Gayle Coonen passed away on August 7th, 2023, with family by her side. She passed after fighting a two-year battle with illness.
A longtime resident of Crystal Lake, Illinois, she lived most recently at a senior care home in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
She loved her family and enjoyed deep conversation with friends. She cherished being a high school teacher, where her quick wit and sharp sense of humor captured the imagination of many students, who fell in love with foreign language, thanks in part to her teaching style. A fiercely competitive tennis player, she never let anyone win, no matter what their skill level (except for her husband, Garey).
She and Garey played piano for hours on end, filling the house with music that stirred the emotions – from Scott Joplin and Claire De Lune to Dave Brubeck, and more.
Gayle was born October 24, 1938, in Centerville, Ohio to parents Chester & Martha Hibberd. She attended high school in Centerville, where she excelled in academics.
As a young woman, Gayle enjoyed horseback riding and sports. She worked for her father, Chester Hibberd, a building contractor who built many homes and commercial buildings throughout central Ohio, prior to and during the World War II housing boom.
A notable project she worked on was the construction of a medical office building in Centerville, designed by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. She worked summers at Bowling Green State University for her uncle Glenn, who was Dean of Students.
Gayle attended DePauw University, in Greencastle, Indiana, where she was a member of Tri Delta Sorority. She graduated with honors in 1960, with a BA in French.
On December 27, 1960, she married her college sweetheart, Garey Coonen. They first settled in Mount Prospect, Illinois, where she worked for Prospect High School, Forest View & Arlington High Schools, teaching both Spanish and French.
Soon, they moved to Springfield, Illinois, following her husband’s career with a growing computer company called IBM. In 1964, she gave birth to twin boys, Doug and John. The family soon moved to Arlington Heights, Illinois, and in1968, she gave birth to their third son, Tom. She stayed home to raise her three boys. She was active in many organizations in Arlington Heights, including Newcomers (a past President), Indian Guides & Scouting. She also volunteered on political campaigns, including the campaign to elect then freshman US Senator, Phil Crane.
In 1976, She and Garey moved to Crystal Lake, Illinois, where, having deep experience in building, she oversaw construction of their newly built “dream home.” She worked hand in hand with the builders. Gayle kept the project on-track and moving forward, while making many customizations along the way. Her insights on the building trade kept the whole construction crew on their toes!
In 1979, she returned to her love of teaching foreign language. She taught French and Spanish at Crystal Lake Central High School and Crystal Lake South High School. She was a caregiver for many:
• She personally cared for her mother, her father, and her mother-in-law, through each of
their respective challenges with failing health;
• After two of her sons suffered traumatic injuries, she helped them back to good health;
• she cared for her loving husband, who suffered from illness for many years;
• and finally, in 2010, they moved to Bowling Green Ohio to provide daily care for her
aunt, until Gayle herself began to suffer from illness in 2021.
Gayle moved back near her hometown area to be close to her sons during her final years.
Gayle is survived by her three loving sons: Doug Coonen of Richmond, IL; John (Linda) Coonen of Broomfield, CO; and Thomas (Chell) Coonen of Schaumburg, IL. She is also survived by three Grandchildren: Douglas Coonen of Crystal Lake, IL; Andrew (Julie) Coonen of Ventura, CA; and Alyssa (Josh) Miller of Thornton CO, as well as seven great-grandchildren. Also surviving are her sister Barbara Podlach of Bedford, NY, sister-in-law Suzanne Coonen, of Charlotte, NC; nieces Rosemary (Paul) Lewis of South Carolina, and Susan (Paul) Aguilar, of St. Charles, IL, Betsy Podlach & Lauren (Mark) Stanich, of NY.
Preceding Gayle in her death are her husband Garey, her father and mother Chester & Martha Hibberd, her brother-in-law Stan Podlach of Bedford, NY, brother-in-law Richard Coonen of Charlotte, NC; brother- and sister in-law Howard & Mary Coonen of Naperville, IL; brother- and sister-in-law Ted & Mary Ellen Hogarth of Denton, TX, and her uncle & aunt Glenn & Ruth Van Wormer, of Bowling Green, Ohio.
Memorial contributions may be directed to the charity of your choice. A memorial service for Gayle and her husband, Garey will be announced, to be held in Garey’s hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. Arrangements are being handled by Proko Funeral Home, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.