MONTCLARE — Summer Day-Stewart was planning an extended trip to the West Coast with her three children to be with her best friend, who had just been diagnosed with cancer.
It was just who Day-Stewart was — she took care of people, said her friend, Chloe Boyle.
But the night before the family left to help Boyle, there was a fire in their home in the 2500 block of North Rutherford Avenue. Day-Stewart, 36, and her three children — Autumn, 9; Ezra, 7; and Emory, 2 — died in the days after the March 7 blaze, officials said.
The cause of the blaze is still undetermined, according to the Fire Department.
“They were going to come move in with me,” Boyle said. “I told Summer I had a tumor and she told me, ‘I won’t let you go through this alone.’ She would drop her whole life to help someone, that’s just who she was.
“If you needed her, she was there.”
Day-Stewart had signed up her family to be organ donors, said her sister-in-law, Amber Day. Those transplants are now expected to save the lives of eight people.
That includes a firefighter who received kidneys from Emory, Amber Day said.
“Emory would have loved that. He loved firefighters, just like his dad,” Amber Day said. “Firetrucks and watermelon were his favorite things. We got pajamas with firetrucks on them to give him when they came out west for their trip.”
The family is survived by Day-Stewart’s husband, a firefighter.
Day-Stewart and her kids “were never alone” while they were hospitalized after the fire, sister Sarah Day said.
“It looked like they were sleeping and would wake up at any moment,” Day said. “This doesn’t feel real. It’s too big to have actually happened.”
Autumn was “turning into a little Summer,” Sarah Day said. The 9-year-old was a sweet and caring girl who treated her beloved Beanie Boos like they were her own children, and she loved FaceTiming friends and family, her aunt said.
Day-Stewart was devoted to Ezra, who had non-verbal autism, Boyle said.
“Ezra needed a lot of help, and she would do anything for him: equine therapy, water therapy, you name it,” Boyle said. “Part of why she stayed in Chicago was she wanted to find him the best resources.”
Day-Stewart had long been known for her kind heart.
Boyle met Day-Stewart when she waited her table at a Denny’s in Santa Cruz, California. Day-Stewart walked Boyle home that night “because she was worried it would be too dangerous to go alone,” Boyle said.
“And we were best friends ever since. We’ve lived together on and off for years,” Boyle said. “One time, I came home and four homeless people were sleeping on the floor. Summer could be broke and help a mom pay her grocery bill. She had this infinite love for humanity.”
Day-Stewart worked at cafes and had dreams of becoming a musician, her influences an eclectic mix of “Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Tupac,” Boyle said.
The friends shared a love for reading and writing. When Day-Stewart moved back home to Chicago, they stayed in touch by reading the same thrillers together, Boyle said.
Day-Stewart devoured pages of her best friend’s novels.
“I finished writing my first book and sent it to her 9 p.m. that night, and she called me the next morning to tell me she finished it and hadn’t slept,” Boyle said. “When I was dealing with depression, whenever I couldn’t make myself right, Summer always needed that next chapter.”
A GoFundMe to help Boyle with her recovery is online.
Sarah Day described her sister as her “biggest cheerleader.”
“She was more than a firefighter’s wife,” Sarah Day said. “Summer truly lived up to her name. She brought us sunshine.”