Sharon J. Vihnanek

–  10/24/2014


Sharon J. Vihnanek, of Lombard, died Friday, October 24, 2014. She was 73. Born October 10, 1941 in Chicago, Sharon was the only child of Edwin and Harriet Lippert.

Sharon had a full plate of friendships wherever she went, ranging from “grandneighbors” on her street to her Pool Pals at the Lombard pool to her last “audience”, the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Medical Intensive Care Unit staff.

Sharon could not wait for her daughters to produce grandchildren and, when they did, she adored them enormously and spoiled them whenever their parents weren’t looking (and sometimes when they were). Her grandchildren thought she was hilarious and welcomed her goofy greeting cards, which often contained a little “fun money” and a “shhhhhhh” to keep it quiet. She was a loyal Ram for her grandsons Jack and Sam, despite having raised two daughters who carried the Warrior flag. She loved to hear about the grandkid’s experiences as they grew up and started to make their mark on a world- a mark she believed would be as indelible as the one they’d already made on her heart.

Life became tough after her first husband and daughters’ father died suddenly, leaving her to raise her daughters alone. She went back to work full-time, provided for her daughters and made some new friends. One of those friends was Brian Vihnanek, a colleague at Northern Illinois Gas with twinkling blue eyes and an endless repertoire of jokes. He’d prove to be her second chance at happiness when they eloped to Hawaii in 1987, surprising no one who knew them. They had 27 years of traveling, Friday night pizza dates at Aurelio’s and a regular push and pull over whether there should be more flowers or vegetables in their garden. (Her flowers won.) They enjoyed immensely their early retirement and the many friendships they were able to cultivate along the way.

Sharon took her iPad seriously, getting on Facebook and reconnecting with friends from her Steinmetz High School days as well as the new ones she was ever collecting.

She loved candy, worried too much and never thought twice about another pair of shoes. Her dog, Nudge, provided entertainment that always made her smile, even as she complained about the price of designer dog biscuits he earned.

The children on her street-her “grand neighbors” – kept her young and provided her with much company over the years. She loved to plot surprises for their birthdays and special events, sneaking into their front yards at night to decorate a tree to commemorate their big moments.

Redecorating was a major pastime, maybe even a sport, as Sharon regularly changed decor in her home. Her love of craft shows helped along this passion and helped provide new additions to all her holiday decorations. She aggressively decorated for Christmas in particular, with the tree going up no later than the day after Thanksgiving. There was not a holiday for which she didn’t have appropriate and abundant decor, except maybe Casimir Pulaksi Day. Had she been polish, this would have been remedied. Craft shows also provided her wardrobe of bedazzled sweatshirts, many of which flaunted her grandparent status.

Before her recent illness, Sharon had survived breast cancer and recently noted she’d already lived, even at her young age, longer than any female in her family.

Her family and friends will miss her attitude, generosity and ability to remember everthing-literally-that ever happened in our lives.

Sharon is survived by her beloved husband, Brian Vihnanek; daughters Lori (Bob) Sarocka of Lombard and Kimberly Lenz (Matt Poelker) of Yorktown, Va.; grandchildren, Jack and Sam Sarocka and Zack, Geneva and Max Poelker, and her canine son, Nudge Rosebud. She was preceded in death by her first husband and daughters’ fathers, Norman P. Lenz, as well as her parents.

The family will receive friends from 3 to 8 pm Tuesday, October 28 at Steurle Funeral Home, 350 S. Ardmore Avenue, Villa Park. A funeral mass will follow at 10:30 am Wednesday, October 29 at St. Pius X Catholic Church, 1025 E. Madison St., Lombard. A memorial service and inurnment will be scheduled for a later date.

While Sharon loved flowers, those inclined to send them are encouraged to remember her instead with an act of kindness toward someone who may not expect it, a contribution to their favorite charity or to the American Heart Association, or both.

Special thanks go to her neighbors who helped keep her spirits high (and knowledge current); the amazing and compassionate care she received from Dr. Michael Cuttica, his nurse David and everyone else at the Northwestern Pulmonary team, and the good-humored nurses, respiratory therapists and physician team at the Northwestern Medical Intensive Care Unit.

For additional information, please call Steuerle Funeral Home at 1-630-832-4161



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