Laura Jane Novotny Prendergast
Laura Jane Novotny Prendergast, 99, formerly of Princeton and Arlington, Illinois, died January 3, 2021, in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.
Laura was born on May 20, 1921, in Tama, Iowa, the youngest of seven children of Bertha Anna Schultz (Sulc) and Edward Novotny, a switchman for the Northwestern and Chicago Milwaukee Railroads junction. She married James Drummer Prendergast, son of Margaret and William Prendergast of rural LaMoille, Illinois, on August 21, 1948, at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Arlington.
Following graduation from Tama High School, Laura landed a job with the local newspaper, where a colleague encouraged her to apply for University of Iowa scholarship. She graduated with a BA in English in 1944, becoming the first in her family to achieve a college degree. During World War II, she worked in the secretarial pool at Consolidated Vultee Aircraft, which was producing B-29 bombers in Tucson, Arizona, and then for the US Navy at Terminal Island in Long Beach, California.
When she came to LaMoille to teach high school English and history, she was introduced to Jim Prendergast by his sister, Jane, the home economics teacher. After a wedding trip to the Black Hills in South Dakota, the couple settled briefly in Champaign-Urbana while Jim finished his degree. His jobs took them to Detroit, Michigan, and Quincy, Illinois, before landing in the new, planned Chicago suburb of Park Forest, where Laura taught elementary school.
In 1955, they moved to a farm on the outskirts of Arlington, gradually restoring the Victorian house built by the town’s founder, Michael Kennedy. Laura taught school in Malden and Van Orin, before earning a certificate in Library Science and becoming the school librarian in LaMoille. Moving to Princeton in 1982, the couple enjoyed a thriving enterprise renovating more than a dozen distinguished older homes.
Among her many interests, Laura especially loved books, music, gardening, and antiquing. She operated Village Antiques and Books for more than four decades, with shops at Dover Homestead Farms and several locations in Princeton; in later years, she re-focused the business to online bookselling. She sang in the choir at St. Patrick’s Church in Arlington, treated herself to a grand piano, and in her 70s adventurously took up playing violin. She researched several lines of family history and genealogy, compiled a volume of favorite recipes, and composed a vivid memoir, “Smalltown Girl: Memories of an Iowa Childhood.”
Laura is survived by two daughters, Dr. Susan P. Schoelwer (William) of Washington, DC, and Sheila A. Bloodgood (David) of Rancho Palos Verdes, CA; five grandchildren, Margaret Susan Schoelwer, San Francisco, CA; William James Schoelwer (Melissa), Charlottesville, VA; Jennifer Laura Schoelwer, Washington, DC; and Ryan James and Patrick Thomas Bloodgood, Rancho Palos Verdes; and three great-grandchildren, Vivian Jane, William Joseph, and James Henry Schoelwer, Charlottesville. She was preceded in death by her husband; parents; siblings Mildred Violet Burn, Joseph George Novotny, Marie Bertha Hanke, Margaret Estella Green, Elizabeth Novotny, and Grace Dorothy Hurt; two nephews and a niece.
The family is grateful to all who provided Laura with loving care and support, especially her faithful Princeton care team friends and the staff at Belmont Village in Rancho Palos Verdes.
Funeral Mass was held January 13, at St. John Fisher Catholic Church, Rancho Palos Verdes, with Rev. Bernard Kalu officiating; to access video see ttps://livestream.com/stjohnfisher/special.
Interment will be at Calvary Cemetery, Arlington, preceded by Mass at St. Louis Catholic Church, Princeton, on dates to be determined. Arrangements are being made by Lighthouse Memorials, Torrance, California, and Norberg Funeral Home, Princeton.
Memorials may be made to St. John Fisher Catholic Church, Rancho Palos Verdes CA, St. Louis Catholic Church, Princeton IL; Catholic Relief Services; or Seedlings Braille Books for Children