She wanted to be a nurse. But Roberta Dolores Marunde (nee Slavik) married young, smitten by a 19-year-old German immigrant with a tenor voice who sang in the youth choir upstairs in the ballroom above Schwab’s Hall (now Fat Duck restaurant) on Madison Street. Roberta sang soprano, and her soon-to-be husband Friedhelm “Fred” Marunde went on to become village commissioner and later mayor of Forest Park between 1979 and 1987.
Mrs. Marunde, 72, formerly of Forest Park, died on Jan. 11, 2012, surrounded by her family in Naples, Fla., after a 10-month battle with pancreatic cancer.
She graduated from Proviso East High School and the two became engaged, but there was one problem: Fred Marunde, who had been trained as a photo-engraver, had enlisted in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“In 1956 I met my future father-in-law who was strong-willed and of German descent,” said Fred. “He insisted no daughter of his would end up on a military base. So we became engaged. I entered the service and fulfilled by obligations. And [Roberta] stayed home and planned the wedding.” They were married on Oct. 11, 1958, and remained married more than 53 years, making a home in Forest Park, he said. Roberta worked at Oak Park Trust and Savings Bank and “loved her job,” said Fred. The couple had two daughters, Kimary and Kristin.
“When I was elected to office, she was propelled into the position of first lady. But she never looked for the limelight; she always stayed and helped where she could,” said Fred. Roberta volunteered at a home for autistic children and had a close connection with the Altenheim senior residence.
And then there was singing. A soprano, Roberta loved traditional German songs and she and Fred were board members of and enthusiastic singers with the Harlem Maenner und DamenChor – Roberta being one of the “Damen.” The couple also sang with the United Chicago Singing Society. In 1977, a gathering of North American singing societies held a convention at McCormick Place. “Mayor Bilandic was standing next to me crying like a baby. There were 2,200 voices on stage at once singing ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic.’ Those were glorious days,” Fred recalled.
Although she never attended college herself, Roberta was proud of her daughters when they continued their education past high school. Daughter Kimary graduated from John Marshall Law School in 1983.
But it was then that the Marunde family’s world turned upside down. Just before Christmas, Kimary collapsed to the floor at home, blood gushing from her mouth and nose. “It turned out to be a malignant form of rare brain tumor, which was seemingly inoperable,” said Fred.
For eight years, Roberta turned her attention to caring for her daughter. Although the condition was not curable, Kimary underwent 30 surgeries to help her live with the tumor. Roberta’s aptitude for a nursing career that never materialized allowed her to nurse one of the most important people in her life. She became knowledgeable about medical treatments, hospital terminology and procedures. “[When Roberta was ill in Florida] the doctors asked her, ‘Where did you ever get your medical education?'” said Fred. Even when her daughter’s optic nerve was destroyed and she became blind, Roberta carried on.
“My wife was the strength of the family and would not let go of our daughter. She would not allow her to be institutionalized because of her blindness,” he said.
Meanwhile, Fred decided not to run for re-election in 1987. “My family came first.” The couple moved to Westchester to a house built with more disabled access. When Kimary died, Roberta threw herself back into volunteer activities. “Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she spent a lot of time at Altenheim,” Fred recalled. “She helped with feeding at noontime, visiting with the residents, fundraising and whatever was needed. She was elected to chair the board of directors and continued to work more and more and kept our family’s sanity through all of this.”
Younger daughter Kristin also returned to the area in the late ’80s to help the family with Kimary’s care. She became interested in law enforcement and is a deputy lieutenant with the Cook County Sheriff’s Department and second-in-command at the Daley Center in Chicago.
“Mom adored Disney and the Epcot Center,” said Kristin. For the 50th wedding anniversary, the family went to Disney World. Roberta especially enjoyed a luau feast. Fred and Roberta loved attending art shows in Florida, said Kristin.
Her volunteer work did not stop in retirement. In Florida, Roberta was “extremely involved with Hope Lutheran Church,” added Kristin. “She would participate twice a month in a program that would feed the hungry [in Bonita Springs, Fla.]. Mom would help set up, and the homeless would line up, and she would help feed and provide them with clothing and extra food. God decided he wanted [Roberta] home. We can’t be selfish. We just wanted her to have peace.”
Roberta Marunde was the sister of Nadine Myers, sister-in-law of Cristel Freeman, aunt of Jennifer (Bryan) Porter, Heather (Greg) Sorrels, Steven Cross and Jeffrey (Lea) Cross and family. In lieu of flowers, memorials would be appreciated to Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (www.pancan.org) or Hope Lutheran Church, Bonita Springs, Fla. Services have been held.