'I have to get home to my golf course'

Anna Mae ‘Babe’ Ahern, owned Evergreen Country Club, dead at 103

By Bob Jaderberg

“Golf, golf, golf, golf, golf, real estate, golf, golf, real estate.”

Those were “Babe” Ahern’s passions, in that order, her friend Sister Margaret Hoban, said last Friday at Miss Ahern’s wake and visitation.

Anna Mae Ahern, more commonly referred to as “Babe,” died Dec. 12 at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn following a brief illness. She was 103.

Babe was the youngest of six children in the Ahern family, which owned the Evergreen Country Club, 9140 Western Ave. in Evergreen Park, since the 1920s.

Miss Ahern was born a “preemie” in Chicago on Nov. 16, 1907. Her parents, Anna and Owen Ahern, were Irish and Czechoslovakian immigrants, respectively, Sister Margaret said. Her brothers Arthur, Owen Jr., Walter and Frank, and sister, Margaret, who preceded her in death, worked in the family businesses at one time or another.

“Her father called her Babe and the nickname stuck,” Sister Margaret said.

Owen Ahern was a Chicago policeman and died when Babe was 12 so it was Anna who taught Babe, her business savvy.

“Her mother owned two or three hotels and a golf course in Texas and a golf course here,” Sister Margaret said.

Anna Ahern opened the Evergreen Country Club on the family’s property in 1921, one year after her husband’s death. Golf soon became Babe’s life. She was once engaged to a doctor but never married, and lived to play, teach and make her living in the game. She was Evergreen Country Club’s women’s champion for a time, Sister Margaret added.

“She was a member of the PGA and just about every golf organization you could imagine,” Sister Margaret said.

Sister Margaret, vice president of community services at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park, first met Ahern in the hospital’s lobby in 1970. In that first chance encounter, she caught a glimpse of what drove Babe.

“I just hurt my ankle and I had it X-rayed, and I don’t know what the outcome is, but I have to get back to my golf course,” she recalled Ahern saying.

Sister Margaret spoke to Miss Ahern’s doctor, got the prognosis — there was no fracture — and then arranged a ride home for her. The two began their 40-year friendship by sharing a Coke at Ahern’s restaurant at the country club.

Miss Ahern, who Sister Margaret called feisty, would often say, “I have a golf course to run, you can get away when you want.” After teaching Sister Margaret to golf, the two played the links, dined and attended golf shows together.

Many grand nieces and nephews attended Miss Ahern’s wake Friday, but Sister Margaret is confident nobody in attendance was closer to Babe than her.

Until the closing of the sale of Evergreen Country Club on Babe’s 103rd birthday five weeks ago, she would arrive at work every day at 9 a.m. and be there until she’d go out to dinner at 5 p.m., Sister Margaret said.

“She met people, went through her bills and she told her employees what to do, and how fast. She might kill them in the morning, but she’d love them in the afternoon,” she said.

In the late 1980s, Evergreen Park honored the Ahern family by renaming 91st Street the north boundary of the golf course Ahern Country Club Drive, between California and Western Avenues.

“It was one of her proudest moments,” Sister Margaret said.

Miss Ahern owned five dogs at the time of her death. The white, fluffy one named Boo Boo, possibly a Shih Tzu, was her favorite, friends agreed.

“Her day was made when Boo Boo would spend time with her,” Sister Margaret said.

Miss Ahern also showed and won awards for some of her Australian silky terriers, Sister Margaret remembered.

Babe did not smoke, but drank a Courvoisier [brandy] every day, and walked and used an exercise bike regularly, Sister Margaret said.

She was in perfect health prior to her illness, she added. Babe said good-bye to Sister Margaret much the same way she first said “hello,” some 40 years earlier.

“On Sunday morning at a quarter to 10 she said to me, ‘Margaret I have to get home to my golf course.’ She was dead at 10:15.”

Sister Margaret said she will most miss her close friend’s wisdom, understanding and caring.

“She was interested in most anything that went on, she was self-assured and confident and challenging — she’d challenge anybody,” Sister Margaret said.

“She read the newspapers from cover to cover every day. She was without a doubt one of the wisest women I ever met.”

A funeral service was held Saturday at Andrew J. McGann & Son Funeral Home in Chicago. Interment was at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Chicago. In lieu of flowers, the family stated donations to A Healthier Evergreen, 2800 W. 95th St., would be appreciated.