A memorial service will be celebrated at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5 at St. Bernardine Church for Patricia Vastine, who was a District 91 teacher for 46 years.
Vastine passed away on September 30, 2005 at the age of 77. Although she was a long time Forest Park resident, she had been a resident of the Scottish Home in North Riverside for the last several months of her life. The memorial mass will be celebrated by Vastine’s pastor and good friend Father Patrick Tucker, assisted by Father Phil Cioffi. The homily will be preached by her friend and bridge playing partner, Deacon John Walters.
No wake or funeral was held at the time of her death because, in her last act of humanitarianism, Vastine donated her body to science. She speculated that some young doctors might learn something by working with her remains. Vastine strongly believed that donating her body to science was one way her life’s work could continue after her death.
Vastine served the Forest Park Public Schools longer than any other teacher. She began her career as a second grade teacher at Grant-White school in 1950. At the time of her retirement in 1996 the library at Grant-White school was named in her honor.
Among the students in her very first class was Dixie Quitsch Paugh, now proprietor of Quitsch Florist in Forest Park. Paugh doesn’t remember much about her second grade experience except than even then, Ms. Vastine emphasized reading.
Paugh kept in touch with Vastine over the years, especially when her own children started school. It was then that she got to know her former teacher as a friend and customer. Paugh recalled that Vastine enjoyed sending floral bouquets to people on special occasions, and always chose a “smiley face” arrangement. She said her old teacher was always neat, organized and ladylike.
Paugh attended Vastine’s 75th birthday party and marveled at the fact that her second grade teacher had become her lifelong friend.
Judy Jilek was also in Vastine’s second grade class at Grant-White, and remembers her as being the kindest and most understanding teacher a child could ask for.
Jilek’s children were also taught by Vastine at Garfield school, and she believes Vastine reveled in the idea that she had taught so many generations of Forest Park families.
“She lived her job and the children,” Jilek said.
District 91 School Board Vice President Lois Bugajsky, in describing Vastine, said “Her character, integrity and strong work ethic were an inspiration to all of us. Her love of reading has helped shape the people we grew up with and she will be missed.”
After teaching second grade at Grant-White for several years, Pat received her Master’s degree in reading instruction from DePaul University and became the District 91 reading specialist, and started working at Garfield School as well as Grant-White.
Her principal at both schools was Ed Phillips, who remembers Vastine as a teacher who saw every child and every class as a special challenge. He said that “After 46 years she still had the desire and energy to meet the needs of her students…she had an ear for my concerns and an extensive loyalty. When it came to reading, Pat was outstanding. She served as district reading coordinator, modeled lessons for the staff, screened all new students and provided remediation for those with reading problems.”
Father Patrick Tucker, Pastor of St. Bernardine Church, was impressed by Vastine’s inquisitive mind. “She always had many questions, especially about her faith. She had strong opinions, especially about education and politics, and did not hesitate to express them.” She was, Tucker recalled, not especially patient with people she perceived as not being genuine.
Tucker also mentioned that Vastine liked to live well. She loved traveling, especially with her good friend Jean Zelinske. She was a voracious reader of history and mysteries. She enjoyed attending plays, playing bridge, attending the symphony and loved a good meal followed by something sweet.
Tucker recalled what a terrible embarrassment it was for a proud and dignified person like Vastine when she could not recalls words or faces during her final illness.
Pat Vastine was an active member of St. Bernardine Parish, serving on the Parish Council, the Parish Staff, and on the Peace and Justice Committee. In addition, she was a long time member of the Forest Park Library Board.
Margie Martin was Vastine’s friend, coworker and final caretaker. She referred to Vastine as Tidy Tillie because she was so neat and precise, and insisted that everything be in its proper place, especially her large collection of Irish tea pots.
Martin recalled that Vastine was not only a wonderful teacher but she was a mentor to many young teachers, always taking the time to share her knowledge and experience.
Among her many other activities, Vastine spent many years raising and showing dogs, specializing in Beagles.
Martin remarked that Vastine was always gravious, positive, well-dressed, and well-mannered and that she came to accept her failing health with courage and dignity.
She also recalled Vastine’s generosity, mentioning that she was a generous benefactor to Notre Dame High School for girls, DePaul University, Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, St. Bernardine Church, and many other schools and charities.