Angelita James loved helping others, loved her job, loved the Des Plaines American Legion's Ladies Auxiliary and loved time with her family.
But the Arlington Heights woman had a special place in her heart for her five grandchildren, said her son, Efren Galvan.
"She just loved to see her grandchildren," the Schaumburg man said Thursday. "She was a devoted grandmother to my daughter, and to my unborn child who now she'll never see."
James, 56, was found shot to death Wednesday in her home in what police are calling a murder-suicide. The body of her husband, Roger D. James, 48, was found in the same room, also dead from a gunshot wound, police said.
Galvan said his mother had a tumultuous 10-year relationship with Roger James, the last three as his wife. They met as co-workers at a plastic container manufacturer and Galvan said he got "a bad vibe" from her mother's future husband right away.
Over the next decade, Galvan said, both he and his mother had several physical altercations with Roger James, who he said had mental and substance abuse problems.
"We tried to get him help for 10 years," Galvan said. "The help was there, and he wouldn't take it."
Galvan said family members also tried to get his mother to leave her husband, but she remained with him.
"She didn't deserve this," he said. "She put up with his crap for so long, we don't know why."
Galvan and police discovered his mother Wednesday morning after he called for assistance when he was unable to reach her for several days. He said he last spoke to her Saturday.
That night, he said, neighbors heard loud noises come from her home, although police believe the killings took place Sunday.
While family was her priority, Galvan said his mother also was a dedicated employee of Wheeling-based Glenbrook Security Services.
A member of the American Legion Auxiliary, she liked spending time with older veterans.
"My mom was a great woman," he said. "She was always there to help anyone. Even when she didn't have the means, she would find a way to help."
Angelita James moved to the Chicago suburbs from her native Port Isabela, TX with her sister and her best friend after high school.
She settled near Des Plaines, where she raised her three sons -- "genuine boys, troublemakers," Galvan said -- largely on her own.
"We grew up with good heads on our shoulders, and we all have good jobs today," he said. "That's because of her."
Besides her grandchildren and Galvan, Angelita James leaves behind two other grown sons, Lupe Martinez, of Park Ridge, and Noe Corrall Galvan, who is flying back from his service in Afghanistan because of his mother's death. She's also survived by five siblings.
Galvan said funeral services for his mother will take place in Texas.