The death of Brookfield Clerk Cathy Colgrass Edwards last week was a shock to her many friends and political colleagues. Although, Edwards battled health problems for years, she always rebounded and kept working at making a difference in the village.
Edwards was particularly well-suited to public service, because of her genuine love of people. She talked to everyone, loved listening and learning about people. She was someone who liked to organize events to bring people together.
After serving for nine years as the village’s recreation director, Edwards “retired.” Essentially, her job was eliminated and never replaced. But she refused to leave village government, opting instead to run for village trustee, a position she held for two terms.
She likely could have kept on as trustee had not the village’s term limits law ushered her out of office. She instead set her sights on becoming village clerk, succeeding her close friend Brigid Weber, who described Edwards as being like an older sister to her.
In her role as clerk, she also maintained her close relationship with agencies, such as Aging Well, that serve the community’s senior citizens. She was a strong advocate for the seniors of Brookfield.
Looking at the larger picture, Edwards’ death means the loss of someone who was a link to the days when Brookfield was discovering itself as a community.
Born out of real estate speculation, Brookfield really began to mature after the First World War.
One of the people who helped create the village’s identity was Edwards’ father, Michael Colgrass. He and his wife, Ann, moved to Brookfield in the 1920s. Michael was Brookfield’s postmaster, who oversaw the move of the village’s post office from a storefront outpost to the official building that still stands as its home.
He was the head of a businessman’s association that grew into the Brookfield Chamber of Commerce, which is still a vibrant organization that hosts community-centered events such as the farmers market, which Edwards would never miss. She made sure she was there before setting off for a vacation she never got to enjoy, just days before her death.
When the book Brookfield, Illinois: A History was published in 1994, Edwards included a family history that proudly noted her parents, Michael and Ann were at the time the longest married couple (at 68 years) in Brookfield.
Edwards made sure her maiden name “Colgrass” was part of her political persona. She was proud of her family’s place in Brookfield’s history; she died in the home where she grew up.
In many ways, Edwards followed in the footsteps of her father, throwing herself into local organizations, such as the Brookfield Centennial Corporation, and finally into local government.
Edwards’ death is a great loss to Brookfield and severs a link to the village’s past. But she left behind a great example of public service, for which we thank her.