Five weeks ago, on October 18, Dana Grote Teeter passed away surrounded by her family. She was 57 years old. This past Saturday, November 20, a celebration of the Evanston resident’s life was held in the Crystal Ballroom on Chicago Avenue, an event attended by close to 300 of her closest friends and family. Ordinarily, a statement like that would seem like hyperbole, but in Dana’s case, it could well be an understatement.

Except for the excruciatingly sad reason for the gathering, it was like a fabulous party that only Dana could have planned. Vibrant, gorgeous fresh flowers, lovingly provided by her uncle, were arranged elegantly on every table, adding a much-needed pop of color into the large, blandly colored ballroom. Hand-sized sandwiches that one could eat without making a mess. Many desserts one could try without needing utensils. Plentiful quantities of delicate French macaroons and tiny Eiffel Tower charms to remind everyone of her favorite city. Tissue boxes on every table. The line to sign the guest book that never yielded.

Friends and family of Dana Teeter gather at the lakefront November 21 for a memorial walk in her honor. (Photo by Andrew Krause)

In addition to her loving family who traveled from Louisville, Kentucky, to attend the private church service that preceded the celebration, the room was filled with Dana’s friends. Women she had known since elementary and high school. College friends and sorority sisters from Vanderbilt University. Girlfriends from when she was a single career girl working for Marshall Field’s. Adored neighbors from Evanston and friends from church. Fellow parents whose children – also in attendance – had been in class or on baseball teams with one of Dana and Chuck’s sons. Book club and garden club friends. People who accompanied her when she worked out or walked (with or without the family dog, Zoey). Her clients. People she worked with at New Life Interim Shelter in Rogers Park. Even her favorite oncologist, who of course had become a close friend and spoke to her regularly even though he had moved to California – he flew in to be there. He told Amy, Dana’s close friend and neighbor, “I wouldn’t have missed this for anything. Of course I came in.”

The slide show her devoted sister Allison arranged and introduced, summarizing Dana’s all too brief life, was beautiful, funny, celebratory and made those in the room miss her even more, as if that were possible. There were plenty of tears. After it concluded, ending with a beautiful video clip from her wedding day preparations, several people stepped up to the microphone to share their special Dana memories. There were several common threads that ran through each unique and personal eulogy.

She was thoughtful. Dana remembered details, dates, sent cards, baked cakes. She listened. She was fully present when she talked to you. She made you feel special. She was a problem-solver and a hard worker. She was the unofficial big sister to so many. Allison shared, “There was no one better to talk to when you were having a bad day, needed a second set of eyes on a presentation or a good pep talk.” MaryNeil Crosby described Dana as “our modern-day millennial version of Mary Tyler Moore, with a dose of Carrie Bradshaw’s passion for fashion thrown in for good measure.” Another speaker acknowledged Dana’s grieving parents, Joyce and Charles, saying words to the effect, “You raised a wonderful daughter. Look around this room. See what an impact she had on so many people.”

Kelvin Johnson, a social worker and the program director at New Life Interim Shelter where Dana was a dedicated volunteer and board member, described how at one point he was particularly discouraged about the problems he was encountering at the shelter, and he prayed to God, asking, “Why am I here? What is my purpose?” Soon after, he realized that there was this lady coming in to his office all the time, and for every problem he shared with her, she had a friend who might be able to, and often did, help him find a solution. In time, the plans for a renovated shelter that had been languishing as drawings turned into a real construction project. Johnson said Dana always focused on the babies who were in the homeless shelter. It was not their fault they were there – what could we do to make things better for them? Focusing on the babies renewed his spirit and sense of purpose. Johnson is convinced, “God sent me Dana.”

Toward the end of her remarks, MaryNeil summarized the capstone of Dana’s life. “Her philanthropic achievements were extraordinary, but her crowning accomplishment was the beautiful family life she built with Chuck, Ben, Luke and Zoey.” Of all the words used to describe Dana, “wife and mom” were the most important ones to her. She relished each and every achievement from her two sons, enjoyed every game, celebrated each success and ached with every disappointment. Her family was her world and the reason she was willing to try any treatment that would allow her to spend more time with them.

Toward the end of her remarks, Allison quoted Dana, who may have been quoting Audrey Hepburn, saying “Paris is always a good idea.” Sunday morning, a healthy-sized crowd gathered at the lakefront for a brisk, two-mile walk in Dana’s memory and to honor her joie de vivre. Despite earlier weather reports of possible rain or even snow, the sun was shining. How could it not? May her memory be a blessing.

 

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  1. I was in that “line that never yielded” to sign the guest book. After waiting 40 minutes, I finally arrived, and had to leave immediately after I signed. However, during that 40 minutes, I could see and feel the love through the eyes of so many people in the ballroom (many familiar to me). While I wished I could stay, I left with a full heart, knowing Dana will live forever in all of the hearts of people whose lives she touched. I was one of them! Dana was the only parent who could transform a fourth grade ice cream celebration into a gala event!

  2. Very nice memorial article. Thank you for tribute. Dana apparently became quite a lady. Prayers for her, her family & all of those who miss her…