Laurel E. Dickirson died at home in Springfield, Illinois on the morning of April 27th, 2024 at the age of 77. She was born Laurel Walbright on April 17th, 1947, to Dorothy and Elva Walbright in Paducah, Kentucky. She was raised in Joppa, Illinois, by her parents, who were a late-in-life love match and doted on her. Her older half-brother, Kenneth Kerr, and all the teachers in Joppa Public Schools doted on her, too. She was first chair clarinet in the school band, president of all the clubs, and valedictorian of her graduating class. Her absolute certainty that she knew better than everybody else in all situations probably grew out of her early experiences as an intellectual giant and rock star student in her hometown.

After high school, Laurel went off to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. It was there that she threw herself into sex, drugs, and rock and roll of the late 1960s with as much enthusiasm as she had for American Literature. In fact, her dazzling academic career was almost derailed when she got knocked up unexpectedly with her beloved only child, Michelle Loughnane. Laurel was a woman of steely resolve and finished her B.A. and then her M.A. in literature, despite being stalked by a chatty toddler with sticky hands during those years.

Laurel moved to Chicago with ill-considered husband #2 after completing her Master’s thesis at SIU. In the Windy City, Laurel enthusiastically set out to become one of the Cosmopolitan Urban Elite. She dressed like Annie Hall, took her daughter to the ballet and the symphony. They ate out to Indian and Ethiopian restaurants, traveled the country and the world, and learned the difference between a mango and an avocado. She tried to become a high school teacher, but quickly realized that she didn’t really care for children much (except Michelle, of course, who was brilliant and wise beyond her years).

Eventually she got hired by the State of Illinois’ Department of Public Aid, where she had a long and illustrious career managing government cheese programs and other Important Stuff. She was valued by her coworkers and supervisors for her flawless writing, her dazzling intelligence, her dependability, problem solving skills, her genuine devotion to the power of good policy and good government to help people, and her impeccable comedic timing. She really knew how to drop an F bomb to achieve maximum results.

In the course of her work in Chicago, Laurel eventually met Gary Dickirson, who would quickly become Lucky Husband #3. “Third time’s the charm”, she always liked to say. Apparently, she was right, because Gary and Laurel moved to 1308 N. 3rd Street in Springfield and stayed there for the rest of their lives together. They traveled and turned their little house on the North End of town into a Versailles on the prairie, filling it with art and antiques and mementoes of their trips. They took care of their cats: first Maxine, then Ninny, then Thor and Loki, and finally Spirit and Zeus. They took Michelle and her son, Maxwell, to Disney World, the Ozarks, and the beaches of Florida. They threw amazing parties for friends and neighbors who loved to listen to Laurel’s pithy, bourbon soaked bon mots. They helped make their neighborhood a community, and their friends became family. After they stopped traveling, Laurel enjoyed quiet days at home with a good book, a cat on her lap, and a steady supply of weed gummies.

She will be deeply missed by her husband, Gary, her daughter, Michelle, her grandson Maxwell, as well as Amazon, Etsy, Wayfair, and other online retailers.

As she was not a big fan of organized religion or New Age spirituality, the family will be holding a “Celebration of Life” open house at 1308 N. 3rd Street, from 4-7 pm on Saturday, May the 4th. There will be an open bar and a nice dinner buffet because that’s literally the least we can do. Laurel had high standards when it came to hospitality, and most everything else. At 6 pm there will be a brief “Ceremony of Remembrance”, which will probably consist mostly of sad poems, funny stories, and champagne toasts.

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