selfless, funny, strong-willed, and incredibly generous with her time and resources, she inspired and mentored many people throughout her life. She loved to travel, to cook and gather with friends and loved ones.
Mary loved celebrating life with her husband, John and his two children, as well as her own two children. She is survived by her children, Jennifer (Walton), Colin, Alison (Lorenzo), and Jason (Elizabeth), and grandchildren, Michael, Maeve, Imogen, and John. Her sister Sharon Daly was instrumental in her care and comfort over the course of her long illness.
Key parts of Mary’s personality remained consistent until the end. She reacted to and enjoyed Motown music. She continued to straighten the wrinkles on the sleeves of those who were able to sit with her and hold her hand, and she continued to laugh and smile.
Mary will be laid to rest next to her husband, John Lukehart, at Forest Home Cemetery.