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Alan P. Henry, Freelance Reporter
5:00 am CDT June 7, 2019

By many accounts, Katherine White Radler had the smarts and take charge leadership skills of a corporate CEO. She chose, however, to harness those strengths on behalf of a greater purpose: family, faith and community.

“She was there for everybody,” said friend and neighbor Paula Zimmerman of Radler, who died May 29 at age 50. 

Zimmerman was one of more than 1,000 people hailing from every part of Radler’s life who paid their last respects to the longtime Winnetka resident during visitation at Donnellan Family Funeral Services in Skokie.

Radler grew up attending St. John Fisher School and Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School before working toward a bachelors degree in English at Northwestern University, where she was a member of Alpha Phi sorority. Sorority sister Dewi Rainey remembered Radler as a “well liked and respected” woman graced with a “beautiful and ready smile.”

While at Northwestern, Radler spent several summers as head of lifeguards at Ridge Country Club in Beverly and left a lasting impression on club swimming pool manager Jim Tracy, who had not seen her in 30 years. 

“She was an amazing person, so positive,” Tracy said. “She took care of the kids, she helped coach the swim team. Everything about her was just upbeat. She was in charge, but in a sweet kind way.”

After college, Radler worked briefly in sales for a pharmaceutical company. In 1996, she married James Radler, whom she met at NU. Shortly thereafter, they moved to Winnetka and began raising a family.

“She was a driving force in her family and she raised three incredible children,” said Lolly Roberts, her husband’s step-sister. “She ran her household and got everything straight in line.”

Radler’s father Eugene recognized her ability to focus on the task at hand early on. 

“She had her act together as a teenager, she had her act together in college, and she had her act together a mother. When things had to be done they were done,” he said. “The kids came first. She took care of Jim, too.”

As the children began growing up, she became more any more engaged in the schools and the community. 

“She was a huge proponent for her children and she was a wonderful women,” Sears elementary school teacher Judy Conaghan said. 

When her daughter Claire enrolled at Regina, Radler stepped up her volunteer activities, serving as lead chairwoman of the student raffle for three years, raising thousands of dollars for the school. She also served on the Black and White Dinner Auction Committee and played an active role in the Parent Mentor Group, Booster Club and the Mothers’ Club. In addition, she worked at the book store for the four years Claire was there and then an additional four years after that.

“Completely volunteer service for eight years: it was remarkable what she did,” said Regina administrator Pat McDonell.

In 2015, Radler received the Saint Martin De Porres Award for her outstanding service to Regina Dominican High School. 

“Katherine truly understands how important it is for parents to become actively involved in the school community,” said Sister Mary Margaret Pachucki, president of Regina Dominican at the time. “She brings an enthusiastic, creative, joyful and reliable spirit to everything she does for our school community.”

Upon accepting the award, Radler said: “I believe in a female-centered school where girls can be themselves and learn their strengths in today’s world. Regina is a place where this happens.”

Outside of school, she volunteered with The Alumnae of Northwestern University Alumnae Club. She also loved to read, a passion she passed down to her children, and formed a book club. Most recently, she shared her love of books as a volunteer at the Northfield-Winnetka library.

Her nonstop energy was apparent in her neighborhood, as well. She organized a hot chocolate table for the children and the crossing guards, put together the annual Easter egg hunt, and got the invitations out and collected the money for the annual block party.

“She was a natural-born organizer and has been an important part of so many organizations,” Zimmerman said. “And she was the person who always stopped her car to have a word with you, who always had time for everybody.”

Radler is survived by her husband, James, daughter Claire, son Peter, and daughter Charlotte. She is also survived by her mother Patricia, father Eugene, brother Eugene White Jr., sister Peg, sister-in-law Jennifer, and nieces Tara, Lucy, Maeve, MaryTherese, and Edie.