In Memory of Lynn M. Kocal, Wife, Mother, Grandmother and Friend to Carroll County
BY TOM KOCAL
On behalf of my family, I wish to thank all of our loyal online readers and advertisers for your patience and understanding these past 3 months. The day-to-day operations of this 9-month-old website were suspended in November, due to the illness and eventual death of its creator, Lynn Kocal.
Lynn Marie Barnett Kocal, 63, passed peacefully into the Hands of God on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018, at her Lanark home, surrounded by her family.
Yes, my family and I are grieving. But life goes on — as will RiverReader.org. Lynn wanted it that way. Her determination to succeed at whatever she did was never more apparent than during the developmental stages and implementation process of RiverReader. We will continue this family business — just the way she wanted us to.
Lynn was born April 1, 1954 to Gene Barnett and Ann Lachman Barnett, in Hinsdale. She was a 1972 graduate of Lyons Township High School in LaGrange, and attended North Central College in Naperville, where we met in the fall of 1972.
We were married on Nov. 17, 1973 in LaGrange, and lived in North Chicago before moving to Lanark in 1974 to learn about the printing business from my grandparents, Norman and Florence Hoffman, owners of The Advertiser.
We bought the shopper’s guide and printing business in April 1975, and grew the business for 10 years before converting the paper to a newspaper in 1985, changing the name to The Prairie Advocate.
We sold the business in Jan. 2014. After a brief attempt at hydroponic gardening, Lynn developed the concept for an online “newspaper without the paper,” and in April 2017, RiverReader.org was born.
“She was the glue for your family and the Prairie Advocate – and most of the time the only voice of reason when the outrageously creative ideas flew around!” said family friend and former employee Kathleen Weber of Lanark. “She was a huge proponent and activist for the Lanark community and the ‘prairie’ area called Carroll County.
“While she listened to her opponent’s opinion and reasoning, she stood firm on her beliefs and convictions. And most of all, Lynn would ‘mother’ the people who crossed her path when they needed it most.”
That’s exactly what RiverReader.org was in the early stages: an “outrageously creative idea.” And Lynn made it work with her strong belief and conviction that the time was right for something new in local media.
In a brief 7-month span, Carroll County’s new medium had grown in leaps and bounds under her guidance. But, as we all know too well, our plans don’t always match God’s plans.
In the 40 years of owning and operating 3 businesses, we had never taken a vacation for more than 5 days. We took our public roles seriously – maybe too seriously. But we decided to take a 2-week road trip in October to visit our son in Las Vegas and Lynn’s Mom and sisters in Arizona — and see some of the most beautiful scenery in the world on the way.
On our way home, Lynn was the happiest I’d seen her in a long time, but not feeling well. She thanked me for taking her (I drove the whole 5,000 miles!).
“We may not get the chance to do this ever again,” she said. Little did we realize how prophetic her statement was.
Lynn was diagnosed with stage 4 adenocarcinoma non-small cell lung cancer the first week of November. Three hospital visits and 2 chemotherapy sessions later, her strength and determination to beat the illness was countered by the extremely rapid progression of the disease. She passed peacefully at home on Jan. 6, surrounded by the people she loved most in this world.
Lynn is survived by her children Sarah Hanviriyapunt and husband Robert of Lanark, co-founders of RiverReader; Michael D. Kocal and husband Brian Phillips of Las Vegas, Nevada; Mother Ann Stulik of Gold Canyon, Arizona; Sisters Elizabeth Lang of Lanark, Amy Simmons of Gold Canyon, Julie Huggins and husband John of Gold Canyon; two grandchildren, Ellie and Ben Hanviriyapunt; many aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews; and husband of 45 years, Tom Kocal.
Cremation rites were accorded, and a Celebration of Her Life was held Saturday, Jan. 13, at the Heritage Center in downtown Lanark. Memorial donations may be made to the Lanark Cornerstone Project. Lynn was a founding member, and proud of its success in the beautification and development of downtown Lanark.