Valerie Engel-Schiff, beloved wife of Dr. Dan Schiff, passed away on December 5, 2020. Her body couldn’t keep pace with her enthusiasm, positivity, and lust for life. Born in Chicago on May 6, 1931 to Anne (Noni) and Sam Goldfinger, Val was younger sister to Lynne. After her flamboyant art-dealer father Sam (and equally flamboyant mother) remarried, Valerie became halfsister to Vicky and stepdaughter to Anne. A child of the Depression and war years, Valerie’s memories of living with her extended family formed her character of deep generosity and strong family ties. Theirs was a matriarchal family, and Val grew up surrounded by independent women. Valerie was previously married to Alfred Engel, with whom she had three loving children, Leslie, Jeffery, and David, who have all survived their parents. The Engel family made their home in Evanston across from Baker Park, an idyllic locale from which they enjoyed ice skating with the Evanston Speed Skating Club, Indian Guides, Scouts, swimming, camping, and beachcombing. Valerie was a substitute teacher as well as an art teacher; an avid gardener; and an active, involved mother. She made every holiday and birthday special (indeed, she never missed singing her kids “Happy Birthday” even throughout their adulthood). Upon Alfred’s untimely death in 1974, Valerie took the reins of her young family and became a second grade teacher at Mozart Elementary School in Chicago, where she worked for 31 years, and also actively pursued her dream of painting by studying with her teacher Lynne Borst. Later she discovered a latent talent as a sculptor, which blossomed into years of creating terra cotta and bronze figures that she personally supervised the casting of at the Instituto Arte Internazionale in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Valerie studied sculpture with renowned artist Sheila Oettinger at the Evanston Arts Center. For over a decade she pursued plein aire painting in the Cinque Terre, Italy; exhibited in one-woman shows and at area arts and craft fairs; and relished time in her studio space at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, where she was universally well-liked. Notably, Valerie’s tribute to the sacrifices of 9/11 graces the foyer of the Evanston Fire Department headquarters, and her bust of Florence Nightingale commissioned by the Illinois Nurses Association is displayed at their headquarters. Ultimately, Valerie became the doting and devoted wife to Dan, with whom she shared her last 30+ years. Dr. Schiff, a noted psychiatrist who practiced in Evanston, survives Valerie, whom he cherished. Their beautiful home in downtown Evanston is filled with her paintings and sculptures and his extensive collection of music. Together they were insatiable readers and giddy devotees of the opera. Valerie was deeply empathetic and optimistic, a humanist at heart. She will be remembered as an ebullient and romantic personality, prone to nostalgia but with a poet’s soul that delighted in a sunset, the view from a Mediterranean hill town, or the composition of a stand of birch trees; a feisty teacher devoted to generations of students; a wonderful and inspiring mother to Leslie, Jeff, and David and stepmother to Melissa; a special friend to Barbara Sedar, our family angel; and a generous soul to all who met her.
Arrangements entrusted to Evanston Funeral & Cremation, Roland F. Weis director. Info 847 866-8843, condolence and guestbook at evanstonfuneral.com
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