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Flossmoor woman, esteemed educator, remembered for her caring spirit

DebrS. Hooks  |  Supplied photo

Debra S. Hooks | Supplied photo

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Updated: February 17, 2014 7:51AM



Debra S. Hooks was accomplished in her 30-plus years in education, most recently as executive director of ECHO, a south suburban special-education cooperative that serves 17 school districts.

But the Flossmoor woman, who was the wife of a Cook County judge and a mother of two, was remembered Tuesday as a woman who first and foremost had a wonderful and caring spirit.

“She always asked, ‘How are you?’ and truly wanted to know and listen,” said Jacqueline James Lewis, of Olympia Fields, a colleague and friend of Mrs. Hooks. “Even in her last days, she continued to ask first, ‘How are you and your family?’ ”

Mrs. Hooks, 59, died peacefully in her home Sunday after a 27-month battle with ovarian cancer, her family said.

She was a devoted and loving wife of 38 years to Cook County Circuit Court Judge William H. Hooks, and a loving mother, grandmother and daughter, family said.

Her two daughters, Mariah and Ashley, were her passion and her primary purpose in life, her family said. Ashley was named Miss Illinois USA in November 2011, about a month after her mother was diagnosed, and she made women’s health and education her platform.

Within months of her diagnosis, Mrs. Hooks returned to work at South Holland-based ECHO — Exceptional Children Have Opportunities — a special-education cooperative. She spent her career in education as a teacher, counselor, psychologist and administrator.

Lewis, a close friend and colleague for nearly 25 years, said Mrs. Hooks was a brilliant woman with high ethical standards and was greatly admired and respected by many.

“Her dedication, knowledge and deep caring for student learning motivated her to seek her doctorate degree and administrative positions, where educational planning and decision-making had the greatest impact on students’ academic lives and achievement,” Lewis said. “As a servant/leader, the welfare of others was first with Debbie. She focused on enriching the lives of individuals, families and communities.”

The two friends also shared an appreciation for art and a sense of faith and spirituality, along with membership in the south suburban chapter of The Links, Inc., a volunteer service organization, for which Mrs. Hooks served as the arts chair.

Born Debra Parrish on Sept. 3, 1954 in Chicago, she was the daughter of Grace C. Parrish, of Flossmoor, and the late Cornelius Clyde Parrish. She grew up in Chicago and graduated from Longwood High School. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in social science and education from DePaul University, a master’s in clinical counseling from Pepperdine University, a master’s in education administration from Governors State University, and a doctorate in educational leadership from National-Louis University.

She and William Hooks were married Jan. 5, 1975, at St. Margaret of Scotland Church in Chicago.

Mrs. Hooks started her family at age 21, making parenting her priority but balancing motherhood and her career, family said. That was something Mrs. Hooks felt confident in doing, as her mother Grace had served as her role model, also being an educator and nurturing parent, family said.

Still, Mrs. Hooks was a fun person who always had a smile and a laugh and a twinkle in her eyes, Lewis said.

Mrs. Hooks is survived by her husband, her mother, daughters Mariah (Andrew J.) LeBlanc and Ashley (Kyle T.)

Williams, and grandsons Hooks and Xavier LeBlanc.

Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday at St. Columbanus Catholic Church, 331 E. 71st St., Chicago. A funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Friday at St. Columbanus Church.

In lieu of flowers, the Hooks family welcomes donations to Bright Pink, a nonprofit focusing on prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer. Checks payable in honor of Dr. Debra Hooks can be mailed to Bright Pink, c/o Tess Mettingly, 670 N. Clark St., Suite 2, Chicago, IL 60654. Online donations can be made by visiting www.stayclassy.org/inhonorofdebra.

For more information on services, contact A.A. Rayner & Sons at (773) 846-6133.



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