June Marks Patinkin
December 21, 1927 - November 5, 2023
Date and Time
Wednesday, November 8, 2023 at 1:30 PM
Chicago Jewish Funerals
8851 Skokie Boulevard
Skokie, Illinois 60077
Rabbi Steven Stark Lowenstein
Memorial Park Cemetery
9900 Gross Point Road
Skokie, Illinois 60076
Northmoor Country Club
820 Edgewood Road
Highland Park, Illinois 60035
Following the interment until 8:30PM - 9PM
The family request that you consider making a JUF donation to aid its effort to fight Anti-Semitism.
Jewish United Fund
30 South Wells Street
Chicago, Illinois 60606
June Marks Patinkin, age 95.
June Marks Patinkin, who raised five sons, worked for the Marshall Plan in post-war Paris, helped run Chicago’s Marks Brothers Jewelers, served as a bird sanctuary guide on Florida’s Sanibel Island and became the University of Chicago’s oldest ever graduate at age 90, died Sunday at her home in Brookdale on Lake Shore Drive.
June was 95.
She was a woman of many worlds and brought them to her family. She and her larger-than-life husband Hal, who passed on in 2016, raised their rambunctious brood in a red brick house in the South Shore enclave of Chicago’s south side. Despite her urban roots, June also became a rural mom at the 800-acre Red Angus farm she and Hal owned and oversaw weekends and summers near Galena, Illinois. In retirement, the two spent winters in their beloved condo overlooking the Gulf of Mexico on Florida’s Sanibel Island, where June shared her love of Roseate Spoonbills, olive seashells she gathered on beach walks, and a large and close community of friends that reflected her gift for connection.
June had 16 grandchildren, 8-1/2 greats, with number nine due in February, and was matriarch to a nuclear family now numbering close to 40.
June Marks grew up in Hyde Park with two older brothers, the late Ira and Jimmy. She was the daughter of Caroline and Hugo Marks, who in 1899 co-founded Marks Brothers Jewelers which, under its new name of Whitehall, grew to over 350 stores in the 1990s. For years, June balanced her role as mom with being an executive and buyer at the chain. Four of her five sons at various times were part of the business. At one point, when the fifth son, working as a Christmas salesman in his teen years, complained to her about being demoted to the basement to make bows for customer gifts because he was daydreaming, she told him, “That’s what happens.”
After attending the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools in Hyde Park, June enrolled in Northwestern University, then transferred after two years to the University of Chicago, in part because it was a hotbed of liberal ideas that she wanted to be part of. Indeed, she became political editor of the student paper called The Maroon. Because of a technicality, the Northwestern credits weren’t accepted by the U of C, but June was fine with that – being on a politically active campus was more important than graduating.
However, five years ago, her daughter-in-law Robin dug out June’s 1940s Northwestern transcripts, had them verified, and on commencement day 2018, in cap-and-gown and wheelchair, June was among the 1,350 University of Chicago students receiving degrees, in her case a Bachelor of Political Science stamped with her maiden name, June Gordon Marks. To wild applause, the dean announced from the stage that she was, at 90, the oldest graduate in the history of the college.
“I started here in 1944,” June observed on camera that day, “so it only took me 74 years to make it to graduation. That’s pretty good, right?”
Not far from the site of the ceremony, when June was 22 and out with friends, she met Hal Patinkin, a recent graduate. After four dates, he asked for her hand in marriage. She thanked him for the thought, but said she was off to Paris in days for adventure and work with the Marshall Plan instead. Despite her lack of encouragement, Hal followed, wooing her over time, and on Feb. 21, 1950, the two married in Paris, with one of June’s coworkers as bridesmaid and her landlady as witness, neither of whom she ever saw again.
Seven and a half months after the wedding, June had her first son, Hugh, insisting over the decades that he was premature. Over the next seven years, she had Mark, Doug and Matthew, the story being that she wanted a daughter so kept trying. June denied this, but when her pal Katie Ballard was days from delivery in 1961, June reportedly said, “Katie, if you have a girl, I’ll never speak to you again.” Katie did, but June forgave her. Seven years after Matthew, she made one more try for a girl, and instead, Nicholas arrived.
Despite being surrounded by a boisterous male brood of five, with her husband Hal making it six, June remained a model of social grace until the end, her elegance evident in all ways with the possible exception of her penchant for eating ice cream directly from the carton.
