Sherri Sahs-Valencic, a beloved resident of Woodstock, passed away on Nov.r 1, 2023 (All Saints Day), surrounded by her cherished friends and family.
Born in Woodstock on March 3, 1961, to Charles and Patricia (Crone) Sahs, with local family history dating back to 1881. Sherri leaves behind a legacy of resilience, professional achievement, and unwavering dedication to others.
She is survived by her loving husband, Bob Valencic; sister, Kim (Dave) Mansfield; brothers, Brad Sahs ( Erin) and Brian Sahs (partner Meghan); sister-in-law, Lynn Toczyl; life-long friends, Sandra Borchardt, Donna Limbaugh, and The Girls.
She is survived by nieces Jessie (Chris) Hansen, Lanae (Ryan) Dostal, Brenna Sahs; nephews Bob Johnson, Patrick (Laticia) Sahs, Kyle (Nina) Sahs; Connor and Kylee Hansen, Jayden and Jenna Johnson, Grant and Jack Dostal, and Finn, Violet, and Boone Sahs. She took immense pride in raising her stepson, Daniel Useman.
She is also survived by so many additional cherished nieces and nephews, and by the countless smiles she put on the faces of her friends and family’s children.
Her loyalty to friends and family was passionate and ran deep; almost to a fault, she always had your back. This support extended to her beloved Chicago Bears and Chicago Cubs, having attended many games at Wrigley Field while living for 17 years in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago with her husband.
Tough as nails as a result of overcoming many health challenges, she still maintained an energetic glow and shared it with everyone. She was always interested in learning about others’ interests, and along the way, she honed her skill of listening as much as talking. She was an avid list maker and comfortable setting and attaining challenging goals in life and work.
Energetic, compassionate, loyal, persevering, inspiring, and loving are words that only begin to describe how special Sherri is. A bright auburn firework of life, awesome to behold while she shined. She is dearly missed.
Sherri’s educational journey took her from Dean Street Middle School to Woodstock High School, which led her to earn an associate degree from McHenry County College and finally a Bachelor of Science Degree in management of technical operations from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 2004.
Sherri’s early professional career started with a daily Metra train commute from McHenry to Chicago to work for the Association of American Railroads as assistant manager of transportation data systems.
For over 15 years, Sherri made a profound impact at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s institutional research department as assistant director. Sherri was active in the broader institutional research community, presenting compelling research results and new data processing techniques every year to hundreds of conference attendees, eventually selected as president of the Florida Association of Institutional Research.
She oversaw survey research, report administration, and technical functions and responsibilities. She supervised research analysts and student assistants. She was an expert with all phases of survey research.
She was very proud that Embry-Riddle University counted NASA astronauts and Top Gun pilots as students. This led to her love of all things related to space travel, astronauts, and jets, and drove her love for related documentaries and action movies.
As a solutions engineer at SPSS Inc. (analytic software), Sherri and her husband, Bob, worked closely together. Many friends and colleagues had serious concerns about working with a significant other, but Sherri and Bob were confident in their professionalism and approach. With Sherri as industry expert and Bob as a marketing programs manager, they successfully drove new software solutions into the higher education market, often in front of groups of hundreds of research colleagues and peers.
She continued to hone her expert data management and analytics skills over the years, growing her knowledge of predictive analytics, text mining, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.
Her career culminated by working for the major software company, SAP, as a senior solutions engineer -predictive analytics on the North American analytics team. She helped major companies’ re-imagine business processes using predictive analytic insights to optimize resources and improve margins. In a company of over 110,000 employees, she was unique in her expert role.
While leading her office at the university, Sherri relished working with colleagues from other cultures. She appreciated their perspectives on work and culture so much that she later made global travel a priority.
After meeting her future husband, Bob, who is an avid scuba diver, Sherri also took the dive and became an advanced open water certified recreational scuba diver. They took trips to various Caribbean locations for sun and diving: St. Maarten, U.S. Virgin Islands, Barbados, Hawaii, and Cayman Islands, to name a few. Once, while getting certified while on vacation in Hawaii, her dive boat responded to an SOS alert of a sinking boat a few miles away; she assisted the rescue effort and is credited with a rescue at sea.
Both work and curiosity took her to meet other people from around the world, including Ireland, Britain, Holland, Spain, France, and Canada. Inspiration took her to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Grand Tetons, and Yellowstone, as well as 12 other national parks, forests, and monuments with friends and family.
Sherri was a lifelong multiple cancer survivor, but she still found time and energy to give back to others. She rarely complained of her own chronic conditions and was always checking in on others, giving kind words and encouragement even when she was fighting her own battles. She is remembered for her courageous fight and determination to always look forward and not back.
She was a Mentor Angel (cancer patient advocate) and data consultant with Imerman Angels. Imerman Angels provide one-on-one cancer support so that no one goes through cancer alone. Not only did she provide counsel and compassion to other cancer survivors, she also advised leadership to help streamline operational business processes.
Sherri also supported various cancer research events and foundations, including the Gavers Community Cancer Foundation in Woodstock. For many years, a highlight was seeing friends and family at the annual Gavers Barndance fundraiser in the summer. Sherri is a past recipient of the Gavers Cancer Foundation’s Never Be Defeated Award for her positive outlook and fantastic attitude that has inspired others to be their best.
During Sherri’s lifelong health challenges, she preferred to be cared for by research and teaching hospital systems, specifically Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. She always agreed to have medical interns interview her, allowing her medical records to be scrutinized at cancer and cardiac research conferences so as to help promote new surgical techniques or new treatments.
Thank you for your support:
Thank you to the lifelong friends in Woodstock and the Chicago area. Family and friends who supported Sherri her whole life, you are recognized and appreciated. Sherri’s husband appreciates the outpouring of support, food, and kinship that everyone has provided, especially his new family in Woodstock.
In remembrance, donations may be made in Sherri’s honor to:
• Gavers Community Cancer Foundation: The Gavers Community raises cancer awareness through education and screenings, improves cancer care of local residents, and raises funds for cancer research. gavers.org/about-us/
• Riverside Foundation: Riverside Foundation is a not-for-profit, community-based organization serving adults with moderate-to-severe intellectual and developmental disabilities. riversidefoundation.net/about/
Funeral services: There will be a celebration of life ceremony in Woodstock at a later date; details will be reprinted in this obituary.