Naperville's Pat Pradel never wanted the credit and she shied away from the spotlight.
It just wasn't in her to seek attention, so she lived a life of supporting others -- especially her husband, longtime Naperville Mayor George Pradel, and their family.
Pat Pradel died Saturday morning of pneumonia after a battle with bone cancer. She was 75.
"She was my sweetheart and she held true to me," her husband of 55 years said hours later. "I'm so thankful that I had a dear wife I could lean on and she could help me through tough situations."
Pat was born in Chicago, grew up in Des Plaines and attended high school in Lyons Township before getting married and living in Naperville, her husband said. She was a baton twirler in high school who was proud of being an honor roll student, and she worked for years as a secretary at ServiceMaster, the cleaning and household services company.
But she may be best known as Naperville's first lady for 20 years while Pradel served five terms as mayor before retiring in May.
"She just made the family tick so he could be in so many different places," said Katherine Seguino, a science administrator at Naperville Central High School who grew up near the Pradel family. "People knew her but didn't really understand that without her love and support on the family side, so many things would have not happened for Naperville."
Friends including Naperville residents Bev Patterson Frier and Mary Locher remembered Pat as easygoing and organized, the perfect person to help her family function smoothly.
"She did so much for so many people, but she didn't do it with any fanfare," Locher said. "She was not as outgoing as George was, but she seemed to prefer to be helping him out rather than being a person who got all the praise."
Pat took organ lessons for a time with Frier but stopped when she became pregnant with daughter Carol. Pat and George had two other children, Gary and George, in what friends describe as a purposefully happy family.
"Everything is always very joyous around them and she was the backbone of that," Seguino said.
Pat enjoyed playing Scrabble, which showed friends her intelligence. But she was the first to put aside her hobbies and interests to care for the needs of others.
"She was such a gem. She was kind, she was present, she was supportive of so many things -- first of all her husband and her family," said Naperville resident and family friend Mary Lou Wehrli. "She was truly the wind beneath George's wings and an inspiration to the community because she was there. She was present in invisible but very felt ways. She was not out there to be the mayor's wife, but she was very supportive."
Aside from raising their three children in Naperville, Pat and George and also cared for foster children. This showed Pat's hospitality, generosity and kind spirit, said Rebecca Boyd-Obarski, a city council member who got to know the Pradel family during George's 2007 campaign for mayoral re-election.
"She really took care of her family. ... She made sure they all had family time," Boyd-Obarski said. "She definitely wasn't as outgoing as Mayor Pradel, but she loved Naperville and she knew that she shared him with us, and she guarded that."
Friends also praised Pat's faith and her sunny outlook as she battled bone cancer before her death Saturday.
"She's been very brave through all of this," Boyd-Obarski said. "She fought the good fight."
The Pradel family will host a memorial visitation for Pat from 2 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Our Saviour's Lutheran Church, 815 S. Washington St., followed by a celebration of her life at 7 p.m. at the church.