Donna Halstead rubbed shoulders with some of the most powerful people in the state, worked for the first female Supreme Court chief justice in Illinois and joked around with homeless men who hung around her West Loop apartment.
Halstead, 76, was killed Tuesday after being struck by a Megabus, a discount long-distance bus service which has been involved in two fatal accidents in the West Loop neighborhood in the last two years.
The homeless in her neighborhood "all respected her, (but) she scared them half to death," said her sister Maura Glazewski. "She kept telling them to get a job. When they saw her coming they knew that all they were going to get was advice, no money. She was always 'Mrs. Halstead."'
Tuesday afternoon she complimented Tyrone Johnson, one of the homeless men who would hang out near her building and who spoke with her moments before she was struck.
She had told him that she liked a tan fedora he was wearing, when she turned and crossed the street at the intersection of Canal and Adams Street, yards from her apartment.
"She's a sweet old lady, " Johnson said, struggling to fight back tears.
Halstead worked as a judicial secretary for former Illinois State Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Ann McMorrow for 15 years, the entire time McMorrow was on the Supreme Court.
“If I would work until 11 o’clock at night, she would stay with (me),” McMorrow said. “She often would say she was ready to retire, but said she couldn’t until I did.”
McMorrow retired in 2006. So did Halstead.
Before working for McMorrow, Halstead worked for former Mayor Richard M. Daley when he was the Cook County State's Attorney.
“She knew almost every attorney in Cook County," McMorrow said. “She was so sharp, very knowledgeable. ... She was more than a secretary, she was a very dear friend.”
Among Halstead’s plethora of friends in government was Ald. Bob Fioretti, 2nd, who remembered her as a tireless problem solver.
“If she saw something that was wrong or needing fixing, she would find solutions,” Fioretti said.
Fioretti said he is calling for an investigation into the bus company's practices after the second fatal accident in two years. He will be writing to the Chicago Department of Transportation, Illinois Department of Transportation and theU.S. Department of Transportation, Fioretti said.
The family of the victim who died after being struck in 2010 at the intersection of Adams and Des Plaines streets settled today with the company for $5.1 million, according to lawyers for that victim.
Halstead garnered her determination and work ethnic from growing up in the blue-collar Englewood neighborhood, the eldest of five children. After graduating from Englewood High School she went back to school and eventually became a paralegal and worked in the legal profession, said her sister.
"She was a very hard worker and always had a job, she was always putting you to work if she had a chance," said Glazewski. "She was a go-getter, she always was, from a kid."
Even after retiring, she would often bring lunch to her son who worked at Union Station, until he told her to stop, according to Glazewski.
"He felt it was too much work for her and that she should take life a little easier," said Glazewski. "But she enjoyed it, because it was just a walk across to Union Station."
Glazewski said that in addition to her son, she also left a daughter and four grandchilden. She said her family members are trying to come to terms with her death, so close to her home.
"If I got hit by a bus it would be more logical because I hate downtown and never go down there," said her sister. "But she lived there, she dealt with the city everyday. I'll miss her terribly."
- Woman struck, killed by Megabus 'a favorite in the neighborhood'
- Company: Bus in fatal crash made in 2011, inspected days ago
- A Megabus that hit a 76-year-old woman, critically injuring her near Union Station this afternoon. Casey Hill, for the Tribune
- Police and bystanders tend to a woman hit by a Megabus near Union Station this afternoon. Casey Hill, for the Tribune
- Justice System
- Richard M. Daley
- Illinois Department of Transportation
- S Canal St & W Adams St, Chicago, IL 60606, USA