Patricia Ann Mileski, therapist and musician, dies at age 60
BY KATIE DREWS October 21, 2012 7:32PM
Patricia Ann Mileski obit photo | Chicago Sun-Times
Updated: November 24, 2012 6:07AM
Patricia Ann Mileski was a therapist who served more than 30 years in the field of mental health specializing in drug and alcohol abuse.
The former South Barrington resident designed mental health curriculum for Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge and worked as a senior addictions counselor for both Advocate Health Care and Barrington Youth & Family Services.
“She was very thorough, and she connected well with people,” said Rochelle Schulman, executive director of Barrington Youth & Family Services. “She had a pretty diverse population [of clients.] She was very comfortable with herself, so she could sit down with anybody and focus on them.”
Mrs. Mileski, who also was a talented musician and once performed as a background singer for Santana, Neil Young and Rita Coolidge, died Oct. 11 of liver cancer at Midwest Palliative & Hospice CareCenter in Glenview. She was 60.
Using a holistic approach to treatment, Mrs. Mileski addressed multiple outside factors affecting her clients, such as family, belief system and lifestyle. She was also fascinated with the brain and took a particular interest in mind/body connections, according to one of her daughters, Kara Mileski.
Once, to learn about how physical health and nature influences mental well-being, she visited Switzerland with co-workers and together they climbed the Swiss Alps.
“It was a really empowering experience,” her daughter Kara said. “She learned how important the outdoors and the wilderness are to clearing your mind. She was very clinical, but she also had that side to her that was very creative.”
Connecting to nature was important to Mrs. Mileski. For the last eight years, she lived in Montana and often got outside, whether it was hiking, snowshoeing or skiing, to breathe in the fresh mountain air.
Julie Wentworth, a family friend who lived for a brief time with Mrs. Mileski in Montana, remembered how much Mrs. Mileski admired the morning sun rising over the mountains.
“Pat would always be looking out the window,” Wentworth said. “She was so engrossed in the moment. You could see how content she was.”
As she did with Wentworth, Mrs. Mileski frequently opened her home to those in need. When Myles O’Dell was a boy, he and his mom stayed with Mrs. Mileski while his parents were going through a divorce.
“She was like a real angel in my life,” O’Dell said. “She made sure I was fed, had clothes. She took me to the doctor’s. If I fell behind in school, she helped me. She taught me how to play guitar as a kid. She taught me how to ice skate. She was just a really, really kind-hearted person.”
Mrs. Mileski raised three kids of her own, but many others knew her as a mother figure as well.
“She had this healing energy,” said Rebecca Everly, a family friend. “Whether you were aching from anxiety or aching from a bump on the knee, she was just always taking care of people.”
A New York native, Mrs. Mileski was born Feb. 4, 1952. Her father was a U.S. Army veteran who worked for the Federal Aviation Administration and her mother had been an Army nurse during World War II before having Mrs. Mileski and her brother. Her mother was ill during most of her life, so Mrs. Mileski helped take of the household.
“She was like little Nancy Nurse of the family,” said her husband, Alan.
She graduated from high school in the Washington, D.C., area and then moved with her family to Hawaii, where she met her future husband. The couple wed in 1971 and moved to Rolling Meadows before ultimately transferring to New Jersey for her husband’s job in the moving and storage business.
On the East Coast she befriended a drug and alcohol counselor and became fascinated by the work, her husband said. After relocating to South Barrington, she went back to school to pursue a career in the field.
Mrs. Mileski was a faithful Catholic. She sang occasionally at church and also “just whenever she could,” particularly John Denver, James Taylor and Paul Simon songs, said her son, Kevin.
During the ’70s, she performed with Santana and Neil Young in Hawaii and also recorded for one of Rita Coolidge’s albums.
Throughout her life, she continued to sing and play the guitar, piano and accordion.
“If ever there was a party and the energy was kind of low, all of sudden my mom would come out in her huge accordion and just whale away on it,” her son said.
Mrs. Mileski is also survived by a daughter, Kimberly DeVries, four grandchildren and a brother.
Services have been held.