Divine Inspiration

May 2017 View more

To spend time with Margie Hartigan is to spend it with an angel. You feel the sense of a protective spirit around her, guarding, watching, loving. While some believe an anonymous guardian angel is assigned to each of us to protect and guide, Hartigan knows her angel intimately—it’s Mark, her husband of sixteen years.

Sergeant Mark Hartigan met dispatcher Margie Ebinger when they both worked at the Glendale Heights police department. He had a rough exterior that she saw through immediately, and once they established a connection they never parted and were eventually married.

Starting a family was slightly challenging for the couple, but once the babies came they came quickly. Margie gave birth to three daughters—Nicky, Meghan and Kyla—in less than
twenty-four months, a physical feat respectable by any standard. Her last pregnancy included a few complications, including a tear in her placenta. Efforts were made to keep Kyla in utero as long as possible, but an emergency C-section in January 2006 was necessary to ensure the health of mother and child.

She came twelve weeks early and weighed just over two pounds. Kyla spent 106 days in the NICU as a team of doctors and nurses tried to determine the cause of Kyla’s swelling abdomen. She wasn’t able to process food properly and the Hartigans were told that Kyla might not survive. A special formula was prescribed for what they thought was an undeveloped gastrointestinal system, and eventually the Oswego couple took their baby home.

Life with three under three would prove challenging to any couple, but the Hartigans’ premie had continuous medical needs. Developmental delays thought to be caused by her premature birth were eventually diagnosed as cerebal palsy, a neurological disorder that affects body movement and muscle coordination.

In 2011 relatives, friends and neighbors held a fundraiser, Karing for Kyla, to pay the balance on a motorized wheelchair not covered by insurance, build a ramp into the family’s home and install a lift for their van.

Despite Kyla’s health issues, Mark and Margie—Margie calls them “M & M”—carried on a typical family life. Social media photos capture memorable moments in the Hartigan world: a trip to Disneyworld, a school father-daughter dance, a White Sox game. The photos document loving family bonds and the cyclical nature of life with growing children.

But mid-summer last year unexpected tragedy struck the family on July 30, 2016: Mark’s sudden and unexpected death at the age of fifty-eight. And three weeks later Margie was in the hospital again with her youngest daughter to remove a tumor on Kyla’s spinal cord. It seemed her world was in a free fall.

After Mark’s death, Margie began to notice unusual signs, and she actively looks for them now. The first day back to school for her girls in August was bright and sunny, and yet a rainbow appeared in the sky. “It was him telling me everything is going to be okay,” she confidently shares.

These signs, and Margie’s support network, gets her through each day. Her stepfather and mother, Yorkville residents Don and Mage Linnane—as well as her two sisters Linda Ebinger and Laura Barbanente—help as much as they can. Linda and her adult son moved in with Margie and the girls after Mark’s passing. “After Kyla’s surgery last fall she had fourty-one days of therapy appointments. My sisters took fifteen appointments each so that I didn’t have to miss so much work. It takes a village.”

That village also includes staff at Grande Park Elementary School in Plainfield where Margie serves as a special education teaching assistant. Over twenty coworkers made a coordinated effort to share her story with us. The magazine received over 100 Mother’s Day Makeover entries; most were single nominations from relatives, but Margie’s stood out.

“Despite all of her daily struggles,” writes Grande Park Principal Sean Smith, “Margaret always has a smile on her face. She is well respected by our students and our community. She is a true role model for all mothers and very much deserves a special day.” Friend Erin Rourke writes, “She is the most caring woman I know. I am honored and proud to call Margie a friend and that she is a role model to my children.”

Unbeknownst to Margie, the magazine worked with Smith to coordinate a surprise “staff meeting” so coworkers could see her reaction when she learned she had won. The timing was good for both school morale and Margie—Grande Park was recovering emotionally from recent staff layoffs, and Margie had experienced a fairly bad day: The basketball hoop in her driveway had fallen on top of her new, three-week old car that morning. “I just wanted a hug from my husband; it was an awful day,” Margie remembers. “And I ended up getting 10,000 hugs from co-workers.”

