Born: July 7, 1945
At Rest: Jan. 16, 2019
For many of her friends and family, the most vivid image of Rebecca Walkington is of a determined woman wearing gloves stained green, bending to pull up swatches of garlic mustard that had invaded a lovely spread of forest on the slope of Bull Valley, where she lived. While raising a large, loving family of six kids, Becky devoted herself to good causes, ranging from human rights to help for people with disabilities to protecting the environment. Her efforts toward preserving the woodlands and prairie will have a lasting impact on McHenry County.
She died Jan. 16, 2019, at 73 after a brief illness.
The daughter of Richard and Elizabeth Babcock, Becky spoke as valedictorian of Woodstock Community High School in 1963 and graduated from Smith College in 1967. After teaching English in San Mateo and Torreón, Mexico, Becky went on to receive her master’s degree in Latin American Studies from the University of London. She then served with Amnesty International as a researcher on human rights violations in Mexico and Spain, putting to use her fluency in Spanish. She returned to Woodstock in 1976 to raise her growing family and, later, she served as an administrator at Head Start. Throughout, she made time to advocate for people with disabilities and push to save open space in McHenry County.
She and her loving partner, John Peterson, spent countless hours restoring the Babcock property in Bull Valley to its natural order, fighting invasive plants and bringing back the prairie ecology of centuries ago. Becky’s father had placed a permanent preservation easement on the 30 or so acres, an easement now held by the Land Conservancy of McHenry County. “Her dedication to the family’s legacy and love for the land has helped keep that place a natural wonder,” said Lisa Haderlein, executive director of the Land Conservancy. “And she has been wonderful about sharing that property with the community.”
Becky and John also helped pioneer the first oak-protecting project in the county, and in recent years they raised hundreds of monarch butterflies, tagging and releasing them for their journey to Mexico.
Becky is survived by John and her six children, Rebecca (John Sherwood), Ana, Luis, Ben, Will (Meridel Thomson) and Clair (Cory Triner), and by her six grandchildren, Sophie, Jenna, Lucy, Ila, Juliet and August, with a seventh due in April.
A memorial service will be held in Becky’s honor on Saturday, March 9, at 11 a.m., at the Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 5603 Bull Valley Road, McHenry.
Donations in memory of Becky can be made to the Land Conservancy of McHenry County or the Northern Illinois Special Recreation Association (NISRA).
For information contact the Schneider, Leucht, Merwin & Cooney Funeral Home at 815-338-1710, or visit www.slmcfh.com.