Karla Kay Chew, 83, a longtime resident of Oak Park, died with family by her side on June 8, 2023. Growing up in rural central Michigan, she was valedictorian of her high school class and active on the school’s band, chorus, cheerleading and basketball teams as well as being a member of the local 4H club. She graduated from Michigan State University with a BA in Mathematics and later received her MBA from Sangamon State University, while working as a computer programmer for the state of Illinois in Springfield for 10 years. She did contract work for a few years after moving to Oak Park, before settling in and eventually retiring from White Cap Company in Chicago where she was a programmer and Programming Department manager for 20+ years.

Always active, she refused to let a COPD diagnosis in her 60s define what she could and could not do. She enjoyed tennis (including many years at the Oak Park Tennis Club) as well as biking, camping, canoeing and downhill skiing, which she did well into her 70s, passions she passed down to her children and grandchildren through many cherished family trips. She delighted in hosting friends for Friday pizza dinners, attending weekly breakfast groups (George’s Family Restaurant was a favorite) and driving long distances to visit family and friends across the U.S. She also loved cheering on her four grandchildren in their various sporting events, concerts and shows and bringing them activity books and puzzles they could work on together.

A dedicated volunteer throughout her life, she assisted the Austin Scholars Award Program at Third Unitarian Church, where she also held several board positions; the Columbus Park Food Pantry and PADS, as well as “vacations” to help build trails for Sierra Club and houses for Habitat for Humanity. She was very active with the Democratic Party of Oak Park, participating in phone banks, and going door-to-door to promote candidates she felt supported social justice causes dear to her heart. She was a determined and fiercely independent woman, active in her community.

Karla was the wife of the late Ronald Chew; the mother of Ryan (Lindsay Beller) Chew and Tracey (Glenn) Kugelard; the grandmother of Jackson and Carter Kugelard and Tabitha and Nora Chew; the sister-in-law of Barbara (David) Roy and Nancy (Gerald) Kitch; aunt of Rusty (Beth) Kitch, Barry (Ann Celi) Kitch and Saundi (Christian) Theodossiou; and adoring dog mom to her Irish Doodle, Mollie, with whom she frequented the Ridgeland Common Dog Park for years.

A memorial service to celebrate Karla’s life is planned for Aug. 5 at Third Unitarian Church, 301 N. Mayfield Ave., Chicago at 2 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless or the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

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