Claudia Prete

May 13, 1940 - December 29, 2021

Claudia Prete


Claudia Prete, 81, of Belvidere, IL, died peacefully, December 29, 2021, in Belvidere. She was born May 13, 1940, daughter to Bernard and Elizabeth (Kania) Lukas, in Chicago, IL.  In 1962 she married her sweetheart, Louis Prete. As a child, she loved the outdoors, camping and Girl Scouts.  Claudia reveled in introducing her new family to the joys of the outdoors, car travel, camping and fishing. She was an excellent traveling buddy, fearless but not foolish. Another of Claudia’s lifelong interests was sports, particularly basketball. Claudia first played basketball while attending Alvernia High School in Chicago. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Physical Education in 1962 from Mundelein College. After graduation Claudia taught Physical Education at Resurrection High School and coached girls’ basketball at both Resurrection and Sienna High Schools. Claudia and Louis formed an AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) women’s basketball team, Salt & Pepper, that played together for many years. The team went on to win the AAU Women’s State Basketball tournament in 1976 and participate in the Nationals in Gallup, New Mexico. Claudia and Louis also coached the Division I, women’s basketball team from the University of Illinois at Chicago from 1978 – 1983. The winning record of the UIC Flames during this period wasn’t broken for many years. She was often teased in good fun by the girls…Claudia was a brilliant statistician and coach but so emotionally invested she often spent the last two minutes of games in the bathroom, too stressed to see the outcome firsthand. Claudia’s other lifelong interest was animals and particularly her pets. Claudia rescued many an animal in her life, birds…mice…dogs…cats…a herd of cows. She owned many dogs, including Dusty and Buffy, many cats including Tiger, Blackie, Baby and Bob. She eventually began participating in the sport of pure-bred dogs with her daughter, Melissa. She owned, showed, and bred many English Mastiffs and owned a St. Bernard, Mikey, who she showed to a puppy Best in Show and a Leonberger, Gideon, who she adored. She was a Lifetime member of the Midwest Mastiff Fanciers and a member of the Mastiff Club of America. Claudia prompted her daughter Melissa to partner in a t-shirt business, selling original drawings on t-shirts to the dog fancy. Claudia was an excellent cook, she loved food, especially Polish buffets. She was a stellar grandmother and a good friend. She would give her last dollar to a friend in need. Shortly after retiring she took on the care of her mother, Betty (paralyzed after a stroke in 1977) after her dad, Bernie was killed in a car accident. She took great joy in caring for Betty, taking her out to eat often (a family pastime), traveling with Betty and dolling her mom up with fun jewelry and clothes. As a matter of fact, Claudia’s daughter Melissa, never really “moved out”. Melissa and Claudia lived together, fought together, and laughed together till Claudia “moved out” to take care of her mother. Claudia was deeply concerned about climate change and the state of the world her grandchildren would live in. Since her childhood, Claudia had a great affinity for Native American philosophies regarding animals, communities, and the living world around us. While Claudia supported many good causes, let it also be known that she was a great believer in a sound economy and did her best to support the economy with mega purchases from QVC and HSN. Many may remember hauling some of her ‘economic recovery’ items upstairs this summer. Thank you for that. Claudia was a practicing Catholic…sort of. After 16 years of a Catholic education and several years working within Catholic organizations, she had the fear of purgatory instilled in her. She was always worried about being stuck there, having eaten meat on Fridays. If you are a praying person, say a couple of the Lord’s Prayers and Hail Mary’s to bust Mom out of purgatory. If you have looser definitions of the afterlife, then send some positive thoughts to help guide her to the Rainbow Bridge. Claudia has many creatures waiting for her there along with some other beloved souls. Send positive thoughts that after many years of illness and physical pain, Claudia can be pain free and the self she wants to be. Go ahead Mom, hike with the beasts, snuggle with Tiger, play basketball with Marva, show some dogs in dog show heaven, cook like Martha Stewart, make a bunch of quilts, paint a masterpiece. I know you can.

She is loved and will be dearly missed by daughter, Melissa (Daniel) Milles; grandchildren, Nicholas Milles, 24 and Michael Milles, 19. Claudia is preceded in death by her father and mother, Bernard and Elizabeth Lukas; and sister, Cynthia Waltemade.

In lieu of flowers, memorials in her name may be sent to The Nature Conservancy, a global environmental organization tasked with the conservation of land and water or to the Native American Rights Fund a non profit working toward Native American rights so long denied. Arrangements are being made by Anderson Funeral and Cremation Services in Belvidere.  A celebration of life will be held later, date and time to be announced.

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A celebration of life will be held later,
date and time to be announced.

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She was one of a kind! So many good times “back when”: the Monday night training classes and long dinners afterwards at that restaurant that probably wanted to lock the doors when they saw us all coming! As your tribute says always put the animals first, no matter if it was a spider, moth or dog. Claudia, the trivia queen.. every time I see the game show Jepardy, I think to myself Claudia would have been so good at that…she would have known that answer. She is finally pain free and able to watch over you all😊 and enjoy being with all her critters that have passed before her.

Denise King 2022-01-06T18:53:15

Nice Tribute Miss, Claudia was one of the most intelligent people I have ever known, The world is at a loss with her gone.. Hugs to you and yours.

Tim Plezbert 2022-01-06T17:47:07

What a beautiful tribute to a life lived to the fullest! Claudia was an amazing woman who definitely left the world a better place by being here. Her daughter and family are a wonderful legacy to her caring heart and tenacious spirit. Love, hugs, and positive energy sent for her and to all of you, Melissa.

Kathryn Hopkins 2022-01-06T16:43:27

This is one of the most heartfelt and lovely tributes I have ever read. I wish I’d have known your Mother. Seeing you two in action would have been quite a treat! Deepest condolences to you and your family.

Carole Carbone 2022-01-06T14:54:05

This captures her exactly and I will always remember her with much love. My greatest memories were her sitting down at a piano at a national and singing. It was beautiful. But the most beautiful was the morning we had been driving all night to get to Virginia for the Fall Old Dominion Dog Show and we were tired. The sun started to rise over the hills and I asked her if she would sing God Bless America for me. And she did. In the mountains on that beautiful fall morning, just for me. I loved her very much, had never met anyone as intelligent as she was. She was an amazing, frustrating, stubborn, ornery, funny, witty, loyal, and loving person. She adored her family and I know she tried their patience like no other as well as most who knew her. But that was Claudia. All of our love to Lou, Melissa, Dan, Nick, Mikey, and family.

Julia and Kevin Kriebs 2022-01-06T11:56:18

Melissa your tribute to your mother was so perfect in capturing her many talents and passions. It made me cry and also smile as you recounted your mom’s quirks and the beauty and generosity of her life. I am so sorry for your loss but I believe she is at peace and I hope you are too. You were the same wonderful caring daughter she was for her mother. No mother could ask for anyone better. Love to you all.

NANCY LEAVY 2022-01-06T11:46:45

Lou, Melissa & family,

So sorry for your loss. May the good Lord hold all of you in his loving arms, during this most difficult time.

The Daniels' family 2022-01-04T11:39:27


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