Artist, activist `leaves a legacy'
August 6, 2004 — Source: Naperville Sun, The (IL) — Author: Kathy Millen
The song "I Am Woman" by Helen Reddy filled St. Thomas the Apostle Church on Thursday afternoon, fittingly putting the finishing stroke on funeral services for longtime Naperville artist Dee Pasternak.
Pasternak, 76, a founder of the Naperville Art League and member of the Naperville Century Walk, died Monday at her home.
During a Mass officiated by the Rev. Mark Cote, Pasternak was remembered as a gifted artist, a community activist and a loving wife and mother who gallantly faced adversity and stood by her conviction that women could make important contributions to society.
In his homily, Cote said that Pasternak exerted a strong influence in the community that she loved so much.
"Dee was an artist, not only an artist but a teacher as well," he said. "Among other things she shared these God-given gifts with countless people in the community.
"An artist and art is the expression of one's joy in the work that one does. Truly Dee leaves a legacy."
Pasternak's art included drawings, prints, mixed media, oils and watercolors. In 2002, she received the Studs Terkel Humanities Award for her service on the board of the Naperville Century Walk public art exhibit. Last year, the Naperville Art League presented her with one of its first Outstanding Contribution to the Arts Awards. On July 17, the league held a one-day retrospective of her work on at the Naperville Fine Art Center.
She also served on the planning committee for the Cmdr. Dan Shanower/Sept. 11 Memorial along the Riverwalk and initiated the project to renovate the deteriorating World War I doughboy sculpture that stands in Burlington Square Park. She affectionately referred to the doughboy as her "boyfriend."
In the eulogy he wrote for his mother, Blair Pasternak described how his family recently fulfilled his mother's dream to take a ride in a Hummer. When asked where she wanted to go, she said she wanted to see her boyfriend.
Pasternak had asked her son to write her eulogy with the proviso that it not be flowery and that he said it like it was. In the end, the eulogy was delivered by Blair Pasternak's pastor, the Rev. Dan Gilbert of Cross Lutheran Church in Yorkville.
"I decided to try and create a mural about my mother's life," he wrote. "I use the word `create' because when she was once asked how to make paintings, her response was, `You paint a house and you create artwork. You start with an idea and you go with it. You never really know how it will turn out until you are done, but when you are done you either like it or you don't.'
"While we didn't realize it as children, she was creating us through her examples."
Blair Pasternak wrote that his mother came of age during a time when women weren't commonly found in the work force. For several years she was a photographer and darkroom technician for The Naperville Sun. Later she worked as an advertising manager for a newspaper in the Bolingbrook and Romeoville area before concentrating on her art.
She also overcame many adversities including an earlier diagnosis of cancer, a head-on car accident and the loss of her husband, George, in 1985.
Shortly before her death, her son asked her how she would like to be remembered. Pasternak took issue with the word.
"I do not want to be remembered," she told him. "Being remembered is past tense. I've worked too hard to just be remembered. I started and worked on many projects in this town. If I'm remembered it means my work has stopped. We're just starting and I want to know that others will pick up where I left off."