Susan Stearns

Susan Stearns, 77, died peacefully at home in River Forest on May 25, 2022. She was surrounded by loved ones and attended by the family golden retriever, Chevy. Born in Milwaukee, she spent her young life in Iowa City and Columbus. After earning her degree from Ohio University, she moved to Oak Park to become a teacher, earning extra certifications to take on a special ed classroom. She parked her Ford Cougar at the service station at Oak Park Avenue and Madison, and that’s where she met Dennis M. Stearns II, whom she married in 1971 and who preceded her in death in 2003. 

After teaching, she worked in community and nonprofit services through organizations like Oak Park Township, Thrive, and the Oak Park-River Forest Volunteer Center. Service to the community wasn’t just her day job — she was a devoted volunteer and served on the board of Sarah’s Inn, Parenthesis, and Citizens for Trailside, as well as volunteering for Beyond Hunger, Housing Forward, and the Economy Shop even until recent years. She also traveled twice to the Gulf Coast to support rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. 

Susan was a dog lover, made beautiful handmade cards, and hosted an epic string of 49 annual Christmas parties that featured creative decoration themes.

In addition to her husband, she is preceded in death by her parents and her sister, Barbara. She is survived by her daughter, Katie; her sister, Nancy Bishop; her sisters-in-law, Trudy Stearns, Marybeth Stearns, and Clare Dornburg; and her brother-in-law, Barry Stearns. 

An outdoor and COVID-cautious celebration of life gathering will be held at the Lathrop House Cafe (26 Lathrop Ave., Forest Park) on Thursday, June 2 from 3-6 p.m., with a brief program at 4:30 p.m. 

In lieu of flowers, donations to Beyond Hunger ( or Sarah’s Inn ( are appreciated.

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