Norma J. Rendina, nee Menchini of Park Ridge passed away on April 17th. Norma was the beloved daughter of Peter and Christine (nee Bartolomei), and the dear sister of Samuel and Clara, all of whom preceded her in death. She leaves behind her husband of 67 years, Ronald, her children Christine, Dean (Maria) and Carla (Terrence) Owen, her adored grandchildren Christian and Marisa Owen and Sara Rendina, her dear niece, Corinne (Ken) Buti, her many other beloved nieces and nephews, and her devoted companion, Maya Michno.
Norma was born in her parent’s home in Chicago —on a newspaper, she would say— to Peter and Christine Menchini. Her parents came from a small village in the hills of Tuscany, and moved to Chicago in the 1920s. When Norma was born, her brother Samuel was 18 and her sister Clara was 16. They lived briefly in California during the 1940s, but returned to Chicago when Norma was 12.
She attended Austin High School on the west side of Chicago, where she met her future husband, Ron, a shy boy who got up the nerve to ask her to the prom. She graduated at 16 and went to work as a legal secretary in the Rookery Building in the Chicago loop. Ron enlisted in the Navy and they were married and moved to Rhode Island, where he was stationed and where their eldest child, Christine, was born in 1953. They also spent two idyllic years on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas. While there, Norma worked part time on the naval base. After the Bahamas, she moved with Ron back to the Chicago area. They lived on the northwest side of the city, where their son Dean was born in 1959, followed by Carla in 1962. In 1974 they moved from Edison Park to their home in Park Ridge, where she lived for the rest of her life.
She always worked outside the home, primarily as a secretary and executive assistant. She owned a card and gift store for a number of years, which was a dream come true for her. She was a vocal feminist who marched for passage of the ERA in Illinois in the late 1970s. She was creative and made beautiful stained glass windows alongside her son, Dean. She served with a group of wonderful women on the St. Matthew Service League, where she spent many hours stocking and operating the Boutique, and she was a long-time member of the women's auxiliary of the Mazzini-Verdi Social Club, which kept her in touch with others from the same area of Tuscany as her family. Most recently, she served as a “greeter” at Field Elementary School in Park Ridge, a position that provided her with an opportunity to be around her grandchildren and to share her humor, advice and joy for life with both the parents and staff at the school. She continued to volunteer there well into her 80s.
Her Italian culture was important to her. She was fluent in Italian and was a very good cook, putting her own spin on recipes that had been handed down through generations. She was a voracious reader (preferred a good, long biography), an articulate speaker, and a gifted writer.
She enjoyed travel, especially a trip to Paris with Carla, and around Spain with Christine, but she loved her home more than anywhere else, and was always anxious to get back to it. She loved music and dancing, followed politics avidly, enjoyed playing cards, and was always there to support her children, and then her grandchildren, at their baseball and softball games, art and music shows and science fairs. She always remembered birthdays, was the go to spellchecker, and knew just what to say to those grieving or forlorn. She wrote the most beautiful and wise notes to commemorate important occasions, such as weddings or graduations, and those notes were always worth saving for later reference.
She was a most enthusiastic and loyal Cubs Fan, and had attended one of the world series games in 1945. She adored her many dogs over the years and treated them like the family members that they were. She loved working with her green thumb in her garden. She treasured her wonderful neighbors and friends, with whom she shared many glasses of wine and impromptu meals, al fresco. Her door was always wide open, and she could be counted on for a bit of conversation and laughter. She exuded a combination of kindness, generosity and good humor that endeared her to people of all ages and personalities. She knew how to have fun, and people were happy to have it with her.
Without a doubt, she viewed her most important role as that of mother, wife and grandmother. She was the heart and soul of her family— her husband of 67 years, Ron, her daughter Christine who lives in Madrid, Spain, and her son Dean and daughter Carla, who both live in Park Ridge. She was an adored Nonna to Christian, Marisa and Sara, and her pride in their every minute accomplishment was broadcast far and wide. She enjoyed a close relationship with her niece, Corinne, and they always looked out for each other. She cherished warm relationships with many younger nieces and nephews and enjoyed a special relationship with her dear companion, Maya. On them all she showered love, affection, great advice, and lots of good food, especially her famous biscotti.
Her sweet smile never failed her, even when her memory and her body did. She is unforgettable and irreplaceable, and will always be missed.
Private funeral services have been held, but a celebration of her life will be held at a later date. Donations in her honor may be made to Recovery International, 1415 W. 22nd St., Tower Floor, Oak Brook, IL 60523, or at recoveryinternational.org