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Mary Ellen Van Buskirk

September 30, 1935 July 4, 2022
Mary Ellen Van Buskirk
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Obituary for Mary Ellen Van Buskirk
A Life Lived in Color
*Loyal and Energetic Wife, Mother, Sister & Friend
*Committed Community Member
*Local Business Owner

Mary Ellen Carry Van Buskirk, age 86, who lived her life with gusto and color, passed away on Monday, July 4, 2022 at Lutheran Hillside Village in Peoria.
Born in Brooklyn, New York on September 30, 1935, the daughter of Eleanor and William Carry, she will always be remembered for her outgoing nature, her genuine interest in others and her passionate involvement in the Peoria community. With her vibrant charm, natural gift for verbal communication and colorful fashion sense, she made friends wherever she went.
After graduating from Valley Stream Central High School in Valley Stream, NY in 1953, she majored in Home Economics at Purdue University where she met the love of her life, Daniel Van Buskirk. After marrying in June of 1957, Mary Ellen and Dan moved to the Peoria area where she remained a popular and memorable resident for the rest of her life. Prior to Dan’s death in 1992, they raised four children, owned local businesses, and joyfully entertained for both fun and charity. (Their legendary lobster broils raised money for a number of local community organizations.) They enjoyed a robust social life and when they weren’t loading up their Purdue van with food and friends to go to West Lafayette, they were embarking on island-hopping sailing trips with a close circle of pals.
Mary Ellen is the mother of Patricia (Steven) Madsen, Margaret Van Buskirk, Daniel (Jamie) Van Buskirk and Virginia (James) Mather. She is the grandmother of William Mather, Samuel Mather, Daniel Van Buskirk III, Elizabeth Mather, Natalie Heun, Andrew Van Buskirk, Benjamin Van Buskirk and Henry Heun. She is survived by her siblings Patricia C. Stewart, William Carry, Peter Carry and their families.
As a tireless community leader, volunteer and fund-raiser, she served on boards and committees for the OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois, Pediatric Resource Center, St. Francis Medical Center Foundation Council, Buffalo Prairie Gang Camp Foundation, Diocesan Board of Education, Father Sweeney School, Academy of our Lady/Spalding Institute High School, St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, and many other non-profit organizations that supported children & families, education, the arts, and the betterment of the Peoria community. Mary Ellen was the first woman to be board president of both the OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois and St. Francis Medical Center Foundation Council. Wherever she served, she is remembered for her energy, organizational skills and can-do attitude. Her life-long loyalty to Purdue University and Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority included numerous boards, councils and committee positions.
Professionally, Mary Ellen showcased her natural talent for creating beautiful homes through her interior design firm, Brunswick House Interiors from 1992 to 2015. Prior to that, she imprinted her classic, colorful fashion style onto the Peoria community with her store The Whale, a co-ed prep shop in Junction City, from 1980 to 1985.
Through her years of devoted commitment to the Peoria community and Purdue University, Mary Ellen received numerous awards, including: Distinguished Alumna of the School of Consumer and Family Sciences at Purdue University in 1996; YWCA Volunteer of the Year award in 2001; Honorary Chair Family for Children’s Miracle Network/Children’s Hospital of Illinois Telethon in 2007; Kiwanis Club of Peoria Citizen of the Year in 2013. Her community service and interior design work received acknowledgement in a number of publications and books: Woman’s Day, Peoria Journal Star, Peoria Times-Observer, Peoria Woman, The Key of Kappa Kappa Gamma, Blue & White Rooms and The Tailgater’s Handbook.
Visitation will be held on Thursday, July 14, 2022 between the hours of 4 and 6 p.m. at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Peoria. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Friday, July 15, 2022 at 10 a.m. the church. To honor Mary Ellen’s love of color, her family will be wearing blue (and happy colors) to both services and those attending are encouraged to wear a cheerful color of their choice.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois (c/o OSF Healthcare Foundation, 530 N.E. Glen Oak Ave, Peoria, IL 61637) or St. Thomas Church Food Pantry (c/o Diana Janda, 904 East Lake Ave, Peoria, IL 61616)
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4:00 PM 7/14/2022 4:00:00 PM - 6:00 PM 7/14/2022 6:00:00 PM
St. Thomas Catholic Church

904 E Lake Ave
Peoria Heights, IL 61616

St. Thomas Catholic Church
904 E Lake Ave Peoria Heights 61616 IL
United States

Funeral Mass




10:00 AM 7/15/2022 10:00:00 AM
St. Thomas Catholic Church

904 E Lake Ave
Peoria Heights, IL 61616

St. Thomas Catholic Church
904 E Lake Ave Peoria Heights 61616 IL
United States

Cemetery Details


Resurrection Cemetery & Mausoleum Final Resting Place

7519 N Allen Rd
Peoria, IL 61614

7519 N Allen Rd Peoria 61614 IL
United States

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