The Elgin community lost a fighter when Sheryl "Sheri" Buttstadt ended her battle with cancer Monday at age 59.
Buttstadt moved to Elgin in 1986 with her husband, Randy, and two sons at a time when the city didn't have its own code department and neighborhood groups didn't exist. She worked tirelessly to research how other cities enforced code violations and pushed Elgin officials to create a full-time department. In the meantime, she supported the founding of neighborhood associations and later the Elgin Community Network, which brought the individual groups under a larger umbrella.
"Whatever she could do to help make it a safer city and a better city for our family, that's what she was trying to accomplish," Randy Buttstadt said of his wife.
"She might have been a stay-at-home mom, but she didn't stay at home."
Brigid Trimble, an Elgin High School teacher, connected with Buttstadt in the early days of her local activism pushing for a code department. Trimble said Buttstadt was an incredibly thorough researcher, backing up her strong opinions with reams of research -- much of which is still in boxes in her Elgin home.
While her passion sometimes put Buttstadt at odds with officials or other members of the community, she never backed down from the fight.
"She was a bulldog," Trimble said. "She got her teeth into something and you knew it was going to get done."
Buttstadt put the same persistence and research skills to use for seniors through her work as an information and assistance specialist at Senior Services Associates in Elgin. Kathy Nelson shared a job description with Buttstadt for her four-year tenure that started in 2008 and said Buttstadt spent many late nights helping connect people with resources.
Leslie Edstrom, director of marketing, said Buttstadt was a "wealth of knowledge" and took pride in getting the best information to her clients.
"She was a fighter, in every way," Edstrom said. "Until she found solutions to their problems, she didn't quit."
Buttstadt also volunteered in the Elgin schools her sons Erich, now 32, and Stefan, now 29, attended. She wrote a community column for the Daily Herald in the late 1990s, served on the city's zoning commission and volunteered during the Fox Trot and the Gifford Park House Tour. She led the charge for improvements at Lords Park Zoo, organizing volunteers to restore the old fountain and area around the pavilion.
And she loved to travel. She moved two dozen times growing up while her father served in the Navy and continued taking trips as an adult, pairing a love of photography with seeing new sites.
A celebration of her life will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. Sept. 28 at the Lords Park Pavilion to honor her and recognize all that she accomplished.
A rare, aggressive form of leukemia cut her time short, but friends and family hope others in the community will pick up where she left off.