Shirley Klem, former Oak Park trustee, dies

Shirley Klem, activist and Oak Park trustee

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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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Rick Klem from Houston, Texas  

Posted: June 9th, 2011 8:30 AM

What a wonderful Aunt, how I remember Christmas Eve get-togethers either in Oak Park or Wheaton. Aunt Shirely and Uncle Jack (John) raised a great family, and have a family legacy to be proud of. Our Love to all. Rick & Jody

Tom Sullivan from Durand  

Posted: June 8th, 2011 8:33 AM

An inspirational woman who truly exemplified what a community member should be. My Aunt Shirley will not only be missed by the extended family who loved her, but by the community she loved.

Lois Klem Sullivan from Rockford, Ill  

Posted: June 7th, 2011 5:35 PM

Rest in peace, dear Shirley. How truly blessed to have such a terrific sister-in-law. Oak Park has suffered a tremendous loss.

Julie Sullivan from Springfield  

Posted: June 7th, 2011 4:39 PM

An inspiration to me growing up and a role model! Oak Park is a much better place because of your work and the love you always showed for your community and your family. Rest in peace Aunt Shirley!

Teresa Powell  

Posted: June 7th, 2011 2:56 PM

She was serving as a trustee when I moved to Oak Park 35 years ago, and helped the Village come through challenging times! A great lady, as the last comment said!


Posted: June 7th, 2011 2:12 PM


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