Renuka Desai, a 70-year-old mother of two who worked as the accounts payable coordinator for Evanston/Skokie District 65, was struck and killed by a driver while walking across Howard Street in Skokie on Thursday, Jan. 5.

Desai was born in Pune, India, in 1952 and immigrated to Chicago with her husband, Harish, in the early 1980s, according to an obituary page posted online by her family.

She is survived by her children Karishma and Amish, along with two grandchildren and many other relatives.

“Renuka was an exemplary mother and human being,” her obituary said. “She embodied the best of qualities: unconditional love, strength of spirit, and an unending generosity that could be seen in her care for her mother, husband, children (including Vicki, her daughter in law), grandchildren (Diya & Jeev), entire family and countless others.”


Desai spent nearly 10 years working in the District 65 central office, where she became known for her kindness and hard work.

“We are deeply saddened by the news of Renuka’s sudden and untimely passing,” Superintendent Devon Horton said in an email to all district staff. “She was so kind to everyone she encountered, was known to have a smile on her face, and always ready to lend a helping hand.”

The family has also raised more than $10,000 for causes related to two of Desai’s loves: nature and music. You can donate to that effort here.

The Cook County Medical Examiner determined the cause of death to be “multiple injuries due to motor vehicle striking pedestrian” and labeled the manner of death as an “accident.” Desai was walking through her own home neighborhood in Skokie at the time she was hit.

After the accident, the driver and vehicle remained on the scene, and the North Regional Major Crimes Task Force’s Major Crash Assistance Team is still investigating the incident that resulted in Desai’s death, according to the Skokie Police Department.

But tragically, Desai was not the only member of the Evanston community to be killed in a car accident in the early days of 2023.

Sara Saenz, a 52-year-old single mother of four, died in a traffic crash in Rogers Park Monday, Jan. 9.

Saenz lived on Dewey Avenue in Evanston, just a few blocks from Evanston Township High School. She is survived by her four children: Genesis, Gilbert, Mark and Gary.

She had recently posted an online ad looking for work as a nanny, where she talked about her love for children. In the ad, she described one of her favorite activities as teaching her kids Spanish.

The GoFundMe page set up to support Saenz’s four children and to pay for the funeral costs. Credit: Screenshot

“Her children are now bearing the weight of heavy grief and lack of comprehension of this accident,” Saenz’s niece, Cristy Jauregui, posted on a GoFundMe page that has raised more than $10,000 for the family thus far. “My aunt Sara was a very loving, funny, compassionate, genuine, and hardworking mother who did all that she could to provide for her family. She lit up every room and touched the souls of everyone she came across,” Jauregui wrote.

The medical examiner officially stated that Saenz died due to “multiple injuries” in a “motor vehicle collision.”

Credit: Facebook

According to the Chicago Police Department’s incident report, a 28-year-old man driving a Chevy sideswiped another car before running through a red light and crashing into Saenz’s vehicle.

The man was cited by police on the scene “for disregarding a red light.” When asked by the RoundTable if law enforcement would pursue any charges for vehicular manslaughter, CPD said that “the incident is still under investigation by the Major Accidents unit.”

A memorial service in celebration of Saenz’s life will be held from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 20 at Álvarez Funeral Directors in Chicago.

Duncan Agnew

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...

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