At heart, Linda Reinert was a big kid who loved chocolate and music, friends and relatives of the 66-year-old Bartlett resident say.
A retired music teacher in Elgin Area School District U-46, Reinert was killed in a three-vehicle crash Saturday in Streamwood.
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"She was just so loved by everyone she touched, and she touched so many people," said Reinert's daughter, Kristi Miller of Sunnyvale, Calif. "She passed too soon."
Reinert's 10-year-old grandson, who was a passenger in her vehicle Saturday, was released from the hospital Monday afternoon, Miller said.
Reinert taught music to students in kindergarten through sixth grade for 34 years -- the last 27 in U-46. Before that, she taught in Waukegan, her daughter said.
Reinert retired in 2008 as an elementary music educator at Centennial Elementary School in Bartlett.
"Lately, most of her focus was on her grandkids," Miller said.
Karen Brhel, director of choirs and orchestras at South Elgin High School, recalled pranks she and Reinert played on students.
"We both had short hair and the same glasses, and kids would always ask us if we were sisters," said Brhel, who became friends with Reinert while both were teaching at the then-Eastview Elementary School. "We would tell them 'yes' and we'd play it up. One day we went out and bought the same matching outfit. It was fun for us because our relationship was such that we were sisters."
The pair also had competitions to see who could get the most chocolate at Christmas time, a contest Brhel said Reinert always won.
Brhel described Reinert as someone who wore her heart on her sleeve and who genuinely enjoyed helping others.
"She was such an incredible lady who touched so many lives," Brhel said. "She taught kids to appreciate what music could do for you.
"We used to say that we had the best job in the world because we got to make music every day. She got to share that passion with kids. We were kids at heart."
Streamwood police said a preliminary investigation had revealed Reinert was making a left turn from eastbound Route 20 onto northbound Park Avenue when she was struck in the intersection by a westbound vehicle just before 5 p.m. A third vehicle was stopped in the intersection on southbound Park Avenue while waiting to turn west onto Route 20 and was struck during the accident, according to Deputy Police Chief James Keegan.
Reinert and her grandson were taken to St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates. Reinert died shortly after arriving at the hospital.
For the past 10 years, Reinert also served as choir director at St. Peter Damian Catholic Church in Bartlett.
She is survived by her husband, Jerry, three children, three grandchildren, five sisters and a brother.
Reinert was born in Elgin in 1946 and majored in music at Northern Illinois University.
Visitation for Reinert will take place from 3 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 9, at Countryside Funeral Home, 950 S. Bartlett Road in Bartlett. A memorial service will begin at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Aug. 10, at the same location.
•Daily Herald staff writer Paul Biasco contributed to this report