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Mary Julia Dyra, 89, passed away peacefully on October 3, 2023, at home surrounded by family and exceptional 24-hour caregivers. She was the beloved wife of the late Francis “Frank” J. Dyra, Jr., for 57 years. Julia was the loving mother of James (John Louko) Dyra, Stephen (Laura) Dyra, Gregory (Laura) Dyra, Patricia (James) Lawson and Daniel (Theresa) Dyra. She was the proud and cherished grandmother of Michael, Diane, Kevin, Daniel, Luke, Hope, Matthew, Kyle, Colleen, Ryan and Nolan Dyra.
Julia was the fond sister of the late Patricia (the late Dr. Milo) Messner, the late Kathryn Massey, the late June Marie Kramper and James (the late Patricia) Kramper. She was the fond sister-in-law of the late Ann (Robert) Klein, the late Mary (the late Dr. Edwin) Liebner, the late Thomas Dyra, the late Patricia Dyra and Barbara (Robert) Becker. Julia was the beloved aunt of sixteen nieces and nephews, thirty-five grandnieces and grandnephews and one great-grandniece.
Born in 1933 in Dakota City, Nebraska, Julia was the daughter of the late James Neff Kramper and Mary Catherine Hurley, both of whom were descendants of pioneers who arrived into the area in the 1850s to the 1880s. She spent her early years on the family farm during the Depression, attending St. Michael’s Catholic Church Parish in South Sioux City, Nebraska. Julia graduated from Cathedral Elementary School and Bishop Heelan High School in Sioux City, Iowa, before studying dietetics and piano at Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa.
During the summer of 1952, between her freshman and sophomore college years, Julia served as the phone receptionist at The Warrior Hotel in Sioux City for a team of 25 medical specialists and hundreds of volunteers from the University of Pittsburgh. They carried out gamma globulin field trials of the polio vaccine lead candidates, which turned the tide on the polio epidemic nationally. Hundreds of polio patients were admitted to Sioux City Hospitals in 1952 and some were even treated with iron lungs. Three years later, Dr. Jonas Salk developed the first safe and effective polio vaccine with the support of the March of Dimes and the average number of polio cases in the U.S. dropped from more than 45,000 in 1953 to 910 in 1962.
In 1956, Julia moved to Chicago at the age of 23, after completing her dietitian intern training at Desloge Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. Throughout their lives, she and her two sisters introduced themselves with the simple description, “I’m a farm girl from Nebraska.” Julia and her fellow intern, Elaine Petrowitz who was a farm girl from Wisconsin, roomed together until 1960 at Delaware Street & North Dewitt Place in downtown Chicago. Both worked at Northwestern Memorial Hospital (previously known as Passavant Hospital and Wesley Hospital) for their entire careers. Highlights of Julia’s five decade career as a dietitian were giving diet advice to Chicago celebrities, like George Hallas and Gene Siskel, and serving as a research collaborator on the 1980 publication of a book, “Fat Chance: A Diet Workbook for Cholesterol and Calorie Control” by Dr. Neil J. Stone.
In November 1958, Julia met the love of her life, Frank Dyra, at a Chicago Catholic University Club football outing at Wrigley Field where the Chicago Bears were playing the Green Bay Packers. They married in December 1960 in South Sioux City and raised their family of five children in Chicago in St. Thecla Parish initially and eventually settled into St. Mary of the Woods Parish in 1973. Julia took a long term break from her full time professional work during the 1960s and 1970s to raise the children and had fun with her homelife, such as being a creative cub scout den mother and brownie leader.
This past summer marked Julia’s 50th year as a parishioner of St. Mary of the Woods Parish. She was an active volunteer with the hospitality ministry, participated in bible study and, recently, re-established the praying of the Rosary after mass with friends. Julia remained connected to her siblings and cousins in Colorado, Indiana, Washington, Nebraska and Iowa, throughout her life, making many trips back to the family farm for reunions. She and her husband also stayed in touch with Frank’s nine first cousins in the U.S., thirty-two first cousins in Ireland and England and all of their next generation family members. She was one of the few family members with perfect attendance at the Annual Dyra Family Picnic which convened every summer at Chicago’s Gaelic Park since 1992.
Visitation will be held on Tuesday October 10th, from 3-8 p.m. at Cooney Funeral Home, 625 Busse Highway, Park Ridge. The funeral will procession will begin on Wednesday October 11that 9:30 a.m. from Cooney Funeral Home and proceed to St. Mary of the Woods Catholic Church 7033 North Moselle Avenue, Chicago, for 10 a.m. mass. Julia’s body will be interred at Maryhill Catholic Cemetery, 8600 Milwaukee Ave., Niles.
In lieu of flowers, donations are appreciated to Erikson Institute for early child development/ education, 451 North LaSalle, Chicago, Misericordia Heart of Mercy, 6300 N. Ridge Avenue, Chicago, or St. Mary of the Woods Parish, 7033 North Moselle Avenue, Chicago. For information, please contact 847-685-1002 or visit www.cooneyfuneralhome.com.