When Joan Caroline Sloup Dobrez of Flossmoor died on Sunday, Feb. 2, the South Suburbs lost one of its most dedicated and prolific volunteers.
For half a century, she was involved in numerous organizations and projects that benefited the South Suburbs, including Infant Jesus of Prague parish in Flossmoor, Flossmoor Service League, the American Society of Interior Designers, the Jennifer S. Fallick Cancer Support Center in Homewood and The Village Door, a consignment shop that provides financial support for CSC.
The Cancer Support Center is one of her most significant contributions, according to CSC Executive Director Sue Armato. Dobrez helped Jenny Fallick, Patricia McDonald and others create the center.
“Joan was truly a force of nature,” Armato said. “Joan knew that the community would greatly benefit for a place with supportive and wellness care for anyone confronted by cancer, so she stepped forward offering her strength, leadership and extraordinary talents.”
Dobrez was instrumental in establishing the Center’s Women’s Board, which brought together women in the community to become volunteers and supporters of The Center, Armato said.
She also worked in partnership with Dee Yeo Adam to provide CSC with stable financial support by establishing the Village Door at 2019 Ridge Road in Homewood.
“The center could not have grown and flourished as it has without the amazing Joan Dobrez rallying the community behind it,” Armato said. “We will forever remember our dear friend and her vision of having a special place for those battling cancer and its impacts will live on for many years to come.”
Dobrez was born and raised on Chicago’s South Side along with her brother Bud, according to her obituary.
She moved to Flossmoor in 1967 and immediately got involved in the community. She helped sustain Infant Jesus of Prague Catholic Church with numerous fundraisers and stewardship over 50 years. She and her husband, John, originated such popular community events as Flossmoor in Autumn and Curtain Call, the all volunteer variety show that was staple of the community for more than a dozen years.
She was chairperson for numerous events, including the Flossmoor Service League House Walks. She received accolades for her tireless efforts, from the Cancer Center’s Founders Award to the Woman of the Year acknowledgment from the Abby Foundation.
She was a two-time cancer survivor herself and did all of her volunteer work while staying devoted to her husband of 60 years, who died in 2010, and her family.
Her legacy of service will live on not only in her works but in the service to the community by her family.
Her son, Tom Dobrez, is co-founder of Flossmoor Future, an organization devoted to encouraging a sense of community in the village and in promoting the village to the rest of the world. Flossmoor Future organized the first Hidden Gem Half Marathon in September 2019.
“As a student at IJP at the time of Curtain Call, I got a first hand appreciation of my mom’s efforts at organizing the event,” he said. “As we were busy shepherding volunteers for the Hidden Gem, I did reflect back on the Curtain Call experience and see some parallels. Curtain Call was hundreds of community residents sharing their unique talents in any way they could. The Gem was much the same.”
He noted the example of service set by both his parents.
“It’s easy to see their community was vitally important to them,” he said. “Some of that I believe has rubbed off I me and that’s a good thing.“
Joan Dobrez is survived by seven children, 20 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
A wake service was held on Thursday, Feb. 6. Her funeral mass was held Friday, Feb. 7, followed by burial at Abraham Lincoln Memorial cemetery. A celebration of life event was held Friday afternoon at Flossmoor Country Club.
Correction: The first version of this story did not include the correct name of the woman who worked with Joan Dobrez to create The Village Door consignment shop. Dee Yeo Adam is correct.