Even as a young mom, June remained politically active, stuffing envelopes for Democrat Adlai Stevenson’s second presidential campaign in the late 1950s with her sons Hugh and Mark at her side. In the 1960s, she was a committed civil rights and anti-war advocate, living her values by raising her kids in a diverse neighborhood.
June continued with community volunteering, at places like Chicago’s Jane Addams Hull House, which helped the needy, especially immigrants. In her later years, at her retirement condo on Sanibel Island, Florida, she embraced conservation, serving as a guide at the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Her role in helping preserve the island’s beauty and open land is memorialized with a plaque on a large wood overpass on the main trail at the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. “June’s Bridge,” it reads.
Indeed, June was a dedicated beach and trail walker. Although she left athletics mostly to her husband and sons, in her 70s, her outdoorsy side brought her and some lady friends to take up a new sport they dubbed “Almost Golf,” which allowed moving your lie, skipping greens if you weren’t in the mood to putt, and taking as many Mulligans as needed.
Although June was raised mostly secular, she grew to embrace her Jewish heritage, getting Bat Mitzvahed at age 73, and, with her husband Hal, helping found Temple Bat Yam on Sanibel Island. However, her sons still aren’t over the time she gave them underwear as Hanukkah gifts.
June also brought her love of nature to the family’s Hanover, Illinois farm, seeding one field with goldenrod, black-eyed Susans and high bluestem grasses to make a wildflower prairie like the land originally was, and where her grandkids still enjoy getting lost.
She similarly graced the neglected rolling acreage around the property’s pond with maples, river birch and crabapples, creating an arboretum with a 20-minute walking path that is now a must-do on every family visit.
She was known for stocking kitchen containers with baked mandelbread for the gathered clan, and then there was her signature dish - cheese puffs, small toasted bread squares topped with baked pyramids of cheese, which, when served, prompted her kids, grands and greats to vault couches, with occasional run-by thefts off plates.
In her final decades, even when homebound in her wheelchair, June remained the family’s matriarch and center of gravity, nicknamed “GMJ” for Grandma June, in the manner of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s moniker RBG.
She was also the center of her husband Hal’s world for the 66 years during which they shared a model marriage that set a dauntingly high bar. Hal called her “Precious” and “Pumpkin,” and well into her 50s, on each of her birthdays, bought her as many gifts as her age, making for some very happy Marshall Field department store salesladies every mid-December.
One secret to their marriage was June’s endless patience with Hal’s jocular and at times inappropriate side, such as when waitresses remarked, “Isn’t that nice, you tried five times and got five boys,” to which he would respond, “Yeah but we tried thousands of times and got nothing.” Her usual reaction was an exasperated, “Hal!”
But she was the love of his life, and he of hers.
In addition to her five sons, including Hugh, of memory, who we still consider to be with us, June leaves daughters-in-law Sheila, Jenny and Robin. Her 16 grandchildren, often referred to as "The Herd," are Benjamin, Shannon, Joshua, Max, Ariel, Alex, Zachary, Lila, Phoebe, Olivia, Adam, Jason, Liza, Jonah, Gabriel and Ari. She also leaves grand-spouses Sara (Ben), Samantha (Josh), Jon Bognacki (Shannon), Sophia (Max), Jacob (Liza), Ayen (Jason) and soon-to-be betrothed, Megan (Adam). She was the great-grandmother of Flynn, Anna, Hudson, Hadley, Charlotte, Sienna, Sage and Emma.
June will be remembered for her relentlessly positive nature, rarely saying a critical word, except about certain conservative politicians, and in cases where she felt her sons’ girlfriends did them wrong.
She never wanted to be the focus of conversation, invariably saying, “No, tell me about you.” It was her mission to ensure all in her large family were included in everything. And her nature, right to the end, was to worry about everyone in her clan far more than herself.
There are many who are loved, few who are universally adored.
June Marks Patinkin forever will be.
Service Wednesday 1:30PM at Chicago Jewish Funerals, 8851 Skokie Blvd. (at Niles Center Rd.), Skokie. Interment Memorial Park. The family request that you consider making you JUF donation to its effort to fight Anti-Semitism, Jewish United Fund, 30 South Wells Street, Chicago, IL 60606, www.juf.org. To attend the funeral livestream, please visit our website. Arrangements by: Chicago Jewish Funerals-Skokie Chapel, 847.229.8822, www.cjfinfo.com.