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Denise Becker Roemer, 89, died peacefully on December 19, 2023, in her apartment at Schubert Villa, Holy Cross Village.
She was born on August 2, 1934, in Chicago, Illinois to William and Agnes (McGarry) Becker. The oldest of four siblings raised in the West Lawn neighborhood – on 61st near Hamlin – she was fiercely proud of her South Side Irish heritage. When she was 15, her dad took a job that brought the family to South Bend. She and her younger sister, Lourdene, were enrolled at St. Mary’s Academy and she later attended St. Mary’s College.
Denise treasured her role as older sister to Lourdene, Bill, and Tom. To her last day, Denise faithfully maintained the role of family confidante, counselor, and official handwringer. Her brother Bill was – in some ways – her polar opposite, but he knew her heart and knew how to make her relax and laugh. Tom came along much later than the others and Denise delighted in his curiosity, poetry, and intense conversation. And Lourdene, who shared Denise’s love of beauty, nature, and music, changed the course of her life when she asked Denise to be her “stand-in” at a 1953 dance with a young Chuck Roemer.
An instant and electric connection grew from that day into the most beautiful love story including 62 years of marriage. It’s difficult to write of someone so interwoven with another without detailing their story. Perhaps it’s best to say simply that Denise Becker completed Chuck Roemer and made him better, and they both knew it very early on. In return, he loved her, made her laugh, enveloped her, and made her feel safe.
Curious and kind, Denise cared for the people around her. She knew the stories of all the vendors at the Farmers Market, the groundskeeper at St. Mary’s – where she took her daily walk – and most recently her dear caregivers. She valued connection and was intentional every day in creating space for friendship and deep conversation. Thanksgiving was her favorite time of year, around the table, leaning in and sharing from the heart.
She loved her children fiercely and deeply, but that didn’t stop her giving her honest feedback or opinion. She let you know where she stood and expected the same from you. Her friends – a circle deep and wide – also felt this blend of love, curiosity, and honesty. She also cherished the role of being Aunt Denise to an amazing group of loving and well-loved nieces and nephews. She loved beauty, especially in nature but also in pictures (she was quite the photographer), dance, music (she loved to sing!), clothes – like her favorite warm winter sweaters – and perhaps most of all in faces, almost every face, but especially those of her grandchildren.
We sat with Mom for a few hours after she breathed her last, and we were comforted with her tender smile, peacefulness, and a serene beauty suggesting that what she was walking into and seeing at that last moment was a beautiful reunion with her Chuck. And when the time comes for all of us, no doubt she will be one of the first waiting to embrace us – as a family member or old friend – with her outstretched, open and loving arms.
Denise is survived by her sister, Lourdene Haley DiFalco (Richard); brother, Tom Becker (Jane); and sisters-in-law, Patti Becker, Mary Ann Roemer, and Shirley Roemer, together with her children, Greta Roemer (Jay) Lewis, Kurt (Tracy) Roemer, Karl (Shelby) Roemer and Marta (Craig) Brummell; her 12 grandchildren – over whom Oma showered love – Ian (Holly), Molly (Jake), Sarah, Ellie, Ben, Grace Shelby, Reese, Maggie, Leo, Moira, Sammy and Tess; and her great-grandson, Charlie. In addition to Chuck, her parents, her brother Bill, and her son Mark, all preceded her and were there to welcome her home.
A Visitation with the family will take place on Thursday, December 28, from 2-4pm at Gillespie Center adjacent to the St. Mary’s College campus. Mass of the Resurrection will take place on Friday, December 29th at 1pm at the Church of Our Lady of Loretto, St. Mary’s College. Memorial contributions can be made to St. Mary’s College (saintmarys.edu), the Sisters of the Holy Cross (cscsisters.org), or WVPE (wvpe.org). To send condolences to the family, please visit www.McGannHay.com.