Matriarch of family of 19 dies at 85

ELBURN – The second marriage of Jack Richtman and Mary Perkins-Richtman, was a “yours and mine” arrangement, blending 19 children into one big family.

“But there was no ‘ours,’ ” her husband, Jack Richtman, said of their 1979 marriage, bringing Mary’s seven children and Richtman’s 12 children together.

But because of their age range, no more than six actually lived together in Aurora before moving to Elburn, said Julie Feuerborn, one of Mary’s stepdaughters, as the older ones were in college or on their own by then.

The oldest was born in 1948, the youngest in 1969, Feuerborn said.

“She was one of the most kindhearted people you would ever want to meet, warm and generous could not say enough nice things about her,” Feuerborn said of her stepmother. “To be a part of a blended family this big as adults who become brothers and sisters, I don’t know that it could work much better.”

Mary of Elburn, died Monday at age 85 of a sudden and aggressive cancer, her husband said. 

“She was a cancer survivor. She had cancer in 1966 when she had a hysterectomy,” Richtman said. “All those years, and now the cancer showed up [again]. I’m one of these guys – I’m sad, but not upset she passed. I would have hated to see her suffer.”

Mary had eight children with her first husband, John Perkins.

One daughter, Lori, died at age 7 and was buried in her Communion dress, Richtman said. 

And while Mary was one of 10 children, Jack and his first wife both were “only” children, and that is why they had a dozen children. 

“We wanted a family,” Richtman said.

After his first wife died, Richtman said he moved from Minnesota with his children to the Fox Valley to work at the former Swift Foods – now ConAgra – in St. Charles as a chemist in quality assurance.

And then he met Mary.

“Our first time together, we talked about the kids,” he said. “We both had daughters born in 1948.”

Mary did not have hobbies, but she was involved in other things, Richtman said. When all the children were in school, Mary worked at Brown’s Flowers for 20 years until 1993, when she retired. Then she volunteered at Delnor Hospital in Geneva until 2009.

“The only reason she quit at Delnor was bad knees,” Richtman said. “She was a messenger, and that’s a lot of walking, taking around test results and mail.”

They thrived, Richtman said, and their blended family has produced 52 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.

“As a whole, it was a beautiful arrangement,” Jack said. “I’ve never seen any of these kids fighting. They might disagree but never fight.”

A funeral Mass for Mary Perkins-Richtman will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. Friday at St. Katharine Drexel Church, 8S055 Dugan Road, Sugar Grove.