Laura Fairbank Sudler

  • Died: August 18, 2021
  • Location: Chicago, Illinois

Central Chapel

6158 South Central Avenue
Chicago, IL 60638

Tel. (773) 581-9000

Tribute & Message From The Family


Laura Fairbank Sudler passed away on Wednesday, August 18th at her home in Chicago at the age of 82 after a long battle with cancer. Born in Chicago, Laura was the second of six children of Kellogg Fairbank, Jr., an industrial Realtor, and June Fairbank Taylor, Founder of the Lincoln Park Zoo Society. Laura grew up in Chicago's Near North Side and spent her summers at "Butternuts," the family home on the shores of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin built in 1890.

Laura felt great pride in her family's deep Chicago roots. Laura's great-grandfather, N.K. Fairbank came to Chicago in 1855, and became a successful industrialist with companies that manufactured soap as well as animal and baking products. He was the original owner of the land that comprises Streeterville in downtown Chicago and engaged in a 20-year court battle to evict the legendary squatter, "Cap" George Streeter. N.K. founded many of the city's cultural institutions including The Chicago Club and the Commercial Club of Chicago, and was an original trustee of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Laura attended Francis W. Parker School, followed by the Baldwin School, Wayland Academy, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. But a 1959 trip to Africa to collect mountain gorillas with Marlin Perkins, Director of the Lincoln Park Zoo and star of the television program, Zoo Parade, was the catalyst for her real education. Laura's African adventure sparked a lifelong passion for learning about others, culture, and community through traveling the world.

In 1961, she married William S. Ames and had three daughters. In 1969, she married Louis C. Sudler, Jr., a retired Navy Captain and partner in Sudler & Company, one of Chicago's largest and most prestigious real estate firms at the time. Together, they had a son. Also in real estate, Laura was a top luxury broker for more than 30 years.

Laura believed that it is our civic responsibility to actively support the organizations that make Chicago great. She served as President of the board of the Chicago Academy of Sciences (now the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum), SOS Children's Villages Illinois, and ARCS (Achievement Rewards for College Scientists), and tirelessly in leadership roles for several other organizations.

After retiring from real estate, Laura, along with her husband Louis, went into the travel business. Together, they led groups to unlikely destinations on every continent including Africa, India, Iran, Syria, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Bhutan, Nagaland, Antarctica, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, and Spitzbergen. They traveled the world so many times that their flight paths would wrap the globe like a ball of yarn. Their goal was to explore places that were out of the way, learning about unique cultures and people. While traveling, Laura collected original textiles, many of which were donated to the Art Institute of Chicago and the Field Museum. Most importantly, they opened doors, changing the lives of the people they met, and the perspectives of the people who traveled with them. Always ready for adventure, she was planning her next family vacation right up until she died.

Laura led her extraordinary life with bravado and candor. She was colorful, outspoken, caring, principled, generous, and full of determination. She valued her friends and cherished her family. She loved deeply, was passionate about learning, and had a boundless commit to making a difference in the world. In recent years, she enjoyed spending time at their home in Colorado.

Laura is survived by her husband, Louis, as well as her children, Jennifer Ames Lazarre (Paul), Mary Ames Kivell (Tom), Nathalie E. Ames, and Stewart Zachariah "Zack" Sudler (Violet), her stepsons, John Sudler (Karolyn) and David Sudler (Sandra), and eight grandchildren: Chase, Emily, Laura, Griffin, Holden, William "Max," Alexander, Erik and a step grandson, Nathan.

A funeral service will be at St. Chrysostom's Episcopal Church at 1424 N. Dearborn Street in Chicago on Friday, September 10th at 3:00 pm. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to an organization that is dear to her heart, SOS Children's Villages of Illinois at www.sosillinois.org/giving/donations.

Please visit LAURA FAIRBANK SUDLER BOOK OF MEMORIES. To express your thoughts or memories in the online guest book, visit www.chapelc.com or www.facebook.com/centralchapel. Arrangements by CENTRAL CHAPEL- Chicago. Info., 773 581 9000.