Karen Louise Ryan


Karen Louise Ryan, 68, of Naperville (formerly of Byron) passed away peacefully on Sunday, May 5, 2019, at her home with her family by her side. Karen was born April 4, 1951 in Chicago, the daughter of Robert and Matilda Rusteberg. She married the late Michael C. Ryan on Aug. 11, 1973 at her parent’s home in Park Ridge, Ill.

She is the beloved Mom of Sara (Brady) DeNio and Garrett Ryan; Adored grandma of Jameson and Piper DeNio and August and Austin Ryan; Dearest sister of Wendy (Dennis) Dusek, Bob (Joann) Rusteberg, Jim (Kim) Rusteberg, and Susan Bayuk; Cherished sister-in-law of Patrice (Julie Terry) Ryan, Cathy (Tom) Ryan, Kevin (Monique) Ryan, and Jesse Ryan; and, a dear aunt of many nieces and nephews.

A beautiful person – inside and out – she always found beauty in life’s simplest treasures. She had a quiet strength and peaceful spirit that resonated with everyone who had the pleasure of knowing her. She had a remarkable way of living in the present, always finding the good in people, as well as life’s challenges. 

Karen enjoyed trips with her family to go skiing out West and to any place that was warm and beautiful. She loved listening to ‘nice’ music and enjoying delicious food. She was an expert seamstress, craft maker, and exceptional party planner. In their younger years, Karen and Michael enjoyed many shared hobbies, including making stained glass windows, racquetball, playing card games, and dancing together. 

From the time Karen was young, she had a passion for learning and working with children. This evolved into a life-long career in education. Karen attended Bateman Elementary School in Chicago through eighth grade. She then attended Roosevelt High School in Chicago for ninth grade, where she made Junior Varsity cheerleader. When her family moved to the suburbs, she transferred to Maine South High School in Park Ridge, where she completed the remainder of her high school years. She attended Northern Illinois University (NIU) in DeKalb, and was actively involved in her sorority, Alpha Delta Pi, and continued on as an alumni advisor after college. She earned her B.S. in Education with a focus on Special Education and Visual Impairment, and later, her M.S. in Education with a focus on Special Education.

She began her career in Valparaiso, Ind., working with preschool-aged children with visual impairments. She returned to DeKalb to work as a teacher for children with autism. This led to her work with Project Advocate, where she served as the Assistant Director of a program for students with behavior and communication challenges. She went on to work for the DeKalb County Special Education Association where she supervised the Early Childhood and Behavior Disorder program and coordinated special education services. In 1986, she joined the Rockford School District as the Supervisor of Special Education. From there, she became an Assistant Principal at Washington Elementary, and then, the Principal for grades K-3 at White Swan Elementary, both in Rockford. Her career culminated in Byron, where she served as the Principal for grades 3-5 at Mary Morgan Elementary School. She held this position for 12 years until she retired in 2006. As the first female administrator in the district’s history, she pioneered the way for other women to step into leadership roles. She was loved by staff, students, and the community. 

In lieu of flowers and to honor Karen’s uplifting spirit, courageous attitude, perseverance, and above all else, grace, while she struggled for 24 years with the effects of her brain tumor, memorials may be made to: American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA), https://www.abta.org/ or Angels Grace Hospice, https://www.angelsgracehospice.com/donate/.

A celebration of Karen’s life will be held on Thursday, May 23 at Friedrich-Jones Funeral Home & Cremation Services, 44 S. Mill St., Naperville, IL 60540. Memorial visitation will be from 2-3:30 p.m., followed by a memorial service at 4 p.m. For more information, please call 630-355-0213 or visit www.friedrich-jones.com.