Cathy Colgrass Edwards, a lifelong Brookfield resident and longtime village official, died Aug. 5, 2015 at her home in the 3600 block of Madison Avenue. She was 68 years old.
At the time of her death, Edwards was serving as Brookfield’s village clerk, an office to which she was elected in 2013. For the eight years prior to that, Edwards was a village trustee, first elected in 2005 when the PEP Party re-established itself as the dominant political party in the village.
Edwards seemingly knew everyone in the village — or if she didn’t know someone personally, she knew members of their family or friends. She was omnipresent in the village and was particularly active and involved in organizations serving Brookfield’s senior citizens.
While she was on the village board, Edwards was assigned as the local government’s liaison to its senior citizens, a role she continued as clerk.
“She was ‘Miss Brookfield,'” said Brigid Weber, who lived across the street from Edwards and served as village clerk while Edwards was a trustee. The two became close friends after Weber and her husband, Mark, moved into their home in 1995.
Edwards came across the street to welcome Weber to the neighborhood and asked, during that very first conversation, “So, who are you going to vote for?”
“That’s how she got us into PEP,” Weber said. “She was recruiting, even when trying to make friends.”
Edwards grew up in Brookfield and graduated from Riverside-Brookfield High School in 1964. She was married briefly, to her high school sweetheart.
For many years, Edwards worked in Chicago for an insurance company but started to become actively involved in Brookfield politics in the 1980s. That she would have been part of village government wasn’t surprising.
Her father, Michael C. Colgrass, was Brookfield’s postmaster for 38 years. According to the book Brookfield, Illinois: A History, Michael Colgrass oversaw the move of the post office to its present location on Prairie Avenue and was president of the Brookfield Chamber of Commerce. He was also president of the Kiwanis Club and the Brookfield Historical Society.
Edwards began her involvement in village government as a member of the Special Events Commission and helped organize Brookfest, the annual summer event held for many years in Ehlert Park.
In 1995, she began working as a paid staffer in the Brookfield Department of Parks and Recreation and was named its director in 1996. Edwards held that position until April 2003, when she was forced out of the post during a period when PEP didn’t control the village board, in what was described at the time as an early retirement.
Two years later, she was on PEP’s ticket as a trustee candidate and the party swept back into power. Since 2007, PEP has held every seat on the village board; Edwards sat at the board table as trustee or clerk during that entire period.
“Our community will feel her loss,” said Village President Kit Ketchmark, who was elected as village trustee in 2001 as a member of the VIP Party, but jumped to PEP in 2005 and served alongside Edwards on the board.
“There are so many different people’s lives she touched in so many ways,” Ketchmark said. “She was someone who could have a conversation with anyone and everyone.”
Although Edwards had suffered through a litany of health issues over the years, including a two-week stay at the hospital in April after surgery to remove an intestinal blockage, her death came as a surprise to her friends.
Edwards attended the Brookfield Farmers Market on Aug. 1 before heading up to Door County, Wisconsin, with a friend that day. But after complaining of not feeling well, Edwards returned home after just a couple of days.
Weber said Edwards complained of back pain and had a doctor’s appointment set for the afternoon of Aug. 5. Police making a well-being check at Edwards’ home that evening confirmed her death.
“I know she had some health issues, but I really didn’t expect it,” said Trustee Michael Garvey, who was elected president of the village as part of the PEP slate in 2005.
Garvey, like others Edwards knew, described her as a loyal friend and someone who was always looking to better the village.
“If anyone could touch one-tenth of the lives she touched, we’d all consider ourselves very successful,” Garvey said.
Edwards was the mother of Hershyl “Mike” N. (Christine) Edwards; the daughter of the late Michael C. Colgrass and Anna V. Colgrass (nee Hand); the sister of Gloria Colgrass-Lokay and Michael (Ulla) Colgrass; and the aunt of many nieces and nephews.
Memorial donations are appreciated to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, 733 Third Ave., Suite 510, New York, New York 10017.
Services have been held.