Local champion of the arts dies
August 3, 2004 — Source: Naperville Sun, The (IL) — Author: Tim Waldorf
When Dee Pasternak recently looked back on her 40-plus-year career in the arts, it was memories of her participation in the effort to restore the Spirit of the American Doughboy sculpture for the Century Walk that elicited her warmest response.
"I feel my work on Earth was done after the doughboy was done," Pasternak said. "He's gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. I love my doughboy."
Pasternak, 76, a Naperville resident since 1957, died Monday at her home.
"She was a remarkable woman," said Debbie Venezia, executive director of the Naperville Art League Fine Art Center and Gallery. "Naperville is going to feel her loss."
Pasternak, who studied at The Art Institute of Chicago, was an active member of the Naperville and DuPage art leagues and an exhibitor at many art shows across the state. Over the course of her diverse career in the arts, she won nearly 200 awards for her drawings, prints, oil and watercolor paintings, and mixed-media works.
To celebrate Pasternak's life and showcase the evolution of her art, the Naperville Art League, which Pasternak helped found 43 years ago, borrowed more than 50 of her works from private collectors and displayed them July 17 at the Naperville Fine Art Center and Gallery. Venezia said the exhibit included pieces from the early years of her career as well as more recent works, including her intaglios, etchings that Venezia called Pasternak's "signature pieces."
"It was fascinating to see," she said of the display. "I've never seen the gallery look more beautiful."
But Pasternak was not only an artist. She was instrumental in promoting the arts in the Naperville area.
"When she took on a project, she saw it through to the end," Sheehan said. "She was gung-ho."
A past president of the Naperville Art League, Pasternak launched the organization's nationally known Riverwalk Fine Art Fair, now in its 19th year.
"She felt that Naperville merited a high-quality art fair," said Luetger, who co-chaired the event with Pasternak over the years. "(The Riverwalk Fine Art Fair) was a vision she had for many years before she was able to do it."
Pasternak also participated in the planning for the Cmdr. Dan Shanower/Sept. 11 Memorial and initiated the project to renovate the deteriorating World War I doughboy sculpture that stands in Burlington Square Park.
"I always had a great deal of admiration and respect for her because of her influence in the art world," Venezia said. "She was going to get the job done."
In 2002, Pasternak received the Studs Terkel Humanities Award for her service on the board of the Naperville Century Walk, an outdoor public art exhibit in and around downtown Naperville. And, in recognition of her work, the Naperville Art League presented Pasternak with an Outstanding Contribution to the Arts Award last year.
"She was an extremely talented artist," Venezia said.
More than 30 years ago, Pasternak, a mother of three and grandmother of eight, worked as a photographer and darkroom technician for The Naperville Sun, earning recognition for her creativity with the camera. With the encouragement of her late husband, George, she eventually left the newspaper business to concentrate on her art.
Pasternak's work included detailed drawings that often took her as long as 200 hours to complete. She also loved to work in mixed media and do airbrushing, embossing and etching.
"She was consistently superior at it, and she tried to continue developing (her art) over the years," said Lela Luetger, Pasternak's friend and longtime partner in Naperville Art League projects. "She tried to keep it fresh because art is nothing if it is stale."
Kathy Glasnap, Pasternak's friend and a watercolor artist from Door County, Wis., showed her work with Pasternak at different fairs for the past 20 years. She said Pasternak had "wonderful ideas" and a "great imagination."
"That's the best thing an artist can have is a very good imagination, and she definitely had that," Glasnap said.
Sara Sheehan, Pasternak's friend and a Naperville Art League member, called Pasternak her mentor. She said Pasternak took "great pride and joy in doing a piece," and she continued to learn new ways to apply her artistic talents throughout her career.
"You could see the evolution (of her art). She was not a stagnant artist," Sheehan said. "She always had an open mind to her own life, to her artwork and to other people's artwork."
Blair Pasternak said his mother's artistic talents live on in his sisters, Dawn and Debby, and she would be glad her accomplishments, both artistic and civic, were appreciated.
A Mass of Christian burial will take place at 2 p.m. Thursday at St. Thomas the Apostle Roman Catholic Church, at 1500 Brookdale Road. A private family visitation will proceed the Mass, and a reception will follow at the church.
In lieu of memorials, donations can be directed to St. Thomas Hospice, 823 S. Madison St., Burr Ridge, IL 60527.
Sergeant of the guard Jack Shiffler escorts Dee Pasternak during the rededication of the Spirit of the American Doughboy sculpture in Burlington Square Park in 2001. Pasternak, who initiated the effort to restore the statue, died Monday.