Life Story / Obituary
Maryrita Peters was born Oct. 13, 1943 in St. Bernard’s Hospital, Chicago, IL, to Florence and John W. Doran. (A birth-certificate clerical error naming her Mary Rose was overruled at baptism.) Florence and John -- both native Chicagoans from different neighborhoods who earlier knew each other through mutual friends -- met again at a gathering of “Harp”, a singles social group in the 1930s. John was executive secretary to the chairman of People’s Gas Co., and Florence worked as a switchboard operator for Illinois Bell Telephone Co. They married in 1937 and soon made their home at 9615 S. Claremont Avenue -- an area colloquially known as Christ The King Parish -- in the predominantly Irish south-side neighborhood of Beverly.
There, Maryrita grew up with two brothers, John W, Jr. (who died in childhood) and Philip A., who died in 2020 at age 79 in retirement from a successful legal career. Her father, having earlier survived one of the first open-heart surgeries on record, ultimately succumbed to lifelong rheumatic fever at the age of 54 in 1961...the year Maryrita graduated from Chicago’s Mother McAuley High School.
She went on to earn her Bachelor of Science in Speech degree from Milwaukee’s Jesuit Marquette University in 1965, then attended The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she gained her Master of Science in Speech and Audiology in 1967. After graduating from U of M, she served the Chicago Public School System working with special needs students, and in 1968 joined the Illinois State Pediatric Institute’s West Side Medical Center in Chicago.
Early in 1968 she met and fell in love with John Peters, a Slovak lad from Calumet City on Chicago’s south-suburban fringe, who had recently left General Motors’ corporate public relations staff in Detroit to enter the world of Chicago PR agencies. Fate had brought them to take apartments on opposite corners of Dearborn & Goethe in Chicago’s “Near-North”, and to separately attend a church-sponsored Valentine dance at a neighborhood social club. Coincidence?
They married in October of that year, and after honeymooning in Ireland meeting Doran family relatives at their ancestral farm there, returned to an apartment in Chicago’s Rogers Park community, where they began their family formation with the birth of daughter Kirstin. Anticipating a bigger future family, they bought an old “handyman special” house at the corner of Michigan & Keeney in Evanston, IL in 1970. The house initially seemed too big, but during the ensuing decade, the family grew into it with the addition of daughter Allison in 1974 and son Jeremy in 1977. It ultimately became John’s 35-year D-I-Y remodeling project, upgrading unused rooms as kids arrived and keeping up with repairs, while trying to be as much of a Dad as Maryrita was a Mom.
While John dealt with the house and pursued his public relations career, Maryrita juggled the demands of career and motherhood, working between maternity leaves with Chicago’s West Suburban Early Intervention Program for special-needs students until becoming a pediatric speech pathologist with Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital around 1980. In 2000, she opened a private practice in Skokie, IL, closer to home.
Having brought their kids through college and into adult life, Maryrita and John retired simultaneously in 2005, sold their Evanston home, and moved to Saugatuck, MI, into a house and small-beachtown environment much better suited to the less-frenetic lifestyle they both desired. Already fond of the village from occasional weekend vacation getaways, both sought to integrate with its community by volunteering to help promote its vacation/tourism economy.
They joined Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society (now History Center), and Maryrita served as docent at its Saugatuck History Museum, guided village tours, co-chaired the Historical Society’s 2007 Heritage Festival, and helped the S-D Garden Club decorate both towns with summertime planters and Christmas decorations (ultimately becoming SDGC Co-President). An avid reader, she played an active role in the community’s Friends of the Library, and joined a local book club while keeping up with one created among her Evanston-neighbor Moms in the 1970s.
Meanwhile, John applied his PR skills to publicizing Historical Society programs, Museum, Heritage Festivals and its redevelopment of The Old School House -- a Civil War era Union School in Douglas — into a community heritage center. He also took up singing with the area’s Barbershop Harmony Society chapter (Holland Windmill Chorus) and BHS’s Great Lakes Harmony Brigade, later also joined Saugatuck’s Lakeshore Community Chorus.
With married daughters Kirstin and Allison living in Wisconsin and Illinois, their Saugatuck home provided a fun weekending destination for a family expanding with grandchildren. Son Jeremy, initially a teacher with the Chicago Public School System, remained single and migrated to other career interests in various places around the country, but often returned to sail in Chicago’s annual Mac race. He now resides in North Carolina.
Enjoying their retirement, Maryrita and John relished gardening, kayaking the nearby Kalamazoo River and wetlands, exploring the area’s rural backroads and Lake Michigan dunelands on bicycles and motor scooters, and car trips to similar places around the Michigan-Wisconsin shoreline. They also enjoyed traveling to U.K., European, Mediterranean and Caribbean countries as well as far-flung U.S., Canadian and Mesoamerican destinations, celebrating their 40th anniversary with a return trip to Ireland, and most recently their 53rd with their first stay at Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Florence and John Doran, two brothers, John Jr. and Philip Doran, and nephew, Philip Doran Jr. also of Chicago, and is survived by her husband of 54 years, John, their daughters Kirstin Dunlop (James) of Milwaukee, WI, and Allison Quinn (Colm) of Western Springs, IL, son Jeremy Peters of Candler, NC, and six grandchildren: Malcolm, Gillian, Cooper and Lilah Dunlop, and Violet and Christian Quinn.
Also surviving are her sister-in-law Mary Irene Doran (Philip) of Chicago, nieces Margaret Pezza (Jeff) of Evanston, IL, Elizabeth Sheedy (Patrick) of Wilmette, IL, and nephews John Doran (Jennifer) and Ned Doran, both of Chicago. Surviving husband’s family comprises sister-in-law Audrey Egler (Jack, deceased) and niece Amy Genis (Bob), both of Rockford, IL, niece Dawn Sandberg (Bob) of Superior, MT, and nephew Scott Egler (Lauren) of Elgin, IL.
Having chosen cremation, she declined a wake and visitation; her funeral mass was held onThursday, March 31 at 11am in St. Peter’s Catholic Church, 100 St. Peters Drive in Douglas.
Contributions honoring her memory may be sent to Saugatuck-Douglas Garden Club, Saugatuck-Douglas History Center, Saugatuck Women’s Club or Saugatuck- Douglas District Library.