Elsie McCollom

May 1, 1918 - May 14, 2017
Gurnee, IL



Tuesday, May 23, 2017
8:30 AM to 10:00 AM CDT
Queen of Peace Church
910 14th Street
North Chicago, IL


Tuesday, May 23, 2017
10:00 AM CDT
Queen of Peace Lutheran Church
910 14th Street
North Chicago, IL


At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.

Queen of Peace Church

Alzheimer's Association

one's favorite charity

Life Story / Obituary


Bright, vivacious, and gregarious, Elsie McCollum passionately lived her 99 years fully embracing each day as a gift. Born in a time of plenty and having lived through times of great challenge, Elsie possessed a natural fortitude and enthusiasm that inspired all who knew her. Whether delighting people with her entertaining stories, relishing in holidays with her family, or dropping a coin in a slot machine, Elsie’s love of life radiated out to the hearts of others often providing a safe harbor from life’s challenges and always assuring us that there was much to be grateful for. Though the world is certainly duller without Elsie’s bright light, the flame of her beautiful legacy will continue to shine in the hearts and lives of those who will carry her memory and legacy forward.

It seems fitting that such a colorful, sprightly woman began her life during a time of tremendous hope and prosperity. 1918 saw our nation celebrating the end of World War I, welcoming our troops home, and making gainful strides towards securing women’s right to vote. Thumbing through Sears Roebuck Catalog, the harnessing of electricity in more and more homes, and the invention of the Hoover Vacuum confidently foreshadowed the prosperity of the coming decade. Nowhere did hope for the future shine more brightly than in the hearts and home of Matthew and Catherine Zalec who welcomed their daughter Aloysia to their family on May 1, 1918.

Al, as her family called her, grew up in Lake County, Illinois in the good company of her siblings, Pauline, Matthew, MaryAnn, and Stephen. She attended North Elementary in North Chicago and Waukegan Township High School. Somewhere along the line Aloysia changed her name to Elsie. As a youth, she loved to play catcher on various softball teams and jitterbug to big band music often attending dances in Indiana at Danceland. While working at the National Envelope in North Chicago, Elsie had the good fortune to meet Earsel McCollum. When he entered the service, she followed. A bonafide trailblazer, when duty called during WWII Elsie unhesitatingly enlisted in the Women’s Army Corp., Elsie trained in Ft. Des Moines, Iowa and proudly served as a switchboard operator in Florence, South Carolina.

After the war ended, the couple began their 48 years of marriage with a wedding ceremony in the rectory of Mother of God Church March 2, 1946. The marriage brought another name change for Elsie. Earsel lovingly referred to her as Sweets”. Elsie and Earsel’s joy soon grew beyond measure with the births of their daughter Lynnaue and son Lee.

A devoted wife and mother, Elsie focused her life around her family.She was active in Christian Mothers, a room mother, Girl Scout leader and proud mother of an Eagle Scout The McCollum family home was often the center of celebration and companionship. New Year’s Eve parties and nightly family dinners were equally tended with Elsie’s signature good care.

She tickled the taste buds of family and friends with such delights as cheesecake, tarts, rosettes and potica. Baking was her hobby. All were welcome at her table where the wonderful food was only exceeded by Elsie’s good nature and hilarious stories. Though big parties in the basement meant carrying all the food and supplies up and down the stairs, Elsie enthusiastically ran the stairs with abandon and a deep love for providing others with great meals and memories. After holiday dinners, the family would relax with a game of Tripoli.

Without a doubt, Elsie’s commitment to her children afforded them many a treasured memory. Despite her distaste for big water, Elsie often took her children and their friends to the beach where she relished in watching their delight with the sand and water. During trips to the local outdoor theater, Elsie spent most of her time up and out of the car providing her family with ice cream and pop from the concession stand. Brown grocery bags of freshly popped popcorn were provided from home. When the stand closed, she’d return to the car and promptly fall asleep! Movies weren’t her thing. Lee’s futile foray across the neighborhood’s freshly tarred road he was warned to stay away from and the tomato juice bath required to clean him up is a testimony to Elsie’s infinite patience. One fateful day on Lee’s boat Elsie decided to give skiing a try. Lee and Earsel ran her through all the important steps and Elsie, defying her distaste for water, jumped in the lake. Unfortunately, the guys had forgotten to explain one critical detail, let go of the rope when you fall, and Elsie nearly drowned while ferociously hanging on after falling. Elsie’s first ski was also her last! Waitressing at the local country clubs and recruiting others to join her including Lynnaue was one of her joys.

