Mary Ann Graziano was a fervent Wordle player, avid bowler and an ace golfer. But above all else, she was a friend to many.
The Palatine native died Oct. 9 at the age of 82, after a long illness that left her in and out of the hospital over the last year of her life.
Graziano spent years working in banks, but she's best known by many for banking strikes at the bowling alley.
Dar Cole met Graziano when the two were members of rivaling teams at an all-women's Friday night bowling league at Timber Lanes in the '90s. Although Graziano could wipe the floor with the rest of them, she was always gracious and not the type to rub it in someone else's face, Cole fondly remembered.
Windy City Times Publisher Terri Klinsky, another member of the that '90s lesbian league (and who was on Graziano's same team), said Graziano "was always kind, fun and the best bowler on the team."
Graziano had a tough exterior, said Cole, who was initially intimidated by her. Once she got to know Graziano's "great sense of humor," though, she realized Graziano was the life of the party. The league would get together outside the bowling alley regularly, gathering annually for the Super Bowl and New Year's Eve. Graziano loved to dance, Cole added.
"She had this little routine she did to Proud Mary which was hysterical, and we all wish we had video of it," Cole said. "She was just such a very social, good person, the kind of person you want to be friends with."
After their evening bowl, the teams would hang out at the now-closed Lost and Found bar on Irving Park Road which they'd once dubbed "Menopause Manor" since "the older lesbians went there"drinking into the after hours.
"My God, we had so much fun," Cole added.
The league eventually disbanded in the late '90s and Cole lost touch with Graziano. But Cole followed Graziano through Facebook, where Graziano was a regular poster. She said she'd always worry when Graziano wouldn't post her Wordle score, as she knew it was one of her favorite hobbies, and Graziano kept her followers updated on her daily streak.
Graziano continued to bowl for many years, most recently as a beloved member of the Waveland Bowlerettes on Wednesdays at the Waveland Bowl, where she was dubbed "Cougar."
"Good bowler, good friend. When we hear thunder, we know she's bowling more strikes," the team wrote in a Facebook post following her death. "Cougar, the lights may be off in your lane but our memories will always light up our hearts!"
Teammate Polly Chagnon added Graziano was "the ultimate team captain."
"Waveland Bowlerettes will never be the same," she wrote.
Though bowling was a favorite hobby of Graziano's, she was also an all-around sports enthusiast who both loved the Cubs and was a passionate golfer. Graziano was a member of the Makray Ladies 18 Hole Golf League in Barrington, helping with scheduling and running the team's blog. She was also an engaged member of her community, serving as the board president of Ethans Glen Homeowners' Association.
Graziano was part of a large Italian family, and was dear friends with her cousins who all grew up in the Chicago area. Graziano "had the same good humor as her dad and the energy of her mom," her cousin Billie Ann Keirstead wrote on Facebook.
"She loved playing golf and spent her retirement doing what she loved to do. She had a good life and will be missed by those who knew her and loved her," Keirstadt added. "Never take tomorrow for granted."
Along with Keirstead, Graziano is survived by many cousins, as well as her aunt Angeline DeMonte and uncle Bernard Marasa. Her parents, Joseph and Ann Graziano, preceded her in death.
The family has encouraged donations to the Road to Recovery program at the American Cancer Society in honor of Graziano and the School Sisters of Notre Dame.