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Friends recall Oak Lawn victim’s generosity

John Janice Contwere found inside an Oak Lawn home thpolice suspect was set ablaze early Wednesday morning during murder-suicide. |

John and Janice Conta were found inside an Oak Lawn home that police suspect was set ablaze early Wednesday morning during a murder-suicide. | Photo via NBC Chicago

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Updated: April 1, 2014 10:23AM



Friends of Janice Conta, grappling with the news of her shooting death, on Thursday recalled her as a happy and giving person.

A longtime member and former president of the Beverly Hills Embroiderers Guild, Conta had encouraged guild members to undertake a service project.

The group, which has about 30 members, has been making quilts for the Crisis Center for South Suburbia in Tinley Park, delivering about 20 so far, according to Jennifer Rodriguez, the guild’s president. The quilts are given to women who come to the center, a shelter for victims of domestic violence.

Jean Smoots, a guild member, said Conta “was a jolly person, a happy person. We shared a lot of laughs. It’s a big loss.” Smoots, of Oak Lawn, said she had known Conta since Conta joined the group 17 years ago, calling her a “very generous person.”

She said Conta and her husband, John, fulfilled a longtime dream a few years ago by taking an extended trip around the world and were devoted to their grandson, Matthew.

“They adored that little boy,” Smoots said.

Another guild member, Dana Pyzik, said Conta was a “really, really wonderful lady.” Pyzik was an amateur at embroidery when she joined the guild in 2006, but Conta and the other members were encouraging of her work.

She said Conta’s death is “such a tragedy” and that “I know how much my other friends (in the guild) are hurting.”

Rodriguez said she considered Conta a friend and was trying to come to grips with her death.

“I’m trying to wrap my head around the whole situation,” she said.

Conta would hold Christmas parties for guild members at her house, and one year her husband dressed as Santa and handed out wrapped presents, Rodriguez said.

The guild hosts a show of its members’ work each October at the Oak View Community Center in Oak Lawn, and Rodriguez said she hoped some of Conta’s work could be displayed as a memorial of sorts to her.

“Her needlework was just exquisite,” Rodriguez said.

Outside what remained of the Conta home Thursday, a steady stream of vehicles, containing curious onlookers, passed by. Also, three white crosses with Janice, John and Matthew’s names were set up as a memorial, and several stuffed animals were placed there as well.

Contributing: Steve Metsch



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