Around the advertising department of the Daily Herald, colleagues referred to Chris Harper as the "church lady," since she was the go-to person for churches and religious institutions wishing to place ads in the Easter and Christmas worship sections.
Harper started selling the sections three months before they published, drawing more than 85 faith communities per edition to advertise their services.
"Chris really earned the respect of her clients," said Scott Ray, director of Niche Publications. "It's one of those behind-the-scenes type jobs that most people don't know about, but it was a very important role and drove essential revenue to the paper."
Harper passed away Aug. 20 after a long illness. She was 61.
She spent 17 years selling ads for the Daily Herald, most recently in its Niche Publications, which offers specialized sections that reflect the interests of the suburbs' diversified communities.
Nearly all of Harper's work was done over the phone. Yet despite not having face-to-face contact, she was able to build lasting relationships with clients throughout the region, her colleagues say.
Ray points out that beyond the church sections, Harper also specialized in cause-related marketing campaigns, including breast and prostate cancer awareness, mental health awareness and cancer survivor sections.
"She was able to partner with these organizations, giving them access to the paper and allowing them to see a return on their investment," he said.
Harper was a native of Chicago's North side, but she and her first husband raised their two daughters in Elk Grove Village. For the last 19 years, she lived in Roselle.
"She loved working for the Daily Herald," said her husband of 20 years, Bill. "She had no training in advertising or marketing when she started -- she actually started out studying history at the University of Chicago -- but she was a people person and she just took to it.
"It brought out her competitive streak," he added. "She had a lot of confidence, and she loved to exceed her quotas."
Colleagues said that beyond her network of contacts in religious and nonprofit organizations, she also worked with local business communities, covering territories for co-workers who left the paper.
"She did a lot of things here," said colleague Marlene Paddock. "She was very soft-spoken, but people trusted and respected her. She just did her job with grace."
Besides her husband, Harper is survived by daughters Nicole (Greg) Bolek and Heather (Michael) Morris, and stepson Russell Harper; as well as three grandsons.
Services have been held.