Purple and black bunting mourns the passing of former Lyons mayor Marie Vachata. (Photos by Steve Metsch)
Former Lyons mayor Marie Vachata gets a fond farewell
By Steve Metsch
Pat Wideman will never forget the first time she met Marie Vachata.
“When I first moved to Lyons 50 years ago, she was the very first neighbor who welcomed me to Lyons,” Wideman said while sitting on a bench outside the village hall.
Vachata resided two doors down on 46th Street when Wideman, whose name was then Pat Sladky, moved into town with her family.
“We’ve been good friends ever since,” Wideman, 75 and now a Steger resident, said. “We bowled together. We did a lot of things together.”
They even took turns watching each other’s children, she said.
Wideman was among the many friends, residents and village employees who bid the village’s former mayor a fond farewell on Sept. 29.
Vachata died at her home Sept. 25 after living all her 81 years in Lyons.
Vachata, who was married for 58 years to husband Rich Vachata, was born in a house on Fishermans Terrace, he said.
She was involved with many local organizations like Sokol Stickney.
From 1987 to 1995, Vachata served on the Lyons School District 103 board, which had a moment of silence for her before its meeting on Sept. 28.
Vachata served eight years as a village trustee. And In 2001, she took office as only the second female mayor in village history, serving one four-year term.
So, it was fitting – given Vachata’s wishes – that her wake and funeral service were held at the village hall.
Mayor Christopher Getty was fond of Vachata.
“Marie was full of life,” Getty said. “She was very likeable. She tried very hard to improve the community as best as she could.”
Vachata stood out, he said, because she “cared about the community, cared about her fellow neighbors. We’re going to miss her dearly.”
The mayor smiled when reminded that Vachata always called him Christopher, never Chris as some in town do. “When I was a boy, everybody called me Christopher,” he said.
Purple and black bunting was hanging over the village hall entrance and at the front door of the School District 103 administration building.
Among the mourners gathered was Marianne Flanagan, who said her late husband John was police chief when Vachata was mayor.
“We worked with her during the campaign,” she said.
“We were just very good friends. She was a very good woman,” Flanagan said. “I think she was a good mayor. Just like Chris (Getty) is. Very good.”
Vachata did seek a second term as mayor, but was not re-elected. Yet, she remained active in the village after that.
Her husband said he was grateful that Getty honored his wife’s wishes by holding her wake in the village hall.
“She would appreciate this,” Rich Vachata said.
After they married, he and Marie owned a house on Fishermans Terrace. In 1963, they moved to a house in the 8000 block of 46th Street. In 1969, they moved three doors down in the same block, their son, also named Richard, said.
They raised a son and two daughters. Rich, who has seven grandchildren, will soon welcome the couple’s ninth greatgrandchild.
On a personal note, Vachata was a huge fan of the singer Englebert Humperdinck. She was president of his fan club, and met the singer several times.
Looking back, Wideman called Vachata ““an exceptional, genuine true friend.”
“You know, in all the years I knew her, I never knew her to be mad at anything,” Wideman said. “I can’t think of one damn time she was ever mad.”
Asked if Vachata – as some people do – changed after she won election as mayor, Wideman smiled.
“She didn’t change at all,” Wideman said. “She was still goofy Marie. I just loved her to death.”
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