Connie Ratzel, 81, who recently ran a marathon, fatally struck on 4-lane road in Morgan Park

Connie Ratzel
Connie Ratzel
Connie Covarrubias Ratzel, 81, led an extraordinary, service-oriented life that even included running the Chicago Marathon as an octogenarian last October. But tragically, this youthful senior’s life was ended when she tried to cross a high-speed four lane Morgan Park road while carrying bags of groceries for homeless people.

According to the Chicago Police Department, on Friday, November 19, at about 11 a.m., Ratzel attempted to cross the 2300 block of West 111th Street, near a Fairplay grocery store. In this location, 111th has a four-lane “stroad” (a large street that creates unsafe conditions for pedestrians in an urban area), with a wide layout that encourages high driver speeds.

The 2300 block of West 111th Street by the Fairplay store. Image: Google Maps
The 2300 block of West 111th Street by the Fairplay store. Image: Google Maps

Police said the driver of Acura sedan was traveling east when Ratzel “entered the roadway from in between two parked cars” and the driver struck her. She was transported to Little Company of Mary Hospital for a lower-body injury and was listed in stable condition, but died five says later.

The driver stayed at the scene to render aid. He was not cited.

Ratzel was born into a Mexican farming family in Montana, and served as a social worker, Eucharistic minster for St. Cajetan Church, and a hospice volunteer. She even did a stint as a nun before marrying her husband Bob 48 years ago. In addition to Montana and Chicago, she lived in South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Chiapas, Mexico, and she completed 18 marathons. She leaves behind three children and eight grandchildren.

Bob told the Chicago Tribune Connie was walking back from the Fairplay grocery store, a block from their home, with bags of food for the homeless when the driver struck her. Bob was charitable towards the motorist, absolving them of blame and attributing the crash to Connie crossing in the middle of the block in order to take a direct route home via an alley. “It was a fatal mistake.” However, it’s not clear whether the street layout and the driver’s speed played a role in the collision.

An aerial view of the block where Connie Ratzel was struck. Image: Google Maps
An aerial view of the block where Connie Ratzel was struck. Image: Google Maps

At Connie’s wake, many people told stories of her acts of kindness. “That was Connie,” Bob told the Tribune. “If she wasn’t doing one thing for other people, she was doing something else for someone else. She was a Eucharistic minister and would go all over, even to Frankfort, to give communion to homebound people. If she saw someone carrying their groceries home, strangers on the street, she would pick them up and drive them home.”

One summer, workers were tearing up the street outside the Ratzels’ home for new utility lines, and Connie baked cookies for them, Bob told the paper. “Nobody recognizes city workers doing their job day in and day out. One day, the foremen knocked on our door and invited her to eat some pizza with the crew. That shows how an act of kindness circulates back to you. It was really a beautiful thing. She did a lot of that kind of stuff.”

Read more about Connie Ratzel’s life in the Tribune and Beverly Review profiles.

Donations in Connie’s honor may be sent to Centro Infantil, a nonprofit that provides free daycare and preschool for low-income children in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Fatality Tracker: 2021 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths on surface streets

Pedestrian: 24
Bicyclist: 10

Note: Streetsblog Chicago’s traffic death numbers represent fatal crashes on Chicago surface streets, based on media reports and/or preliminary Chicago Police Department data released by the Chicago Department of Transportation.

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