Tough and tender:Bouchard's award brings out two sides of a local legend

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Jeffs Col Impressions

Kirsten Bain had to wipe away tears from her eyes last Thursday afternoon after she accepted an honorary award for her late grandmother, Pat Bouchard.

Crisis Center Board President David Anders presented the award to Bain at a rededication ceremony and the tears flowed.

“I was really close with her, she spoiled us rotten,’’ Bain said.

A handful of family members – including daughters Tricia Bouchard Case and Bobbie Bain – were there and share happy memories of mom and grandma with me.

I was a bit surprised to hear of this genuine emotion from them. There some people in this area who remember Pat as being tough and opinionated. One person I talked to a few years ago referred to her as the b-word and said it admiringly.

But, yes behind all that tough guy exterior, Genevieve “Pat” Bouchard was a mother and grandmother and had her kind and tender moments that not everyone got to see. At one time she was a newspaper columnist for the Reporter and Regional and even bucked up against two others in a race for Worth mayor in 1981.

Two summers ago Bouchard died.  Before my boss at the Regional News, Jack Murray, had me write her obituary, I had no idea who she was.

When I found out that one of the many things in her full life was that she was a columnist for our papers, I thought that was a good starting point.

I figured I would crack open some old yellowed papers that her work would appear in and was ready to be underwhelmed.

See, I made the mistake of lumping Bouchard with the many columnists on weekly papers who write about their town’s garden club and little Billy turning 10 and having four friends over to the house. I have nothing against those columns and the garden club members and little Billy are thrilled to see their news in the paper. That’s what we’re here for – to try to serve as many people as we can.

But the scope of such a column is pretty narrow and those outside that town or little Billy’s house may not give it a second glance.

So, I was all set to read Pat and…well…she had a sharp wicked edge to her. And funny?

Look, I know some of my columns are out there when I talk about Julie Andrews’ breasts and exposing the dark side of June Cleaver. But this Bouchard…she wasn’t writing about the garden club or little Billy. She was writing about the Nazi club and little Adolph.

In a Sept. 4, 1986 column she had me laughing out loud.  

She highlighted an item about 92-year-old Rudolph Hess — Adolph Hitler’s right-hand man — being denied televised news and political debates in prison.

“I think Hess should be exposed to the blatherings of world politicians and to the other realities that are carried into our homes by the nightly newscasts,” she wrote. “Why should a Nazi suffer less than the rest of us?”

OK, that hooked me.

She also had the wisdom to let great quotes make her point if she couldn’t do it herself.

In another column, she found a news bit about a Rhode Island researcher who claimed that more people are likely to strike their kids than smack their dogs. So she talked to a friend who had raised five teenagers and was not exactly politically correct.
  “Sounds reasonable to me,” the unnamed friend was quoted as saying. “My dog never snitched my pantyhose or makeup, he never told my family secrets to my in-laws, never borrowed the car and got a ticket…
  “There is just no temptation to hit a loving beast who accepts you as you are … however when your darling blond daughter shows up with pink and blue hair or your son sneaks a beer out of the refrigerator … well, that’s another story.”

Priceless. Just priceless.

I wanted to read more of her and I checked out a handful of columns before I realized I better stop because Mr. Murray’s deadline for the obit was fast approaching.

But before I was done, I found a column from Sept. 25, 1988 in which she started the piece: “‘Never lower Tillie’s pants. Mother might come home. Now that I have your attention, permit me to assure you that this column is not about the sexual adventures of Tillie or any other frisky lass.”

That column was about memory improvement, by the way.

I heard she would lock horns with everyone in the office about a variety of subjects so I know she could be a spitfire and if I worked with her back in the day, I would probably have gotten into a battle royal or two with her.

So, now I have painted you a picture of someone who seems to be as hardened as pig iron.

But there was another side to her.

Her many years serving an volunteering at the Crisis Center, which started in Palos Park and is now based in Tinley Park, showed her heart was in the right place in helping to keep this shelter for abused women and kids alive for decades.

“She devoted a lot of years to this Crisis Center,” Tricia said. “She loved it and did great work here.’’

The facility went through a major facelift in the last year with improvements in just about all the living and work areas. One of the newly renovated bedrooms at the facility will be named for Pat.

“She would like this honor,” Bobbie said. “On the surface she might not say it, but deep down she would like it.

She made enemies. She pissed people off.

But she also left an impact on some lives that moved close ones to tears even two years after her death.

“She wrote an article when I was born about being a grandmother,” Kirsten said. “How did she say it? Grandparenting can be the best disease or something like that. She was a great woman.’’