Betsey Clayton, 94, Chicago Public School principal and teacher

Betsey Tyrrell Clayton, 94, formerly of Oak Park, died on Sept. 15, 2009. Born on Aug. 19, 1915, she was a retired Chicago Public School principal and teacher, and an Oak Park resident for over 50 years. She grew up on a dairy farm near Elgin, attended a one-room schoolhouse and later commuted to high school via the interurban electric train line that ran next to the family farm. She received her undergraduate teaching degree from the University of Illinois in 1938, followed by a master’s degree from the University of Michigan in 1940. The Great Depression was still in force in 1940, and Clayton worked at the Elgin Watch Company for a time after receiving her master’s degree. She eventually found a teaching position in Coal City, Ill. Later a friend urged her to interview for a teaching position offered by the federal government and she soon found herself teaching at the newly built secret city of Oak Ridge, Tenn., one of the Manhattan Project sites. At a social event, a dance partner casually informed her that “they’re building an atomic bomb.”

During her time at Oak Ridge, she met her future husband Lawrence, a Tennessee native who was working at the mysteriously named K-25 plant. The two connected through their involvement in community theater and were eventually married in the front yard of her father’s farmhouse in 1948. They moved to New York City, where she continued teaching while her husband worked as an advertising writer and illustrator and pursued a career in theater.

After returning to Illinois to be nearer her aging parents, the couple settled at first on the West Side of Chicago. Mrs. Clayton joined the Chicago Public Schools, starting as a substitute teacher, and Mr. Clayton became a member of the in-house advertising department at Automatic Electric Company, a producer of telephone equipment and chief rival to nearby Western Electric.

They moved to Oak Park in 1956 and in the early 1960s, they were active in a movement opposed to a junior high school for Oak Park. In the Chicago Public Schools, she became assistant principal of Birney School on the West Side. She later became a full principal and was assigned for a time to the Chicago Board of Education headquarters, administering special projects under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). She became principal of the Olive Child-Parent Center in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood shortly after the school opened. Child-parent centers were a new concept at the time and featured a family-centered approach to assisting low-income students. Initially, Olive CPC consisted of mobile classrooms connected by covered walkways, set in an empty lot on South Pulaski.

At the time of her retirement, she was principal of Medill Elementary School near the UIC campus. After her retirement, she was active with the Retired Teacher’s Association of Chicago (RTAC), writing the organization’s monthly newsletter for many years. She was also involved in the Ella Flagg Young scholarship fund.

Betsey Clayton was the wife of the late Lawrence E. “Clay” Clayton; mother of Keith (Barbara) Clayton; and sister of Leslie Tyrell.

Visitation was held Sept. 24 at Donnellan Family Funeral Home in Skokie. A graveside service was held on Sept. 25 at Bluff City Cemetery in Elgin.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Garfield Farm Museum, P.O. Box 403, LaFox, Ill. 60147.

Carol Chochola, 58, Den mother and baseball mom

Carol Anne Chochola, 58, a 37-year resident of Oak Park, died after a courageous battle with breast cancer at Rush University Medical Center on Sept. 13, 2009. Mrs. Chochola was a den mother with the local Cub Scouts, as well as a true baseball mom in the little and major leagues. She was a billing clerk and a devoted employee of Dr. Brian Schultz. Friends and family will remember her as a strong person, always giving of herself and never selfish, who will be missed by all who knew her.

Carol Chochola is survived by her husband, James R. Chochola; her son, James W. Chochola; her mother, Mary Misiek; and Debbie Kranich, her sister. She was preceded in death by her father, Walter Misiek.

The family has requested that memorials be made to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for Breast Cancer, or to Rush University Medical Center of Chicago.

Join the discussion on social media!