Brenda Ruth Atkinson

October 13, 1955 - December 28, 2020

Brenda Ruth Atkinson, age 65, of Elgin, Illinois, passed away Monday, December 28th, 2020. She was born in Ipswich, MA on October 13, 1955. Brenda lived her first 10 years of life between the cities of Ipswich and Londonderry, MA; Punxsutawney, PA; and Detroit, MI. In 1965, the Atkinson family moved to Monroe, MI, where Brenda spent the rest of her childhood and graduated from Monroe High School in 1973. After high school, Brenda attended Judson College in Elgin, IL, and graduated in 1977 with a Bachelor's degree in Human Relations. She also obtained a Master’s Degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Texas Tech, and a PhD (all but dissertation) in Child Development from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Throughout the years, Brenda remained very well-connected to her community at Judson College through the Alumni Association. She was also the Registrar at Judson for several years. Brenda created and implemented a child development program at Summit School in Elgin. She accomplished all of these things while raising two bright and loving sons.

Brenda will be remembered for her great love of family, and deeply valued time spent together. She could be described as caring, bold, passionate, bright, and very detail-oriented. She was an encourager and had a unique knack for seeing the best in people, even those with whom she disagreed. She knew how to laugh at herself and had a contagious smile. She also had a passion for music, and always enjoyed playing her guitar and singing. Brenda was marked by her faith in Jesus and a love for children, especially her three grandkids who brought her abundant joy. A cozy fire, hot coffee, brunch, apple pie, trying to speak Spanish, and giving thoughtful gifts were some of Brenda’s other favorite things.

Brenda is survived by her two sons: Christopher (Caeli) Santa Maria, and Eric Santa Maria; her three grandchildren: Gavin, Shae, and Eliana Santa Maria; her parents: F. Joseph and Ruthanne Atkinson; her siblings: Brent (Lisa) Atkinson, Kent (Pam) Atkinson, Kimberly (Steve) Washburn, and Kerry (Mark) Holmberg; and her many beloved nieces, nephews, and great nieces and nephews.

A Celebration of Life Service will take place on Saturday, January 9th, but will be limited to family only.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to a charity that Brenda herself took great pride in supporting this holiday season, Thumbuddy Special:

Guest Book

  • Kendra Chilewich I will always remember Brenda as a loving, funny, and compassionate person. I babysat for Chris and Eric starting in junior high and all the way through college. I loved taking care of them! Brenda was a true friend and was always looking out for me too, she was genuinely interested in my life. I will never forget the time in high school when someone asked me to go on a date and I felt bad saying no outright so Brenda let me babysit that night so I had a reason to say no. I always smile when I think of that story. Brenda, thank you for all of your love, support, guidance, and trust during those formative years of my life! Love, Kendra
  • Gineen Vargas Brenda was such a wonderful advocate for her children and a great supporter of Judson University. I will miss talking with her about education - her great ideas and wisdom. Prayers for the Santa Maria and Atkinson family. Brenda will be greatly missed.
  • Pat Hargis Hands in the air, swaying in Heaven’s breeze, Singing with all your might before the throne, You left us all too soon without your fierce And mighty love. Praise on. Now you can own The glorious sight, give voice to every joy, Bow down before the holy baby boy, And know the Peace that death can never pierce Again.
  • Elaine Roberts I remember Brenda's ready smile and laughter. I remember how often she reached out to people and encouraged people. She could be silly. She was so genuine. It is a blessing to remember her love and her joy. Her heart was so big.
  • Chris Lash It was a pleasure to receive your calls and talk about education, Judson, and your thoughts about the Chapel program. I am grateful to have been connected to you.
  • Rob Currie It was a pleasure to know you and work with you, Brenda.
  • John Weaver My heart goes out to the family the name of Jesus. May God bless you and comfort.
  • Jody Stuart Lovett Nummer...I pray you can see all these comments about you, and can see what an impact you had on us all, and how loved you were by all who met you. We drove each other crazy, but were as close as sisters...I miss you so...
  • Susan Fleshman There are friends- and there are FRIENDS. Brenda was a true FRIEND. We could chat for hours about a variety of topics or get out of touch with each other for months and pick up right where we left off. I miss her already. Honestly, she was impossible at times, embarrassed the heck out of me in some situations and got on my last nerve more than once! I’m sure she could say the same of me. But, we loved each other and love won! I am thankful.
  • Randy Creath Brenda... so many thing to say, so few ways to say them... You were loved by many, for good reason. Thank you for being my friend!!