Born: June 4, 1923; in Geneva|
Died: Jan. 24, 2013; in Austin, Texas
Audrey June Rockwell died peacefully early in the morning Jan. 24, 2013, at Christopher House hospice in Austin, Texas.
Audrey was born June 4, 1923, in Geneva, Illinois, to Roy G. Nelson and Ann Engstrom, children of western Kane County farmers and descendants of Swedes from Grimmared (Tranemo) and the Ekornavallen area of Västra Götaland, Stravalla in Halland, as well as rural Skåne. As a child, Audrey shared a small white clapboard home on McKinley Avenue in Geneva with her parents, one brother (Barton) and two sisters (Phyllis and Priscilla).
After graduating from high school, she and her friend Margie Giffin moved to the Los Angeles suburb of Montrose where they worked in the World War II defense industry. Audrey loved the California environment and culture. One winter day in a beachside restaurant, Audrey and Margie stumbled upon the actor John Wayne and were invited to enjoy a drink and some burgers with him and his future wife Esperanza Baur Diaz, followed by a trip to Johnny Weissmuller's yacht. It was in California where Audrey met her future husband, a sailor on leave named Frank Rockwell. She was impressed by his ability to walk out of a bar on his hands.
After marriage, Audrey began studying art, first in informal classes at the University of Illinois, and later taking classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. In all aspects of her life and no matter what her circumstances, Audrey expressed a strong sense of aesthetics.
After her divorce from Frank, Audrey moved with her children Brad and Sarah to Batavia, and took on a variety of jobs including secretary to a senior executive at Sears and an administrator and counselor for Community Concern for Alcoholism in Elgin. After health concerns forced her to leave the workplace, Audrey put in many hours doing volunteer work for the blind.
When her children left home for college, Audrey moved to the near-north side of Chicago. Audrey later sought refuge in the climate of San Diego, Calif. Her last years were spent in Austin, Texas. Audrey had honesty and integrity and was a person with outspoken views on issues of justice. Increasingly with old age, she confronted bureaucracies and businesses that she believed to be exploitive. At the age of 82, she filed suit against her cellphone company. At trial, she represented herself against the company lawyer and won. Through sheer force of will, Audrey was able to live on her own in her apartment up until a week before she died.
Audrey is survived by her sister Priscilla Johnson of Keller, Texas; son Brad Rockwell of Austin, Texas; daughter Sarah Rockwell and son-in-law Lester Joseph of Silver Spring Md.; four grandchildren, Gregg Rockwell, Lillian Rockwell, Andrew Joseph and Alex Joseph; and great-granddaughter Cheyenne Rockwell.
A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. July 5 at Oak Hill Cemetery in Geneva.
Please sign the guest book at www.legacy.com/kcchronicle.
Published in Kane County Chronicle on June 26, 2013