Businesswoman Volunteer Powerhouse Dies at 97
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
June 23, 2022
ROCKFORD—Jody Deery, 97, died June 13 after a short illness.
Deery was best known in the Rockford area as the CEO and President of Rockford Speedway, a role she undertook upon the death of her husband, Hugh, in 1984. They had been owners of the racetrack since 1966 after having an ownership share in the business since 1959.
Deery retired from the Speedway and much of her volunteer work a couple of months short of her 96th birthday in 2020.
Deery was well known in Catholic circles as a steadfast and ever-present volunteer, including as membership chairman of the Catholic Women’s League and active in the Caritas organization. She was on the board for Catholic Charities, the Quota Club, St. Elizabeth Catholic Community Center and Reach Out and was active at St. James Parish on the parish council and altar and rosary society.
Mother Maria Dominica Stein, mother abbess of the Poor Clare Colettine nuns at Corpus Christi Monastery in Rockford, recalls how Deery made an annual donation to the Poor Clares at Christmastime — collected during her annual open house where guests could view the hundreds of nativity sets she had collected over the years. 
“We are so grateful to Jody for being the recipient of the funds. She sure was a gem,” Mother Dominica says. “Many people will miss her because she was so much a part of many people’s lives. 
“She lived up to her name, but we would spell it ‘Dear-y’. She always thought about us.”
Father David Beauvais was pastor of St. James Parish for many years. The Deerys were members of St. James “forever,” he says, adding that Jody “was the matriarch of the parish; she really was totally committed to the wellbeing of the parish.
“With the Speedway, she would invite St. James parishioners for a St. James night; she was very generous with the resources of the Speedway too. She was very generous in all aspects of her life, very committed to the wellbeing of the Rockford community, and was a very good Catholic. No matter how late she was up doing Speedway work on Saturday nights, she would never miss 8:30 a.m. Sunday Mass.”
As pastor, Father Beauvais six times led a trip to Rome for confirmation students. To help students and parents who wanted to go but did not have the financial means, Deery made work available to them at the Speedway, paying for that work into a St. James account that then paid for their trip. “That system of providing work opportunities (was) so anybody who wanted to go could go,” Father Beauvais says, adding that Deery also would give him a few hundred dollars to “treat people” on the trip.
“She was a sweetheart,” he concludes, giving one more example: Deery paid for the weekly yard service at St. James. 
“It was just charged to the Speedway,” he says. “Those were the kinds of things that weren’t visible to others. She didn’t like to toot her own horn; she liked to keep things quiet. 
“She was a good example of a faithful Catholic servant to the people,” Father Beauvais said. 
Additionally, Deery was known for her innovative approach in fulfilling her desire to support the Church even after her earthly life was over.
David Hougan, past director of the diocesan Office of Stewardship Development (now the Office of Charitable Giving) department, recalls that “Jody strongly supported the Church in so many ways but one seems to stands out.” And that way Hougan said,  “is the way she chose to remember the Church in her will. She would witness to participants at Wills Awareness Seminars explaining that she considered the Church like one of her children. So instead of dividing her will into eight equal parts she included the Rockford Diocese as her ninth.  Jody inspired many people by her witness and faithful example.”
Deery gave generously of her time and talents as well.
Mary Ellen Nash, president of Catholic Women’s League, says Deery “was more than a volunteer. She was almost like a mom to CWL … She allowed us to use the Forest Hills Lodge for different functions.
 She was so intense about membership … She maintained a database of all our members and also had 3x5 cards of every member … She is going to be a legend in CWL; she was just so generous and helpful.” 
Her example, Nash adds, has continued with her daughter Susan, an active CWL volunteer.
Jacque Bolger-Buffo, current CWL membership chair, notes that Deery joined the CWL in 1979. As Deery helped her transition into the position, Bolger-Buffo says, “We had the best conversations about everything … the woman was a fountain of knowledge … she was ahead of her time … she just flowed from one role to another … such a wonderful benefactor and a tireless champion of the underserved.
And she did it with a twinkle in her eye and smile on her face (and) she made everybody feel welcome.”
In one example of her welcoming spirit, Deery was known for hosting Thanksgiving dinner at the Speedway’s Forest Hills Lodge for her family, friends and anyone who might otherwise be lonely at the holiday. She hosted 100 people for the dinner at times.
Deery’s Funeral Mass was said June 23 at St. James Parish, Rockford, with interment at at Calvary Cemetery, Winnebago. 
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