She delighted in both her vegetable garden and her flower beds. Grandchildren in front of her flowers became one of Elsie’s favorite photo opportunities. There wasn’t much Elsie didn’t enjoy in life. Tacos from Taco Bell, Whitman’s Sampler Chocolates, Hershey Miniatures working her gardens, playing baseball, WWF Wrestling, Big Band Music, playing Kings in the Corner, and watching the Price is Right proved sure delights for Elsie. Fond memories of traveling the western states with Earsel and the kids when they were young and again later in life as a couple with her sister, Pauline, created many fond memories and stories Elsie enjoyed sharing over the years. She especially treasured her bus trips with Lynnaue to the tulip festivals in Pella, IA and Holland, MI, and Branson, MO. Seeing the traveling version of The Price is Right with her grandson was a thrill of a lifetime. She enjoyed spending time with her grandchildren whether a special event, graduation, Confirmation, First Communion, wedding or just a visit at Grandma’s. On her 98th birthday she and her great grandson engaged in a laughing contest. Fun for both.

Though Elsie couldn’t successfully back out of the garage, a trait her daughter has inherited, no one could navigate the loving care of others with such natural grace, good humor, and sincerity. Without hesitation or resentment, Elsie unfailingly cared for her parents as she aged, making daily trips to their home before her father’s death and welcoming her mother into her home for her final days. With her signature playfulness, Elsie spent hours of her evening on the phone“talking” to her sister. Though neither sister knew at the time, both were known to set the phone down and walk away for several minutes without the other ever realizing they weren’t actually on the line. For years Elsie celebrated her birthday on June 1st. Lee was 30 when he finally learned her birthday was actually May 1st. When he asked her why she celebrated her birthday in June, she wistfully replied, “I didn’t want to get old so fast, so I postponed it a month.”

A snake charmer in spirit, Elsie’s playful personality assured everyone around her a good time and loads of laughter. When Elsie’s Place Video Gaming Cafe opened in Waukegan, she and Lynnaue frequented often. When the owner and staff learned that Elsie had the same name as the namesake of the cafe, she became “royalty”. Lynnaue made Christma cards from pictures of Elsie taken at Elsie’s Place and the cafe posted them on their wall. They put her on their Facebook page as "a lady named Elsie playing at "Elsie’s Place”. A beloved legend in the hearts of all who work and game there. So endeared by her, the staff thrilled at throwing Elsie’s final three birthday parties.

A legend in the hearts of many, Elsie will long be remembered with fondness, joy, and countless smiles. Elsie lived a heart centered life, embracing life’s challenges and joys equally. Elsie consciously chose love and hope, to selflessly nurture others, and to bring play and laughter to each and every day. In so doing, she taught each and every one of us to do the same. Elsie’s infectious spirit will be deeply missed by many. With each savored piece of Whitman’s or Hershey’s chocolate, scoop of maple nut or butter pecan ice cream, drop of a coin in the local slot, delicious meal shared with others, funny story told, and moment of pure play, may we find both comfort and inspiration in knowing we are carrying on the spark of Elsie’s radiant legacy in each of our lives.

Elsie Virginia McCollum, nee Zalec returned to the Lord peacefully in her sleep while at home on May 14, 2017, reuniting with her beloved husband, Earsel. Born to Matthew and Catherine Zalec on May 1, 1918, Elsie is preceded in death by her parents Matthew and Catherine Zalec and her four siblings Pauline Carovich, Matthew Zaleck, Mary Ann Chesney and Stephen Zalec. She is survived by her daughter Lynnaue (John) Urban, son Lee (Kim) McCollum, her four grandchildren Julie (Scott) Salentine, David Lee Urban, Joshua McCollum and Eryn (Joshua) Shaha. She has one great-grandchild, Connor Shaha. A special thank you to Cathy Whavers, Elsie’s longtime caregiver and family friend, her grandson, David Lee for spending the last three years as a caregiver and best friend, and Jack Seck for being a good neighbor and longtime friend.

Visitation will be held on Tuesday, May 23 beginning at 8:30 am, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 10:00 am at Queen of Peace Church, 910 14th St, North Chicago, IL. Interment will follow at Ascension Cemetery in Libertyville. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be sent to Queen of Peace Church, Alzheimer’s Association or your favorite charity. As a family, we give a grateful thank you to Home Instead Senior Care, Accord Hospice, and the Elsie’s Place staff. Arrangements entrusted by the family to Gurnee Salata Funeral Home, 4190 Old Grand Ave, Gurnee, IL 60031.