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Mary Catherine (Daraita) Maher, 87

Mary Catherine (Deraita) Maher was born February 24, 1936 and passed at home surrounded by her family on July 3, 2023. Mary grew up in Pekin, Illinois, where her love of learning was fostered by the energy and love of her Italian family. Her aunt took her to the library as a young child to get her first library card, and she read thousands of books of all genres in her lifetime. As a second grader, she connected with a pen pal in England and the two exchanged letters for nearly 80 years. Mary started taking piano lessons in the third grade from a family friend and took a half-hour bus ride to Peoria for lessons as a teenager.

In high school, Mary was greatly influenced by stories of social justice. After being denied a scholarship application because she was a girl, the valedictorian headed to Western Illinois Teachers College, earning money through typing jobs and secretarial work to cover the cost.

Mary transferred to St. Louis University to finish her degree without realizing she had met her future husband in Richard Maher while at Western. He had sweet-talked her into buying him a bowl of soup and they dated a few months. Two years later, he found her in St. Louis where they resumed dating. They were married on January 23, 1960. The couple got teaching jobs in the Chicago suburbs, where they started their family before moving to Lena, IL in 1970.

As the wife of a principal and coach who worked long hours, Mary dedicated herself to running their home and raising their children. She taught CCD, played the organ at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, and enjoyed playing for many weddings. She served several terms on the Lena Library board before retiring at the age of 87. Though she wasn’t raised watching sports, she learned the game of basketball and supported her husband and children by attending hundreds of games. She continued to watch college basketball and root for his Cubs after Richard passed.

Mary was immensely proud of her four children, nine grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren and wanted to learn about everything they were interested in. Her favorite holiday was “any day my grandchildren come to visit.”

Our mother and grandma only taught in the classroom a few years. But because all of us learned so much from her, she has impacted hundreds of students, our colleagues, and our friends by encouraging each of us to be our best selves.

When she got her first teaching job, Mary chose to ride a bus to work rather than buy a car so she could buy a Steinway piano. Playing it brought her great joy throughout her life. To honor her love of music, a memorial scholarship will be established for a Le-Win grad pursuing a degree in music.

Mary is survived by her children Christine (Scott) Hawkinson of Prairie du Sac, WI, Patrick (Victoria) Maher of Highlands Ranch, CO, Daniel Maher of Fort Smith, AR, and Michael Maher (Diane Sandage) of Macomb, IL. Her grandchildren are Lauren Hawkinson of Chapel Hill, NC, Kylee Hawkinson (fiancé Nick Anderson) of Crystal, MN, Blake (Sara) and great granddaughters Hazel and Claire Maher of Navasota, TX, Kassidy Maher of Highlands Ranch CO, Allyson Maher, Thor Maher (Katey Walsh), Atticus Maher (Kiera Prim) and great grandson Atticus Junior, and Jonah Maher (Shawn Newlin), all of Fayetteville, AR, and Aaron Sandage of Minneapolis, MN. She is further survived by her sister Carol (Jim) Deters of FL, two nieces, a nephew, and their families.

Mary was preceded in death by her husband Richard in 2018 and her parents Tranquillo Benvenuto (Frank) and Maria Catarina (Rina) Deraita.

A visitation was held from 4:30-6:30 p.m. on Friday, July 7, 2023 at the Leamon Funeral Home in Lena. A Funeral Mass was held at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 8, 2023 at the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Lena, with a visitation from 10:00 am until time of service. Father Andrew Sacayan Hernandez will be officiated the services. Burial will take place at St. Josephs Catholic Cemetery in Lena.

A memorial has been established in her memory. Condolences may be sent to the family at http://www.leamonfh.com


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