Helen Karam, 69, of Big Rock, passed from this life to eternal life on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012, surrounded by the love and prayers of her family at Delnor-Community Hospital in Geneva.
She was born Nov. 7, 1942, in Hinsdale, Ill., the daughter of John and Adeline Abram.
Helen grew up in Hinsdale and attended local schools before her parents purchased a farm in Elburn. She continued her education at Wasco Elementary. She was a member of 4-H and the Playmakers Club throughout high school. Helen went on to graduate from St. Charles High School with the class of 1960.
Her love and passion for music inspired her to continue her education, and she enrolled in the University of Illinois, where she studied music and English and earned a bachelor’s degree.
Helen met her husband-to-be, Anthony Karam, who was a supplier to some of Chicago’s finest hotels, while she worked for the YMCA hotel on Wabash Avenue. She never forgot the sight of this handsome man arriving at the hotel in his three-piece suit. It was Oct. 12, 1965. Charming but Mr. No-Nonsense, Tony took her order, and a cup of coffee later, turned to leave and said, “I’ll pick you up at 6 p.m. Friday.” His brash confidence swept her off her feet, and an amazingly storied life began. A few dates later, she took Tony home to the Abram family farm in Campton Hills. He may have won Helen’s heart in a month, but winning her mother’s approval would take a year.
Tony and Helen were wed on Jan. 14, 1967, at the Baker United Methodist Church, St. Charles. A week later, on the eve of the blizzard of 1967, Tony’s family would arrive in Chicago for a second wedding. The snow stranded everyone, and stories of that week abound to this day, but on Jan. 30, they were wed at St. Ida’s on Broadway. The following day, tragedy struck as Helen’s father died suddenly. Soon, however, the young couple would leave for Mexico. Guadalajara would become home for the next 12 years. When the economy crashed, Tony and Helen packed up their young family of three and returned to the Abram family farm. With hard work and the loving support of Helen’s family, they moved to Big Rock, where they settled into the property that became the Karam homestead.
Before her time at the YMCA hotel, Helen worked for various companies. Her work experience started with the Little Traveler, a local shop that her mother ran. She moved on to become a retail sales manager for Fred Harvey. After the YMCA hotel, Helen would take on the most meaningful career of her life: being mom.
She spent the next years raising her children and perfecting the role of mother hen, which she applied to the rest of the endeavors of her life. There was nothing more special to her than spending time with her children, which later translated to the special bond she grew with her grandchildren. Once her children were grown, she decided to return to work, taking a receptionist position with Lumanair Aviation Services at the Aurora Municipal Airport from 1992 until her retirement in 2008.
As a woman of faith, Helen was a devoted member of Hinckley First United Methodist Church. After her husband Tony’s passing in October 2008, Helen was not one to sit idle. Instead, she devoted her heart and her time rekindling old friendships, and channeled through them a wish to reconnect to her community and organizations, including the Kiwanis Club. Helen, acting as an unofficial ring leader along with a group of friends, also started the unofficial SNAP Fitness group in Elburn, which extended into lunch and dinner dates. They described themselves as a frail bunch. However, their spirit was anything but.
When Helen’s children were in school, she served 14 years on the Hinckley/Big Rock School Board and helped organize events, including 4-H and homecoming parades, which her children believe was a way for her to keep her eyes on them at all times. Her good friend, Orion Samuelson, always kept Helen up to date with any new developing news and information within the farming community. She even bought Orion his very own Future Farmers of America (FFA) jacket—one that he was not able to afford when he was in high school. It is a gift he continues to treasure dearly.
Helen’s role in the life of her family hasn’t been erased; only changed in an instant. She now shares with St. Peter her brag book, filled with pictures of her grandchildren and bursting with a grandma’s pride. Her spirit is now closer to them than ever, wrapped around their hearts forever.
She is survived by three children and their families, John (Tracey) Karam of Reno, Nev., and their children, Spencer and Emma, Carmen (Rick) Carls of Hinckley, Ill., and their children, Mack and Courtney, and Tony (Shannon) Karam of South Elgin, Ill., and their children, Hayden, Calen and Camden; one brother, David Abram of Elburn; many nieces, nephews and their families; several special cousins, Nancy (Pete) Caris of Western Springs, Ill., Anne (Bruce) Brownawell of Long Island, N.Y., Mary McElroy of California, and Richard (Nancy) Schiller of LaGrange, Ill.
She is preceded in death by her parents and husband.
Visitation was held Saturday at Conley Funeral Home, 116 W. Pierce St., Elburn. Private family committal services were held following cremation.
As special family request, in lieu of flowers, a memorial has been established in Helen’s name to benefit her favorite charities. Memorials checks may be made to the Helen Karam Memorial and mailed in care of P.O. Box 66, Elburn, IL 60119. Tributes and memories may also be forwarded to the family at the same address or through her obituary at www.conleycare.com. For information, call (630) 365-6414 or 800 826-6539.