By Bob Jaderberg
A popular and passionate woman who taught at Our Lady of the Ridge School for nearly three decades died last week.
Kathleen Stein was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about two months ago, said Our Lady of the Ridge Principal Sister Stephanie Kondik said. Mrs. Stein passed away Nov. 5 at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.
“She was an extremely dedicated, creative and gifted teacher with a great sense of humor who had many unique ways of educating children,” Kondik said.
Kondik recalled how Stein once dressed in colonial garb to help teach students about games 18th century children played.
Mrs. Stein began her teaching career in 1972, her husband Jim remembered. She first taught at St. George School at 37th Street and Lituanica Avenue, he said. She was in her 29th year of teaching at Our Lady of the Ridge when she was diagnosed with cancer.
“She didn’t teach for the money,” said Stein’s daughter, Jamie. “She was very generous with her time, talent and treasures.”
Like Kathleen, Jamie is an avid reader — a passion she absolutely got from her mom, she acknowledged. Mrs. Stein enjoyed reading just about everything, but she seemed particularly fond of novels, especially historical fiction, Kondik said.
She also loved to travel, walk and spend time with her family.
“She loved Disney World in Florida,” Kondik added.
Jamie said her mother was a big fan of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride.
Mrs. Stein could have taught elsewhere and made more money, perhaps by teaching in the public schools, according to Jamie.
“But for her it was all about the faith,” she said.
Many of Mrs. Stein’s teacher friends had retired and would ask her to go on outings and trips, Jamie said.
“But she was constantly working. She didn’t even seem to sleep a lot — she was like a super woman.”
Jim said he will miss “just everything” about his wife of 37 years.
“Just her being there. Her stories from school, the way we played with our grandchildren together.”
After a three-year hitch serving the Army in Vietnam, Jim said he found Kathleen — the oldest of 11 brothers and sisters — and her family again.
“Even though they’d moved on me — from Chicago where she was born to Oak Lawn,” he joked.
“She touched a lot of lives,” Jim said Tuesday from a luncheon in Kathleen’s honor at Royal Palace in Chicago Ridge. One student Mrs. Stein taught at St. George School showed up at the service, Jim added.
“She said Mrs. Stein was one of the best teachers she ever had,” he said.
Jim talked to many doctors and nurses who told him they’d entered the medical field because of some of the science experiments they did in her classes, he said.
Visitation was held Monday at Our Lady of the Ridge Church in Chicago Ridge. Jim said the line of people who came to say goodbye stretched “out the door — for six hours.” A funeral service was held Tuesday. Interment was at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Worth.
In addition to her husband and daughter, Mrs. Stein is survived by her son, Michael; her sisters, Cynthia, Sheila, Colleen, Enid and Kelly; her brothers, Kevin, Leonard, Brian and Edward; and two grandchildren.