When asked if she’s had an opportunity to grieve her husband’s loss, Margie is conflicted. She attends weekly grief counseling, but as a single mother to five—Mark has two adult children from a previous marriage, Bridgette (29) and Dominic (24)—her family’s needs are always put above her own. When she walked into the salon for her day-long makeover, the tears started flowing. “I couldn’t stop crying. I’m the one who always helps other people.”

Margie was overwhelmed with joy that she could spend a day letting others pamper her, and she felt Mark’s presence with her the whole day. “When I walked into the pedicure room,” she recalls, “I saw the infinity symbol in three places.” This symbol that adorns one of three necklaces she wears was something she and her husband used to include in all of the notes, letters and cards they wrote to each other during their courtship and marriage. The jewelry physically represents his eternal presence in her life; his spirit lives on.

Mark left a personal and professional legacy that continues to profoundly affect others. Once retired from the Glendale Heights Police Department he led the Illinois Department of Revenue Internal Investigations Division, ultimately becoming the chief of police for the Illinois Commerce Commission police department, ICC Police.

But his biggest worldly impact certainly can be witnessed when meeting Margie, Meghan (13), Nicky (11) and Kyla (11) Hartigan. They are learning to move on without their patriarch’s physical presence, but they watch for worldly signs of their husband and father. They know, and feel, their angel will be with them always.

Mothers Day Makeover Winners
Mothers are some of the world’s most selfless and thoughtful people, who make countless sacrifices for their families. Naperville magazine honors the following special women from the western suburbs who have taken the vocation of motherhood to a whole new level, with unique circumstances that make their roles even harder.

We thank all of our readers who nominated loved ones, as well as area salons and med spas that honored these special women with generous donations of products and services.

Margie Hartigan
Nominated by her coworkers at Grande Park Elementary School in Oswego
Margie is now a single mother to five children after losing her husband in June 2016. Her youngest daughter suffers from cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair.

Michael Graham Salon & Spa
Naperville | michaelgrahamsalon.com
Massage, facial, hair cut/color, manicure, pedicure, makeup application and a basket of products

Blue Seas Med Spa
Naperville | blueseasmedspa.com
SilkPeel Dermalinfusion™ treatment

Patti Austin
Nominated by her daughter Danaé Austin Bartke
This widowed mother of eight runs a small business on top of caring for four children with major medical conditions—including epilepsy, a tramatic brain injury and two with genetic disorders.

The John Bull Center for Cosmetic & Laser Medispa
Naperville | dupageplastics.com
Botox® Cosmetic and Clear and Brilliant Laser Resurfacing

C’zar Salon & Spa
Naperville | czarspa.com
Salon gift card and Aveda products

Barbara Miller
Nominated by her husband Randall Miller
Barbara is married to an Army officer who completed three deployments in Iraq. She suffers from epilepsy and it took a full year to get her seizures under control. After stabilizing that condition, her health worsened. After seeing several specialists she was diagnosed with Lyme disease.

Zano Salons
Naperville, Lisle & Batavia | zanosalons.com
Massage, manicure/pedicure, basket of products

Virginia Kain
Nominated by her daughter Ginny Yadav
In addition to caring for her three children, Virginia’s mother came to live with her when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Her husband was then treated for esophageal cancer and she took care of him for three years until his death two years ago. Her mother passed away in January.

Center for Cosmetic & Laser Surgery
Naperville | cclscosmetic.com
Botox® Cosmetic, Juvaderm filler, travel skin care products

City Lights Makeup
Plainfield | www.citylightsmakeup.com
Personalized makeup session or makeup lesson

Stephanie Klavohn
Nominated by her husband Ryan Klavohn
Stephanie is a full-time nurse who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis almost ten years ago, and she perseveres through every ache, weakness, set back and downfall without complaining.

Marek Ashley Salon
Wheaton | marekashley.com
Artistic Director cut and color, brow wax, Oribe products

Skin Science
Warrenville | skinscienceforyou.com
Halo™ Fraxel Laser treatment