Margaret Eyre, mother of Rich Eyre, dies at 97

By Sara Malone in News, People, and Obituaries
Margaret Sandner Eyre, 1918 -2016
Margaret Sandner Eyre, 1918 -2016

Margaret Sandner Eyre was born May 9, 1918, at the corner of Lawrence and Mannheim Roads on a tomato and onion farm. The farm was owned by Mr. Busse and farmed by her parents Ed and Elisabeth Sandner, Austrian immigrants who arrived before World War I. They farmed for a half share of the crops. In the late 1920's, the Sandners moved to Elmhurst and started a rooming house. Margaret attended Immaculate Conception grammar school and was inducted into the National Honor Society at York High School. Upon her graduation in 1936, she attended Gregg Business College. Her first job was working for the Donnelley Publishing Company and later she became the office manager for Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in Elmhurst.

In 1943 Margaret met her husband Leonard W Eyre, a cowboy from Wyoming who was stationed at Navy Pier in Chicago during World War II. Margaret first encountered Leonard at the USO where she liked to dance with the sailors. She was not supposed to date them! They were married later that year in Norfolk, Virginia. At the end of World War II, they moved back to Elmhurst for the birth of their only child Richard in February 1946. Margaret is survived by her son and his wife, Richard and Susan Eyre, many cousins, nieces, nephews and an army of friends and customers.

Margaret and Leonard ran a successful general contracting business. Both of them became licensed real estate brokers. They were honored with recognition and publicity about the beautiful homes they built in LaGrange, Western Springs, Hinsdale and Burr Ridge.

In 1970, they moved to Woodstock and started a small rental business that has continued for 45 years. In Woodstock, Margaret was a member of the Mother's Club, membership secretary of the Fine Arts club at the Opera House and was a volunteer at the Woodstock Hospital until computers became part of the job. Margaret and her friend Donna Strain became the first female elks (not does) at the Elks Club in Woodstock.

Starting in 1988, Margaret became active in her son's business, Rich's Foxwillow Pines Nursery. Her specialty was hostas and she propagated the plants and sold them for Heifer International. She raised at least $500,000 for world hunger, allowing Heifer to buy farm animals for people around the world with the agreement that those famers would give what they received and pass on the gift to others in their community. Some of those funds were donated to Heifer International Foundation, where the funds remain in perpetuity and the interest is given to projects in Ghana, Mozambique, Rwanda, Haiti, and Bolivia. Margaret received a Gift Ark Award in 2004 for her Hosta Happening Sales and the Heifer Certificate of Service Award in 2010. Margaret had an army of volunteers to help her in the hosta patch and she had her own regular customers who came to purchase her hosta varieties. Margaret was known as the 'Hosta Queen'. Margaret was thrilled when Tom Michiletti, former president of the American Hosta Society, hybridized a hosta and named it 'Margaret Eyre'. She worked every day at the nursery until she was 93 years old. After a series of mishaps and broken hips, Margaret spent her last years at Valley Hi Rehab and Nursing Center in Woodstock. Although her motor skills became compromised, she still loved to share a glass of wine or brandy with friends and family on holidays.

On December 21, 2015, with admiration and recognition, Mano a Mano International presented Margaret with a plaque for a school in Sora Sora, Bolivia, dedicated in her honor for her years of work on behalf of the people of Bolivia. This school will be completed by April 2016.

In lieu of flowers, contributions in honor of Margaret Eyre can be made to Mano a Mano International (925 Butler Pierce Rte, (St Paul MN 55104) or Heifer International Foundation-Bolivia Endowment (1 World Ave, Little Rock IL 72202).

Funeral Arrangements at St Mary's Catholic Church Saturday, January 16, 2016 312 Lincoln Avenue Woodstock IL 60098 Visitation with family 9am-11am Conway Center in the Church Funeral Mass 11 am