JOLIET – Through ordinary activities, Marianne Thelo of Joliet forged strong connections with others, creating a legacy of unconditional love and support for her family and friendships that spanned decades.
With her husband, Fred, Marianne collected brewery memorabilia, actively participated in a local beer can club and attended conventions catering to other collectors, said Marianne’s daughter, Kathy Vocu of Joliet.
Each week, for more than 30 years, Marianne played bridge with a group that included a woman from her school days. When Marianne no longer worked in the library at the University of St. Francis (formerly College of St. Francis in Joliet), a job this stay-at-home mom had shouldered to pay for her children’s college education, she remained in contact with her colleagues, Kathy said.
“When she became friends with a person, they were friends for life,” Mark Thelo, Marianne’s son, said. “You know how some people will only be friends for a while? That was not the case with my mom. She had friendships for 40 years. They kept in touch with and supported each other.”
When their children were young, Fred and Marianne took three-week driving trips to California and visited Disneyland Resort and Knott’s Berry Farm. Marianne took periodic weekend trips with Kathy, where they played slots, read books and indulged in onion rings and Jelly Babies, Kathy said.
Marianne golfed with her son, Mark of Channahon. She supported the activities of her grandchildren Jim and Sarah Vocu, and Bennett and Grace Thelo. Consequently, her great-granddaughter, Marley Vocu, 5, of Shorewood, adored her, Jim said.
Marianne celebrated birthdays by preparing roast beef dinners, Kathy said. For each holiday, Marianne “made the house look really cute and homey” by hanging and arranging themed decorations.
She also baked kolache, potica, Swedish Johns (powdered sugar balls with nuts in them) and cut-out cookies: Turkeys for Thanksgiving, hearts for Valentine’s Day and bunnies for Easter, Kathy said.
“She treated her family like it was the most important thing,” Kathy said. “She always insisted we get together, even though it was hard as everyone got older. Because of it, my kids are family-oriented people and have such wonderful memories.”
Jim called his grandmother “an amazing woman” and “one of the best people I have ever known.” He respected the interaction between his grandmother and mother.
“Not everyone has that with their parents,” Jim said. “I have it with my mom and I think it stems from her close relationship with her mom.”
Mostly, Marianne had a deep faith in God, Kathy said. Marianne not only attended church every Sunday, she kept a prayer sheet, to which she referred each night, even taking that sheet with her on road trips.
Sarah, of Joliet, feels it was no coincidence that her daughter, Ava Marie Vocu, was born the day after Marianne’s Sept. 26 death at the age of 78. Marianne had fervently prayed for Sarah’s wife, Catherine Vocu, during Catherine’s entire high-risk pregnancy, Sarah said.
Kathy, too, credited Marianne’s intercession as “the reason all our dramas in life turned out so well.” That consistent example developed Kathy’s own faith, she said.
“She cared about everyone,” Kathy said. “She was a good, kind woman.”
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