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Official Obituary of

Julia Margaret Rooney Ladner

June 16, 1929 ~ March 7, 2024 (age 94) 94 Years Old

Julia Margaret Rooney Ladner Obituary

Julia Margaret Rooney Ladner died peacefully at her home on March 7, 2024 at age 94. Her life encompassed many roles, including student, spouse, mother, teacher, grandmother, and philanthropist. The second child of Mary Frances Loftus and Michael Andrew Rooney, her best friend in life was her sister, Mary Kathryn Kunkel, who preceded her in death in December 2020. As a member of an Irish Catholic family, Julia attended numerous Catholic schools, including a boarding school in Wisconsin and a day school in Queens, New York, where she lived with relatives for a year. After graduating from Lawrenceville High School, she attended St. Mary-of-the-Woods College, where she graduated with a degree in English Literature in 1951.

Julia’s parents started Golden Rule Insurance Company in the basement of their Lawrenceville home. Her brother, Pat, with his college friend, Frank Ladner, returned home following graduation to help build the company. Within two years, she married Frank and they started their family less than a year later. Julia always reminded her children that it was her mother’s idea to begin the business when times were tough. It was her husband, Frank, who built the sales team that was so critical to the company’s success. Decades later when Frank was unduly fired as the company’s president, she wrote the article used by the local papers describing that event. For years afterward, she remained her husband’s closest confidant and partner, guiding him in critical financial and life decisions.

The Church was always central to Julia’s life and she and Frank were active in their local St. Lawrence parish. Julia taught religion and reading to the children at St. Lawrence Grade School as the number of religious sisters dwindled. Her oldest referred to her as the “nun in residence.” She and Jim Gibson were a team who taught the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation) classes to those interested in joining the church for many years, with the gratitude of many participants. At the age of 57, Julia decided to return to her alma mater and study theology, a difficult and demanding subject. She graduated with her Masters in Pastoral Theology two years later. Julia was a “liberal” Catholic who recognized that the Church is not perfect and challenged positions she felt were not consistent with a loving God. She consistently read the Catholic press, pastoral letters from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and papal encyclicals. A highlight of her later years was traveling to the Holy Land with daughter Julie, led by Father James Martin.

Julia stayed current with events throughout her lifetime and read all that was available on a subject from the Vietnam War to the Civil Rights Movement to the Women’s Movement and much more. She read the New York Times daily until her death. After reading Betty Friedan’s revolutionary book, “The Feminine Mystique” and eventually much of the new feminist literature, she joined the Women’s Movement and campaigned for the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment). Her debate on the merits of the ERA with one of Phyllis Schlafly’s acolytes aired on Illinois radio stations and was a favorite family story. Julia always said her opponent was totally unprepared; Julia was definitely prepared!

Julia and Frank’s six children dearly loved and appreciated both their parents, but their mother was home while their father was on the road as a salesman for the family business. She was their comfort, support, booster, and disciplinarian, as needed. Daughter Mary recalls, “When I was a single mother with a child that had special medical needs, my mother was my rock. She provided love and comfort to my sons, helping in every way she could when I did not know how I could juggle it all.” Never judgmental, Julia was a mother her children knew they could talk to and who would always accept them regardless of what crisis or disappointment had occurred in their lives. The young Ladner family had fun during summers at their cottage on Lake Lawrence. Later, Julia found a second lake home that she loved as her personal retreat and where she entertained family members when her adult children and grandchildren came home.

Once Julia and Frank gained financial security, they established a family foundation and distributed a portion of their estate to their family. Julia consistently told her children that they should spend their resources responsibly and reminded them to be generous to those less fortunate. She chaired the fundraising campaign for St. Mary-of-the-Woods College with her husband and salesman extraordinaire at her side. In addition to her generous contributions to local organizations, Julia supported national charities – Bread for the World was a favorite – with a focus on social and economic justice. 

Julia is survived by her six children: Peggy (Clif Brittain), Tom (Julia Meier), Julie, Will, Mary (Jim Bauer) and Ann Marie (Joe Blackburn), 13 grandchildren (Jennifer, Jason, Joe, Nancy, Todd, Aaron, Frank, Nathan, Christina, Jessica, Robert, Thomas, and Helen); and 12 great-grandchildren (Emma, Claudia, Sofia, Maggie, Evren, Josie, Grace, Xavier, Jimmy, Ayla, Luke, and Charlotte); as well as many nieces, nephews, and their children.

The Ladner family thanks the caregivers who allowed their mother to stay in her home during her last years.

Visitation will be conducted at the Emmons-Macey & Steffey Funeral Home in Lawrenceville, Illinois on Friday, March 15, 2024 from 4:00 PM until 7:00 PM CDT. On Saturday, March 16, 2024 a Funeral Mass of Christian Burial will be conducted at the St. Lawrence Catholic Church, located at the corner of 11th and Collins Streets in Lawrenceville, Illinois at 10:00 AM CDT. Burial will be at the Lawrenceville City Cemetery in Lawrenceville, Illinois, followed by a luncheon in the St. Lawrence Parish basement. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations be given to the St. Lawrence Catholic Church Breakfast Program or the Lawrence County Humane Society.

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March 15, 2024

4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Emmons-Macey & Steffey Funeral Home
1303 12th Street - P.O. Box 564
Lawrenceville, IL

Mass of Christian Burial
March 16, 2024

10:00 AM
St. Lawrence Catholic Church
1006 Collins Avenue
Lawrenceville, IL 62439


St. Lawrence Catholic Church Breakfast Program

Lawrence County Humane Society
PO Box 415, Lawrenceville IL 62439


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