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An Extraordinary Life: Caring, loving, merciful

Channahon teacher, farmer exemplified her Catholic faith

CHANNAHON – The oldest of 13 children in a family of Methodists living in Hopedale, Marjorie Meade was just 18 when a visit to a Catholic church inspired her to convert, said Marjorie’s son, Tom Meade of Morris.

Marjorie’s father had this advice for Marjorie: Be the best Catholic you can be. So Marjorie did, Tom added, enough to inspire two of her six children to pursue religious life.

“She was a faith-filled woman, so prayerful, so strong. I think that’s what got her through the loss of three children and her husband,” said Sr. Gemma “Jane” Meade of Massachusetts. “She was filled with wisdom and was generous with her time and money, a caring, loving person, very merciful.”

In 1939, after Marjorie graduated from Illinois State Normal Teachers College, she began teaching in Minooka, Tom said. That’s when she met Francis W. Meade, a farmer from generations of farmers, Tom said.

With Francis, this city girl – the one who taught herself how to play the piano, organ and flute, Tom said – began a cattle and hog farm on 300 rented acres and later bought their own farm in Channahon. It is now a protected conservation area into perpetuity, Tom said. Marjorie dubbed it “Folly Acres,” said Mary Webb of Joliet, Marjorie’s daughter.

The farm proved profitable in many ways, such as producing 40 acres of tomatoes for the Campbell Soup Company, which it did for two years, Tom said. Marjorie stopped teaching until the youngest of her six children entered Channahon School, where Marjorie retired in 1973, he added.

“She looked after the needy students at the school and passed down our clothes to them,” Tom said. “A lot of these kids would have holes in the knees and be embarrassed to come to school. She would help them out that way, on the side.”

Although the family often lacked material luxuries, Marjorie’s example ensured they were rich in family togetherness and steeped in the Catholic faith – attendance at Sunday Mass was non-negotiable, Tom said. Marjorie herself never missed until just a few weeks before her death June 21 at the age of 97, he added.

“When there was arguing and fighting among the six kids, my mother would make us ‘kiss and make up’ and say, ‘I’m sorry,’ ” Mary said. “She taught us love and forgiveness and it made a difference. We’re still close.”

One son, the Rev. Francis “Frank” Meade, a priest, died in 1990. In 2006, Marjorie lost her husband and two daughters – Stephanie and Sheila. Bob Schutter of Joliet, Sheila’s husband, said when he remarried, Marjorie lovingly accepted Bob’s new wife into the family, Bob said.

Although Marjorie had numerous inside jokes with members of her family, her imagination really shone when telling stories to the grandchildren, said Mary’s husband, Ronald Webb.

Loved ones even listened to criticism and advice from Marjorie, Ronald added.

“Instead of a dagger,” Ronald said, “she used well-cushioned words.”

• To feature someone in “An Extraordinary Life,” contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-280-4122 or

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