Arlington Heights author who became known nationally as the 'angel lady' dies

  • Joan Marie Wester Anderson, who became known nationally as the "angel lady" after releasing her 1993 best-selling book "Where Angels Walk," has died. She was 84.

    Joan Marie Wester Anderson, who became known nationally as the "angel lady" after releasing her 1993 best-selling book "Where Angels Walk," has died. She was 84. Daily Herald File Photo, 2017

Updated 3/10/2023 5:05 PM

An Arlington Heights author who rose to national fame and became known as the "angel lady" for her books about angels and miracles has died.

Joan Marie Wester Anderson, 84, wrote more than two dozen books about people who said heavenly angels miraculously saved them from tough situations.


A visitation was held Friday evening at Glueckert Funeral Home, and memorial services are scheduled for Saturday. Anderson died March 1.

"Where Angels Walk: True Stories of Heavenly Visitors" was Anderson's 1993 breakout that spent 55 weeks on The New York Times Best Sellers list, selling more than 2 million copies.

That led to a book tour, speaking engagements across the country and appearances on national television -- including interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Larry King, Tom Brokaw, Jerry Springer, Joan Rivers and Sally Jessy Raphael -- as popularity around angels grew.

"People wanted to be included in what I later discovered was a really important movement around the country," Anderson told now-retired Daily Herald columnist Burt Constable in 2017.

Anderson started compiling angel stories after one of her five children told her how his car broke down on a snowy night around Christmas, and a tow truck appeared out of nowhere to pull him to safety, then disappeared without leaving tire tracks.

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"I haven't discovered the whole meaning of life except that God made a beautiful world and wants us to share it," Anderson told Constable on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of her first angel book. "Human nature is human nature, and it will move as it will. We're just along for the ride. But everybody has something special they have to do. We all end up being answers to other people's prayers."

Though a deeply religious Catholic, Anderson initially was skeptical anyone would buy a book of angel stories. But angels soon became a cottage industry. "Touched By An Angel" debuted on TV in 1994. Shops selling angel-related items -- books, statues, gifts and anything with a halo -- began popping up.

And Anderson continued to write books, speak to groups and do interviews, becoming an expert of sorts in the national angel craze.

After purchasing a home in Arlington Heights in the early 1970s, Anderson started writing as a way to bring home a second income for her family of seven. Amid her busy family life, she would try to find time to write, starting with family humor magazine articles that often came from her husband's and children's true tales. She made $25 selling her first story to a diaper magazine in 1973.

Her first book, "Love, Lollipops and Laundry," came three years later. Co-authored with friend Ann Toland Serb, the book sold mostly to friends and family, and her $300 share of the sales paid for a new washing machine.

Anderson wrote about a half dozen other books -- mostly nonfiction -- before she was inspired by her son's tow truck rescue story.

She and her husband, Bill, later moved to a senior community in Wheeling, where her room was filled with angel figurines, posters and copies of her books.

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