Updated: July 12, 2012 6:12AM
Lydia Scuderi Hanrahan, former owner of the Lake Forest Travel Bureau, made fantasy vacations come true.
Imagine a cruise down the Nile in an Egyptian sailing ship, whale watching off the Antarctica coast or a private plane ride over the largest waterfall in the world.
An expert in luxury travel, Mrs. Hanrahan designed trips of a lifetime that catered mainly to big-budget clients of the North Shore.
A world traveler herself, Mrs. Hanrahan explored more than 100 countries and islands to make local connections and deliver firsthand knowledge to her customers.
“She was known throughout the world,” said Rex Fritschi, owner of Chicago-based Rex Travel. “She was a true travel counselor, someone who traveled extensively and devoted her lifetime to the business.”
Mrs. Hanrahan, past president of the Midwest Chapter of the American Society of Travel Agents, died June 1 of natural causes at Lake Forest Place, the retirement community she had lived in for the last few years. She was 88.
Mrs. Hanrahan was a native of Switzerland, born in St. Gallen on Dec. 26, 1923. The youngest of three, she played the flute as a child and enjoyed hiking and skiing in the mountains.
In her early 20s, she moved to Paris, where she met her first husband, an Italian named Fausto Scuderi. The two moved to Chicago and eventually settled in Lake Forest. There Mrs. Hanrahan co-founded the Lake Forest Travel Bureau and headed the agency until it was sold in 1996. She started another agency, Travel by Lydia, which she ran into her late 70s.
“She was a very smart business lady,” Fritschi said. “She had a very strong presence. People took her seriously. She was a very fun-loving gal, full of laughs, but when it came to business, people respected her.”
Among her many globe-trotting adventures, one of her wildest experiences was a journey to Papua New Guinea, where she explored the highlands and cruised down the Sepik River. She also went to China — a trip she once marketed as “one of the most unusual experiences of a lifetime” — shortly after President Richard Nixon’s historic visit in 1972.
“She was a pioneer in travel,” said Helen Varri, current president of Lake Forest Travel Bureau.
Mrs. Hanrahan’s knowledge and experience abroad helped her build unforgettable experiences for clients. Such vacations cost, on the low end, $5,000 to $10,000 a person and, depending on the trip, might have included reservations at posh hotels and top restaurants, private tours of world-renowned museums and historic sites, and individually personalized activities, such as hot air balloon rides in the African savannah.
“It’s expensive, but the person comes back and says, ‘Wow! Look what we did!’ ” Fritschi said. “You spread such a great flood of cheer, and that was very gratifying to Lydia.”
In 1985, Mrs. Hanrahan’s first husband died of complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. She married her second husband, Richard Hanrahan, in 1990.
Active in the Lake Forest community, Mrs. Hanrahan was “extraordinarily outgoing,” said her stepdaughter, Sarah Apple. “She would talk to anyone and everyone. She struck up conversations and made good friends with people from all walks of life.”
Mrs. Hanrahan was a member of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Founder’s Society and volunteered for galas and other fund-raising events that benefitted the organization. She and Richard, who preceded her in death a few years ago, were also involved with the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society and used to serve on the committee for the group’s polo tournaments.
Aside from Apple, Mrs. Hanrahan is survived by her stepchildren, Richard Hanrahan, Priscilla Hanrahan, Douglas Hanrahan, Peter Hanrahan and Rebecca Hanrahan; and seven grandchildren.