Service Information

Service : Tuesday, February 13th at 12:30 pm
Service Location: Synagogue Service
Or Shalom

Vernon Hills, IL

Shalom Memorial Park
1700 W. Rand Road
Arlington Heights

Shiva Information

Shiva Information

Or Shalom
21 Hawthorne Parkway
Vernon Hills, Illinois 60061

Following the service until 8:30 PM

The Katz-Mariani Home
296 Hobble Bush Lane
Vernon Hills, Illinois 60061

Wednesday and Thursday
12 PM to 3 PM and 6 PM to 8:30 PM

Or Shalom
Katz-Mariani Family Mitzvah Garden Fund
Faith in Place


John Katz-Mariani, 65, passed away on February 10, 2024, at home, surrounded by his loving family, after a two-year battle with ALS. John is survived by his loving wife, Paula, his daughter Claire, his son Al, and his many siblings: Jim, Carla, Tom, Dan, Ceci, Kathryn, and Peter, along with his many nieces and nephews. He will be remembered as a humble, community-oriented, and generous man. His life’s work lives on through his children, the Mitzvah Garden, and the countless students, clients, plants, animals, and communities he has taught, served, nourished, cared for, and loved. John (Johnny to his siblings) was born on September 9, 1958, to Carl Mariani (Gramps, to those who knew him well) and Doris Zimmerman. He grew-up in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia. He was a Philly kid who used words like “jawn” and was raised a die-hard Philly sports fan (he will never forgive the Phillies for blowing it in the NLCS in his final season as a fan). Always athletic, he played on the high school soccer team, breaking his leg in spectacular fashion. John first attended West Virginia University before transferring to Northwestern, where he studied literature and earned his bachelor’s degree in liberal arts in 1983. Inheriting a passion for helping and serving others from his mother. In 1990 John earned his master’s degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania. He was a lifelong student and learner. After discovering his love for nature, botany, and gardening later in life, John became a “master gardener” through the University of Illinois Extension, and later earned a certificate in natural areas management from the College of Lake County in 2021. After working several jobs as a teenager (including at the famed Bluebell Inn), John began his career writing for World Book Encyclopedia in 1985 (and became an expert on sponges). In 1986 he transitioned to working as a teacher at a day therapeutic school in 1986, and then at a residential facility called the Carson Valley School in 1988. After graduating with his MSW, he began working for the Family Service Association of Bucks County in 1990. In 2002, he transitioned to working at the Lake County Department of Health as a social worker for those with severe mental illnesses. In 1986, John met the love of his life, Paula Katz. They were married on September 2nd, 1990, and spent 33 wonderful years together. Their son Al was born in 1993, followed by their daughter Claire in 1998. John was an integral part of several wonderful communities. A dedicated, involved, and thoughtful father, he coached Al’s youth baseball and basketball teams for many years. In support of Al and Claire’s love for the theater arts, he became a backstage dad and later a stage manager with Big Deal Productions in Buffalo Grove. He continued working with kids and serving the community there long after his children had aged out of the program. John’s most spiritually significant home was the one he found at Congregation Or Shalom in Vernon Hills. It became his family as well as an outlet for him to work on the many causes he cared about, such as environmental, racial, and social justice. He was Jewish not by birth but by choice- he discovered his faith through his wife, Paula, and converted to Judaism in 1993. He studied and became a Bar Mitzvah in 1996. John founded the Or Shalom Mitzvah Garden in 2011 and coordinated its many volunteers. The Mitzvah Garden provides free produce to local food pantries in Lake County. It was John’s wish that any memorial tributes be made in the form of charitable donations to the Katz-Mariani Family Mitzvah Garden Fund at Congregation Or Shalom, and to Faith in Place, Synagogue service Tuesday February 13, 2024, 12:30 PM at Or Shalom, 21 Hawthorne Parkway, Vernon Hills. Interment following at Shalom Memorial Park, 1700 W. Rand Road, Arlington Heights. For information, including a link to view the service, shiva, and to leave condolences, or (847) 255-3520.

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