'She loved with everything she had'

Forest Park community mourns loss in murder-suicide

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By Maria Maxham

"Lauren was first and foremost a mother."

Those are the words of Valda Vitton, a 21-year resident of Forest Park and close friend of Lauren O'Connor McDonald, who was killed on Friday, Dec. 6 in a murder-suicide on Harlem Avenue.

Lauren was 28 years old, the mother of three boys, Jeramiah, Tremaine and Xavior, who attend school in Forest Park. She grew up in town, a student at St. John's. She attended high school in Plainfield, near Joliet where her mother still lives. Lauren's father lives in Forest Park, and she herself moved back to raise her boys here.

"Family was so important to her," said Vitton. "Every Saturday, she brought her sons over to her father's house for lunch."

Vitton smiled remembering the fun times they had, she with her grandkids and Lauren with her children.

"She took her kids everywhere," said Vitton. "It was always about them. She had a Brookfield Zoo membership, and we'd go there all the time. She took her children to the park. The pool. Everything she did revolved around her boys."

Lauren had two Shar Pei rescue dogs as well, and they were important to her too. Her love for animals prompted her to branch out into dog-walking when her kids were in school.

"She was sweet. So sweet. She just glowed," said Vitton. Her husband, Rich Vitton, agreed.

"She and her boys were part of our family," said Rich Vitton.

Memories and condolences poured forth on Facebook, people describing how she could light up a room, how knowing her made them feel special.

On Dec. 12 at the District 91 school board meeting, where Lauren's boys attend school, board president Kyra Tyler read a statement about the sorrow felt by the school community and the dedication to make sure her sons are cared for.

"She was an incredible and fierce advocate for her boys," said Tyler. "She was a mama bear."

Val Vitton echoed those sentiments when she spoke of Lauren.

"When she loved, she loved with everything she had," said Vitton.

Lauren O'Connor McDonald is survived by her three sons, Jeramiah, Tremaine and Xavior; her father John O'Connor and mother Kathie (Darren) Malina; her sister Crystal Unger; cousins, nieces and many loving friends. Her brother Gregory Olson died away last year.

Ms. O'Connor McDonald's visitation will be Friday, Dec.13 from 3 to 8 p.m. at Drechsler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home, 203 S. Marion St. in Oak Park where services will be held on Saturday Dec.14 at 11 a.m. Interment will follow at Queen of Heaven Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations to the American Cancer Society or a charity of your choice are appreciated.

A gofund me has been set up for Lauren's sons. It can be found by clicking here.

Mike and Katie Redmond, longtime Forest Park residents, will be collecting money for Lauren's children at their annual Christmas show on Dec. 20 at Fitzgerald's in Berwyn. More information can be found at redmondsmusic.com/events.

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