Remembering the legacy of Vandalia Bus Lines matriarch Judy Streif

A few years ago, Judy Streif took stock of her life’s work growing a demanding family business, Vandalia Bus Lines, while raising 10 children. It was a busy and a full life that she loved, the family matriarch said.

“You have to like what you’re doing,” Streif shared. “Otherwise it’s not going to work. And I loved it from the beginning. 

“This is my legacy. And I call myself one of the pioneers, along with my husband.” 

Judith Rae “Judy” Streif, 84, of Granite City, Illinois, passed away Dec. 30, 2023, at her home with her family at her side.

Judy and her late husband, Leon, owned and operated the now 92-year-old Vandalia Bus Lines since 1975.

Building a family and a business

When she married Leon Frederick Streif on June 14, 1967, they were single parents who had nine children between them. Judy had three girls, and Leon had six children. They would later have another child, bringing their brood to 10. 

Judy Streif
Judy Streif

From the beginning, Judy quickly united the family, remembers Dennis Streif, who was 7 years old when Judy married his dad. He said her presence in their home felt like the arrival of Mary Poppins because Judy’s “heart and shoulders were as big as an ocean” in taking on additional children.

“She was very instrumental in the company early on when my dad was trying to grow the business and all of us family worked in it,” Dennis said. “She’d put in long hours, and she’d take on any challenge that she felt was worth fighting for and that she felt like she could accomplish. She worked tirelessly until she accomplished it.”

Judy carried fond memories of working side by side with her husband, learning bookkeeping and other skills needed to run the growing operation.

“I was self-made,” she said. “I had to learn because I just had a high school education. I just saw how it was done and picked up from there.

“We eventually moved up above the business for five years, so it was very convenient for us. If we didn’t get it done during the day, we finished it in the evening. And then we grew from there.” 

When Leon died in 1996, Dennis and his brothers took over the business. Judy continued to work for the family business until retiring in 2020 at age 80. 

Passion for animals

Outside of the business, she had a passionate love for animals and supported many animal shelters and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. She was also a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals and enjoyed traveling. 

“She was an amazing woman who brought laughter and enjoyment to everyone she met. There wasn’t a person whose heart she didn’t touch and lives she enlightened,” according to her obituary.

She is survived by nine children and their spouses, Gregory and Sharon Streif of Crestwood, Kentucky; Dale and Jenice Streif of Belleville; Deanna and Dale Clifton of Pontoon Beach; Peggy and Joseph Hock of Irvington, Alabama; Lori Ditzler of Caseyville; Dennis and Mary Streif of Columbia; Roger and Linda Streif of Caseyville; Norma Stafford of Caseyville; and Melissa and Clarence Kaemmerer of Red Bud.

She is also survived by 16 grandchildren; numerous great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren; two brothers and sisters-in-law, Jim and Corliss Berger of Belleville and Dave and Peggy Berger of Belleville; and three sisters and two brothers-in-law, Mary Ann and Ernie Pfershey of Millstadt, Becky Vinson of Lake Tahoe, California, and Teresa and Rick Biasini of San Diego.

In addition to her husband and parents, she was preceded in death by a son, Bart Robert Streif; son-in-law, Terry Ditzler; two brothers, Paul Berger and Raymond Berger; and two sisters and a brother-in-law, Diane and Bill Forbeck and Barbara Tayon.

Memorials may be made to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Metro East Humane Society, or another animal shelter.

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