Well-read mother of 9 had ‘un­com­mon kind­ness’

Chicago Sun-Times - - OBITUARIES - BY SAN­DRA GUY Busi­ness/tech­nol­ogy Re­porter Email: sguy@sun­times.com Twit­ter: @san­draguy

Frances “Fran­nie” Marie Collins Reyes, mother of nine, in­clud­ing two of Chicago’s wealth­i­est busi­ness­men, named her clos­est col­lege girl­friends “The Jolly Girls.”

Mrs. Reyes was a loyal ad­viser, lis­tener and sup­porter of the funlov­ing group for more than 65 years.

The girls went to the movies and hung out to­gether while the men were away in World War II.

“She was the most loyal friend any­one could ever have,” said Pa­tri­cia David­son White­ford, of Raleigh, N.C., one of the Jolly Girls at Dun­bar­ton Col­lege of the Holy Cross in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., a now-de­funct all-girls Catholic school.

Mrs. Reyes, a na­tive of Wash­ing­ton, D.C., died at 88 at her home in Po­tomac, Md. She ex­uded a ma­ture grace, mod­esty, gen­eros­ity and love­li­ness, her friends re­called Sun­day.

Her calm de­meanor stood her in good stead as she and her hus­band, Joseph A. Reyes, had eight sons and one daugh­ter. Their chil­dren in­clude J. Christopher and Jude Reyes, who rank No. 3 and No. 4, re­spec­tively, on Forbes’ 2013 list of bil­lion­aires in the Chicago area as the ex­ec­u­tives of the fam­ily’s Reyes Hold­ings LLC food and beer distrib­u­tor­ship.

“It was a high-spir­ited group of chil­dren, yet Mrs. Reyes was never rat­tled,” said Kate White­ford Sch­nei­der, Pa­tri­cia White­ford’s daugh­ter and a fam­ily friend. “She would just say, ‘Oh, now, boys, boys,’ even when things were crazy and ac­tive.”

Friends re­called at­tend­ing the Reyes fam­ily’s yearly Christ­mas cel­e­bra­tion in their large Colo­nial house in an Ir­ish-Catholic neigh­bor­hood, where the at­mos­phere was al­ways happy and wel­com­ing.

Mrs. Reyes “was this beau­ti­ful per­son with this in­cred­i­ble smile and un­com­mon kind­ness,” said fam­ily friend Fran Mo­ran, dis­trict man­ager for World Wide Tech­nol­ogy Inc.

Mrs. Reyes also held her own in so­cial cir­cles with her hus­band of 61 years. With sons J. Christopher and M. Jude, Joseph A. Reyes co-founded the 14th-largest pri­vately held com­pany, Reyes Hold­ings, where he serves as chair­man emer­i­tus. The com­pany owns the top beer whole­saler na­tion­wide, Reyes Bev­er­age Group, ac­cord­ing to pub­lic records. The Chicago-based Reyes Hold­ings em­ploys 15,000 and had $22 bil­lion in rev­enues in fis­cal year 2012.

Mrs. Reyes “was well-read and re­ally well-versed, whether it was in the po­lit­i­cal realm, for­eign af­fairs or sport­ing events,” said Larry Mellinger of Earlysville, Va., who met the cou­ple when he served as the U.S. ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the In­ter-Amer­i­can De­vel­op­ment Bank in the Rea­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“She ex­uded tra­di­tional Amer­i­can val­ues of home, church and com­mu­nity,” said Mellinger, who cred­ited the Reyes fam­ily with in­tro­duc­ing him to his wife, Claire. “She was very up­right, and that’s one rea­son peo­ple re­spected her so much.”

Mrs. Reyes read two to three news­pa­pers ev­ery day, had at least one book by her side at all times and main­tained a keen in­ter­est in pol­i­tics and world events, ac­cord­ing to a re­mem­brance pro­vided by her fam­ily.

She pas­sion­ately rooted for the Na­tion­als, Red­skins, Terps and Ori­oles. She en­joyed watch­ing her sons play football un­der the coach­ing of her brother, Maus, at Arch­bishop Car­roll and Gon­zaga high schools, and see­ing her grand­chil­dren play soc­cer, lacrosse and Lit­tle League.

Mrs. Reyes was equally as ac­tive in church. She at­tended mass daily at St. Jane Frances de Chan­tal Catholic Church in Bethesda, Md.

She vol­un­teered at the parish grade school when her chil­dren were young, mak­ing sure the school had a new stage or new cur­tains, school Prin­ci­pal Betsy Hamil­ton said.

A friend since high school, Mary Louise LeBlanc Som­merville, of Fort Laud­erdale, Fla., and Mississauga, Canada, said Mrs. Reyes was al­ways there to re­as­sure her that ev­ery­thing would be OK.

“You could spell ‘lady’ with cap­i­tal let­ters 10 feet high” to define Mrs. Reyes, said Som­merville, a fel­low stu­dent with Mrs. Reyes at Holy Cross Acad­emy.

Other sur­vivors in­clude sons David, Wil­liam, John, James and Thomas; daugh­ter Ju­lia A. Reyes Taubman, and 23 grand­chil­dren. Son Stephen is de­ceased.

Visi­ta­tion will be from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Mon­day at St. Jane Frances de Chan­tal Catholic church, 9601 Old Ge­orge­town Rd., Bethesda, Md.

A Catholic fu­neral mass will be held at St. Jane Frances de Chan­tal at 11 a.m. Tues­day, fol­lowed by a pri­vate in­ter­ment.

A cel­e­bra­tion of Mrs. Reyes’ life will be held af­ter the fu­neral mass at 1 p.m. Tues­day at Con­gres­sional Coun­try Club, 8500 River Rd., Bethesda, Md., where ev­ery­one is wel­come to honor Mrs. Reyes’ mem­ory.

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