On this Sunday before Christmas, I wanted to write about a very special and truly wonderful woman many of us loved and lost the day after Christmas in 1986.
She’s the late Peggy (Peg) Donovan.
According to a DuPage County report dated Dec. 26, 1986, Peg was driving south on Morton Road and was crossing North Avenue when her car was struck by an eastbound auto. The stop sign that would have faced her car was missing, according the report.
Over the past weeks I have spent time talking with her friends and their children, and we all agree her spirit yet lives among those of us who knew and loved her and called her friend.
Peg was an adoption specialist for Catholic Social Services and during her 25 years with the agency she handled hundreds of adoptions. Not only did she help children and families, she cared deeply about pregnant and homeless girls.
“Even though Peg worked for a Catholic agency, any girl could go to her for help,” said Carol Dillon. “She was always helpful, compassionate and nonjudgmental. When she gave a girl guidance, she gave it gently, but effectively. Something we could use more of today.
“The thing that I remember most about Peg was she took a real interest in the foster and adoptive families’ lives. She cared much for the children who were doing well and she could be found following behind the ones who were struggling. She was family for us, and I know we were family for her.”
Peg dedicated her life to finding homes for children and children for homes. She helped children from every religious denomination, families with black children, white children, biracial children. She helped families with children from India, Korea, Vietnam and Bangladesh. Although she never married or had kids of her own, they all were “Peg’s kids.”
What I remember is she always sat in the front pew in St. Augustine Catholic Church and she was always holding someone’s baby on her lap. They loved her and she loved them.
She accomplished a lot by founding the South Bend Chapter of the Association for the Rights of Children. She received the Dublin Award given annually to a local person in recognition of outstanding service to children, and in 1986 she was given the YWCA Woman of the Year award for her service to children. She was responsible for “The Red Book” that listed children in Indiana waiting to be adopted and she also provided “Wednesday’s Child” that appeared every other Sunday in The Tribune.
“Her openness was to children of every race, type, disabled, no disability. They were all special to Peg,” said Joann Gabrich, a mother of adopted children. “She was extremely proud of every child that went through the system and kept in contact with many of them through their lives. Although she is gone, she lives in so many of our hearts.”
Peg’s memorial service was in the basement of St. Patrick Church, where more than 600 people
either attended the Mass or reception afterward. But it would be the words of her late foster mother Joan Steinmetz that still ring true about Peg to this day: “Peg had a way of making each one of us feel we were her best friend. I think a lot of us were surprised today to find out she had so many other best friends.”
Fran Biedinger, of South Bend, was a former co-worker of Peg’s at Catholic Charities. She says Peg was the go-to person when it came to adoptions.
Fran said that she knew of Peg long before they started working together because of all the adoptions in Fran’s family.
“Because our family has so many wonderful and smart people — we have doctors, lawyers, businessmen, every occupation you could imagine — it never mattered how they became family,” Fran said. “We are and always will be family.”
With this being our 26th year without Peg, I think those of us who knew her best and those of you who will read this column will appreciate that this quiet and helpful woman left her gentle mark, her soft and loving words, and a world of love that still shines today.
Staff writer May Lee Johnson: