As a photojournalist and reporter, first for The Star newspapers and more recently the Daily Southtown, Mary Compton “loved giving a voice to people who didn’t have a voice, people who were struggling,” her daughter Rebekah Crane said Friday.
Compton died of ovarian cancer Dec. 24 at her Country Club Hills home, four days after her 64th birthday, Crane said.
Visitation will begin at 10:30 a.m. Monday at Trinity Lutheran Church, 6850 W. 159th St., Tinley Park, followed by a funeral service at noon.
Compton is also survived by another daughter, Angelica; two sons, David and John; five grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.
Crane said her mom had spent more than 30 years as a photographer and studied photography at Prairie State College in Chicago Heights. Compton grew up in Worth and attended Richards High School in Oak Lawn.
“She always had a natural passion for photography,” said Crane, who is a sophomore in college studying psychology.
Crane said when she was younger, she would accompany her mom to assignments at churches and libraries.
“People were just drawn to her,” she said.
She said her mother was diagnosed in February 2020 and began receiving treatment a few weeks later. Compton had been in and out of the hospital, with chemotherapy halted a month before she entered hospice care the first week of December, Crane said.
She said that she, along with her brother David, were providing regular care for their mother.
Compton combined her talent as a photographer and skills as an interviewer and writer in numerous stories.
Compton interviewed a Markham woman, Lanetha Guider, whose 4-month-old daughter was severely injured after the vehicle Guider was driving was rear-ended in the summer of 2020 while stopped in traffic on the Tri-State Tollway.
Her daughter was on life support, and tests showed there was no brain activity, leading Guider to decide to take her off life support.
“A nurse asked me about organ donation. I didn’t know what to think,” Guider told Compton in an April 2021 article. “Later, someone from Gift of Hope came and spoke to me, they explained how the process works.”
She said that in two days, Gift of Hope found recipients for Ra’Nya’s heart, kidneys and lungs.
Just before Christmas last year, Compton wrote about Verna Furbeck, a Blue Island resident who has volunteered as a Salvation Army bell ringer for a half-century, and this past May, Compton told readers about the Bremen Township Senior Cafe, which had recently reopened after a two-year pandemic hiatus.
Compton talked with Pam White, whose husband was a driver for the township’s Senior Wheels program until his passing in 2021. White began volunteering for the senior cafe in Oak Forest.
”My husband used to pick up the seniors to come and eat here,” White told Compton. “He loved his job so much that he convinced me to come over and help.”
Paul Eisenberg, a Daily Southtown editor, said he worked with Compton for more than 20 years, initially when she would photograph stories he was assigned to write for the Star and more recently as her editor.
“Mary was incredibly talented, but what she brought most prominently to her work was a compassionate eye that reflected in both her photos and her writing,” Eisenberg said. “She treated everyone with empathy, be it with her camera or in interviews, fostering trust that her subjects knew she would never betray.”
“She was a south suburban treasure,” he said.
Eisenberg said of Compton’s more recent stories, his favorite was about a group of women, who call themselves the Bunco Babes, who have gathered regularly to play the dice game.
In 1967, the women began meeting at Rosemary Schroader’s Mokena home, and the tradition has continued ever since, Compton wrote in September.
Members of the group told Compton the monthly gathering is more than just fun and socializing.
“The first Tuesday of the month is bunco, and the only reason to miss bunco is you’re on your deathbed or you’re having an affair,” said JoAnn Stellwagen, of New Lenox. Fellow Bunco Babe Carol Podkulski recalled wrapping up a game one night before heading to the hospital to give birth to her daughter.
”We take bunco seriously,” Podkulski told Compton. “You don’t miss.”
“It made me want to join, and I’ve never played, because Mary painted such an excellent picture of the impact of long friendships,” Eisenberg said of the story.
Crane said she always received “the most amazing, caring, unconditional love” from her mother.
She said her mother taught her and her siblings “to give and have a big heart.”
“She truly was a living saint,” Crane said.