An Evanston mom of two died of COVID-19 on Tuesday, just weeks before she was to see her oldest son graduate from Evanston Township High School, her own alma mater. Mary “Cherry” Santiago, 44, was a big Cubs and Bulls fan who would visit her parents’ graves in Niles every Sunday “to talk with her dad,” said her best friend, Kymberly Thompson. They met as ETHS freshmen and have been friends ever since. But more than anything else, Santiago loved being a mom to her two sons: Alexander, 18, and Aiden, 11, Thompson said. “She was an absolutely devoted mother,” said Thompson. Santiago volunteered at her boys’ schools and loved feeding them and all of their friends at her house. antiago was exposed to someone who had the virus on April 11. She started to get sick April 27, and was admitted to Glenbrook Hospital in Glenview on May 6 — the last day she saw her sons. “Her thing was, I just need to be home for Mother’s Day,” Thompson said. Instead, her sons talked to her on speakerphone in her final hours. Melissa Messinger, spokeswoman for Evanston/Skokie Dist. 65, shared fond memories of Santiago’s work in her son Aiden’s school, Dr Bessie Rhodes School of Global Studies. “The Bessie Rhodes community knew her to be an amazing, dedicated mom with so much positivity and love for all,” Messinger wrote. Thompson recalled Santiago’s love of sports, and said she was excited to put on her Bulls gear and watch “The Last Dance,” the documentary miniseries about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls’ 1997-1998 season. Santiago also was a die-hard Cubs fan, Thompson said, and owned five authentic players’ jerseys. Santiago worked at NorthShore University HealthSystem’s Skokie Hospital and its predecessor, Rush North Shore Medical Center in Skokie, as a patient account specialist until her departure about two years ago. One of Santiago’s biggest goals for her oldest son was to graduate from ETHS and attend college.
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Donations for Cherry Santigo’s boys can be made to – https://www.gofundme.com/f/cherry-santiago-memorial-fund?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link-tip&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet