The way Jesse White sees it, his sister Doris Ivy lived an extra 27 years thanks to a kidney transplant.
That transformed his views on organ and tissue donation and motivated him to make it a priority of his administration as Illinois secretary of state.
“After her gift, I became a strong advocate for a second chance at life,” said White, who, in 1999, appeared with his sister in a public service announcement on the need for donors.
Mrs. Ivy, 85, a North Side mother of nine, died Friday at Northwestern Memorial Hospital of complications from a stroke, according to White.
They grew up along the Mississippi River in a low-lying section of Alton nicknamed “Dogtown.” “Whenever it rained, you had to swim,” White said.
But it was an integrated city with a strong feeling of community, he said.
When his sister was about 8 and he was 7, they moved to Larrabee and Division across from the Cabrini-Green public housing development. She attended Waller High School, now Lincoln Park High School, married Arthur Ivy in 1951 and focused on raising their children and volunteer work.
In 1985, her brother George, a pharmacist, suffered an aneurysm and was on life support. When the family was asked about organ donation, White said they were too stressed and sad to consider it.
Their views changed in 1991, when, after a wait of two years, Mrs. Ivy received a new kidney from a donor.
“Through the generosity of someone else, she got a second chance,” White said. After that, “I was going to do everything in my life to encourage others” to become organ donors.
Mrs. Ivy liked to sing in her church choir. Her favorite hymns were “When the Gates Swing Open,” “I am Redeemed” and “Nearer My God to Thee.”
She served as an election judge and enjoyed organizing the bingo games at her senior building in the 100 block of West Oak Street.
At Christmas, she’d volunteer to help coordinate a ham-and-turkey giveaway by White’s office.
She was a gifted cook. “Her macaroni and cheese and spaghetti and meatballs are something to remember,” White said.
“She would never argue about anything,” he said. “She would say what’s on her mind, and she would respect what you had to say.”
Mrs. Ivy also is survived by her sister Cora, six of her nine children, 12 of her 17 grandchildren, 39 of 40 great-grandchildren and 12 great-great grandchildren.
A viewing is planned from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at A.A. Rayner & Sons Funeral Home, 5911 W. Madison. The wake will be at 9 a.m. Saturday, followed by a 10 a.m. funeral service, both at Union Missionary Baptist Church, 940 N. Orleans.