DePaul University Newsline > Sections > Life Events > In memoriam: Kathy Claes, mother of UMC's Kristin Claes Mathews
By Kristin Claes Mathews /
January 6, 2021 /
Posted in: LIFE EVENTS /
Claes lived with an abundance of love, kindness and creativity. Born in St. Louis in 1953, she grew up in a tight-knit Catholic community and graduated from Nerinx High School. As a girl, she loved sewing her own clothes, playing softball and assisting in her father's dental practice.
She was married for 45 years to her college sweetheart, Bob. They both majored in English at Quincy College and stayed lifelong friends with many of their classmates. Claes worked at Northern Trust in the 1970s and 1980s as a systems analyst, programming some of the first mainframe computers that were linked to ATMs. Later she worked with Bob in his successful real estate law practice as a closer and an assistant.
Together they raised two children and built a home in Downers Grove, Illinois. Claes made close friends everywhere she went, including the neighborhood school and YMCA. She was a talented cook and enjoyed sharing family recipes and making favorites for special occasions. They traveled widely, just the two of them and with friends, and Maui was their favorite destination.
With Bob, her partner in everything, she chased new creative pursuits. Already an accomplished seamstress, she started quilting by piecing together photos Bob printed onto fabric. She would lie out intricate patterns on their living room carpet and ask him to weigh in about color and placement. She sewed scores of quilts as gifts for loved ones to mark births, weddings, graduations and friendship.
Claes began treatment for pancreatic cancer in 2012 and defied the odds by thriving and enjoying her life in the midst of treatment for 8.5 years. She lived to see both of her children get married and to meet her three grandchildren, who became the center of her world. Her true calling was as a Nonie, and she was splashing in baby pools with the grandkids and playing Candy Land in the backyard with a mask on through the pandemic summer. Her care and kindness and warmth live on and are wrapped around us like her beautiful quilts.
She is survived by her husband Robert; daughter Kristin (Mike) Mathews; son Matthew (Lindsay) Claes; her grandchildren Ian, Elliot and Hazel; sister Patricia (Michael) Ombrello; cousin Maria (Dave) Herdlick; and her many beloved brothers- and sisters-in-law as well as adored nieces, nephews, grandnieces and nephews. She is preceded in death by her father John Huhn, mother Marian Huhn, sister Roseann, and beloved aunts and uncles. A private funeral mass will be held, and the family requests donations to the Greater Chicago Food Depository in lieu of flowers.