Mae Hunter, mother to 21 kids, great-great- grandmother to Laquan McDonald, dies at 86

“She’d prepare food for 50 or 60 people, for her family and in case anyone from the neighborhood might be hungry and stop by,” said her son.

SHARE Mae Hunter, mother to 21 kids, great-great- grandmother to Laquan McDonald, dies at 86
Mae Hunter, great-great grandmother of Laquan McDonald and mother to Rev. Marvin Hunter

Mae Hunter


Mae Hunter was a mother to 21 children and scores of others who stopped by her North Lawndale home for a meal over the years.

“Managing 21 humans and keeping it from becoming a civil war in the house wasn’t easy. But we didn’t kill each other. We loved each other and still do to this day. It’s a very close-knit family,” said her son, Rev. Marvin Hunter.

“She used to say, ‘You can disagree without being violently disagreeable. You don’t have to fight. Be respectful of individuals’ rights to have an opinion,’” he said. “And you don’t think about that as a child, but she was giving us tools for life.”

Mrs. Hunter’s late husband, Walter Hunter Jr., was a building engineer and entrepreneur.

“Our house was a haven for people. She would cook every day like she was a restaurant owner,” Hunter said. “She’d prepare food for 50 or 60 people, for her family and in case anyone from the neighborhood might be hungry and stop by.”

Mrs. Hunter, who had Alzheimer’s disease and had suffered a series of strokes, died Dec. 8. She was 86.

One of her great-great-grandsons was Laquan McDonald, whose 2014 shooting death at the age of 17 by a Chicago police officer sparked a social movement that led to major police reforms and a conviction of the officer who pulled the trigger.

“She was broken and torn. It was like a lynching. She felt a hopelessness. Before Laquan, we’d never lost anyone to violence. Since then, two more family members have died from gun violence in the city of Chicago,” he said. 

Mrs. Hunter, who was born and raised in Arkansas before moving to Chicago in 1962, had an amazing capacity to forgive.

“She grew up in the Jim Crow South, but she didn’t harbor hatred. She wanted justice for Laquan, not revenge,” he said. “She realized people do bad things but someone has to be the better person — and move to a more progressive and civil way of dealing with things.”

Scores of people, not just family, saw her as a role model. 

“She was just an amazing, loving, caring human. If she wasn’t my mother those would be my exact words. She was a credit to humanity. If all humanity were like her, it would end all wars. She had a way of making people forgive,” he said.

Mrs. Hunter, who lived with one of her daughters in Humboldt Park in recent years, hadn’t spoken for several days before she passed away.

“But shortly before she died, she threw up her hands and said, ‘Glory hallelujah!’” said Hunter, who is senior pastor at Grace Memorial Missionary Baptist Church.

“We were listening to church music and one of my sermons and at the end of the sermon she gave up the ghost and died.”

In addition to Marvin Hunter, she is survived by four sons, 11 daughters, 70 grandchildren, more than 250 great-grandchildren, and more than 300 great-great-grandchildren, and more than 12 great-great-great grandchildren. 

“It’s hard to keep track of everyone, you almost have to do a census,” Hunter joked.

A wake is scheduled for 10-11 a.m. Saturday at Miracle Revival Center, 2010 St. Charles Rd., Maywood, followed by a “celebration of life” from 11 a.m.-noon at the same location.

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