Long time community volunteer and activist, Shirley Klem died Monday, June 6 in her home following a lengthy illness.
Born October 7, 1925 in Chicago to John and Lillian Cavanaugh, Mrs. Klem grew up in Hyde Park, graduating from Hyde Park High School. She met her husband, John Klem of Oak Park (deceased), at Northwestern University where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. They married in 1949, living in Oak Park for more than 40 years where they raised two children, Rebecca and Jonathan. She lived in River Forest for the last 14 years.
A PTA, Girl Scout and Cub Scout leader in her early years, Mrs. Klem was also a member of the League of Women Voters of Oak Park for over 30 years. She was twice elected to the position of village trustee, serving on the village board of Oak Park for two full terms between 1973 and 1981. Many believe Oak Park demonstrated leadership in promoting effective integration and progressive housing practices during this time. Mrs. Klem played a key role on the village board during this important time in the village's history. A long time member of the Village Manager Association, she was also granted honorary membership on the Oak Park Regional Housing Center Board. She was a member of the NAACP of Oak Park.
A devoted arborist, Mrs. Klem played a pivotal role in taking swift action to prevent Dutch Elm disease from decimating Oak Park's extensive population of elm trees, while serving on the village board. The Forestry Department of Oak Park lauded her commitment and dedication.
Both Shirley and John Klem were passionately committed to arts and culture. For many years, she was a member of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, the Ernest Hemingway Foundation and the Oak Park and River Forest Historical Society.
In recent years, Mrs. Klem served as a board member on the Oak Park River Forest Community Foundation. The John and Shirley Klem Fund was established to provide support for the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park and the Oak Park Regional Housing Center.
Mrs. Klem is survived by her children, Rebecca (Wilbur) Mills and Jonathan (Bonnie) Klem and three grandchildren, Abigail Mills and Jessica and Jeremy Klem; also by many nieces, nephews and cousins.
A celebration of Mrs. Klem's life will be held this Friday, June 10, 2011 at 8 p.m. at Unity Temple, 875 Lake St., Oak Park. A reception will follow. Internment private. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the John and Shirley Klem Fund through the Oak Park River Forest Community Foundation.
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