In Loving Memory of Mary Jo Hutchings

Thank you to so many people who wrote to me about the passing of my wonderful mother, Mary Jo Hutchings, on July 31, 2008. The Chicago Tribune had a lovelyMary-Jo-Hutchings story about her in the August 5, 2008 issue. I am attaching a copy of that and a picture of her, and below is the obituary which my sister and I prepared for her funeral Mass and celebration, which was held August 6, 2008 at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, where my sister Donna and I were both baptized and received our first Communions, in Crystal Lake, Illinois. MARY JO HUTCHINGS Mary Jo Hutchings loved libraries. The Director of the Mt. Prospect Public Library from 1966 to 1981, Mrs. Hutchings died July 31 at the age of 88. Born Mary Jo Calnan in Monkstown, County Cork, Ireland on December 21, 1919, she emigrated to Lake Forest in 1928 in the care of foster parents, Daniel and Margaret Calnan. She attended Holy Child Academy, Waukegan, and earned her bachelors and advanced degrees in Library Science from the University of Illinois in 1941. While the Reader’s Advisor at Northwestern University Library, she met LeRoi E. Hutchings, whom she married May 21, 1949. They settled in Crystal Lake and had two daughters, Mary Hutchings Reed and Donna.C. Steele. Mrs. Hutchings was Assistant and then Head Librarian in Crystal Lake from the mid-fifties to 1963. She was well known through much of her life for her lively and dramatic book reviews. After a short time in Johnson City, Tennessee, the Hutchings moved to Mt. Prospect in 1965, where Mrs. Hutchings joined the staff of the Public Library and became Director in 1966. During her fifteen year tenure, Mrs. Hutchings transformed the Library into a lifelong learning and cultural center. It tripled its collection, nearly doubled its patrons and increased its circulation from 250,000 to 415,000. Mrs. Hutchings built up the business section and created genealogy and police science sections of the Library, and added the circulation of 8mm movies, art prints, sculpture, large-type books, videotapes, audiocassettes and magazines on microfilm. Under her leadership, the Library celebrated its first National Library Week, published its first newsletter featuring “Hutch’s Corner,” conducted its first story hour for deaf children, and opened on Sundays. In 1967, Mrs. Hutchings defended the library in a censorship battle, and received a citation from the Illinois Library Association for her efforts in defending the First Amendment. In 1975, following a successful referendum, Mrs. Hutchings presided over the building of a new $4 million library facility, which was dedicated in 1977. After retiring from the library in 1981, Mrs. Hutchings became active in volunteer activities, serving three terms as President of the Mt. Prospect Women’s Club, and as a docent of the Mt. Prospect Historical Society and a member of the Friends of the Library. She was a devout Catholic. Separated from a sister and two brothers when she came to the United States, she was thrilled to have been reunited with her brother Paddy Calnan of Plymouth, England, at Christmas, 1983. The visited frequently until his death. Dr. and Mrs. Hutchings returned to Crystal Lake in 2004. She enjoyed tennis, golf, ping-pong, croquet, classical music, entertaining and bridge, and was proud of her Irish heritage. She loved animals, especially her tricolor collie, Brandywine Erin Beau. For the past several years, Mrs. Hutchings suffered from Alzheimer’s. She is survived by her husband, LeRoi of Crystal Lake and her daughters, Mary Hutchings Reed (Mrs. William), a Chicago lawyer and novelist who is Of Counsel to Winston & Strawn, and Donna Steele (Mrs. Tod) , an actress and the founder of Steel Beam Theatre, St. Charles, and a loving grandmother to three grandchildren, Amy Steele of Chicago, Sarah Steele of New York City and Peter Steele of St. Charles. “She read to us every night, acting out all the parts,” her daughter Mary said. “I’m sure that’s why today my sister is an actress and why I love words and stories.” Donna said, “She was a devoted mother and still managed to have a challenging and fulfilling career. She taught by example that with faith, courage and love, all things are possible.” A funeral Mass for Mrs. Hutchings will be held at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, 453 Pierson Street, Crystal Lake, at 10:30 am on Wednesday, August 6, 2008. In lieu of flowers, the family would be grateful for memorial donations to the Mt. Prospect Library or the Freedom to Read Foundation of the American Library Association.