Minooka woman ‘could fill up a room anywhere she was’
BY DENISE M. BARAN-UNLAND Correspondent August 4, 2013 9:44PM
Mitzi and Mike Haley of Minooka. | Denise M. Baran-Unland for the Herald-News
Updated: September 6, 2013 6:05AM
People called the Irish Marianne “Mitzi” Haley of Minooka a “spitfire,” said Mitzi’s daughter, Julie Dzarnowski of Shorewood, a ball of energy completely devoted to her church and family until her June 21 death at the age of 67.
“My dad would say, ‘She’s only five feet tall,” Julie said, “but she could fill up a room anywhere she was.”
As the pastoral associate for St. Mary’s Church in Minooka, Mitzi brought communion to the homebound, served as lector, organized and met with families for baptisms, first communions, confirmations, funerals and bereavement counseling. She trained the altar servers.
“She’d even serve herself when someone didn’t show up,” said Mitzi’s daughter, Janice Columbus of Joliet.
For her family, Mitzi was the adviser and the supporter, the one who attended the birth of every child and the events of every grandchild. Mitzi drove Julie’s children to school so they didn’t have to ride the bus and brought medication when Julie suffered incapacitating headaches.
When Julie and Janice were young, Mitzi took them to explore the creek behind her Minooka farm and also to hunt for arrowheads. Mitzi comforted her sister Lee Wills of Channahon during thunderstorms and made everyone laugh with her own brand of humor.
“She’d chase me with snakes because I was afraid of them,” Lee said, “but when I had a mouse in my house and my little girl and I were up on the kitchen table, she came over and took care of it.”
Even in retirement, Mitzi wanted to help. She read to the first and second grade students at Minooka Elementary School. Mitzi also delivered books from the Minooka branch of the Three Rivers Public Library to local shut-ins, even staying a while and talking with them.
“I don’t know where she found the time,” said Mike Haley of Minooka, Mitzi’s husband. “She never made a big deal out of it; she just did it. She never wanted recognition for it.”
As a girl, Mitzi battled ill health: ulcers, allergies and asthma. Those maladies, didn’t stop Mitzi from playing grade school basketball at the school associated with the Church of St. Jude in Joliet. Her picture still hangs at the school, Lee said.
Nor did they prevent Mitzi from helping her widowed mother care for Mitzi’s two younger sisters, Lee and Gerry Sossong of Channahon by cooking meals for them and helping with homework.
“She really was my mom,” Lee said. “When I had breast cancer, she stayed with me during all my chemotherapy treatments. Even when I said, ‘Oh, I’ll be fine,’ she went anyway. Afterward, she made certain I had something to eat and then she’d make dinner for my family.”
Mitzi gardened — she especially loved roses — cared for her three dogs (Maggie, Dolly and Buck) as well as any helpless baby bird or stray pet people abandoned near the farm. Mitzi also helped Mike with farm chores, including driving a tractor and sheep shearing.
“She called it sheep wrestling,” Julie said.
To feature someone in “An Extraordinary Life,” contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-467-5249 or