Elaine Van Wieren, 91

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Print

Activist, civil rights worker, traveler

Elaine "Toddy" Van Wieren, 91, died on Dec. 12, 2019. Born on Nov. 2, 1928 to Gertrude Mary Hemwall (nee Jones) and George William Hemwall, in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago, she attended Nash Elementary School and Austin High School, where she was editor of the yearbook, on the staff of the newspaper, and belonged to virtually every club. She attended Wright Junior College, loved to draw, paint, and dance, and was an expert jitter-bugger. Beginning in her high school years, she had careers in retail and modeling. 

In 1950, she moved to Holland, Michigan along with her parents, where she met and married Kenneth H. Van Wieren on June 12, 1954. The couple had six children and moved back to the Austin neighborhood in 1964. There, she became an activist with the League of Woman Voters and the Organization for a Better Austin, as a Saul Alinsky-trained community organizer, civil rights worker, and worked to promote the ERA amendment in Illinois. 

In 1972, the family moved to Oak Park. After running several political campaigns, she ran for Oak Park trustee as an independent in 1978, and in 1980, received a B.A. degree in urban studies and art history from Elmhurst College. She also had interests in design and architecture, and they refurbished and lived in a number of houses in the area, including a Frank Lloyd Wright carriage house. She loved to go antiquing and loved to travel, touring Amsterdam, Sweden, and Wales, exploring family history. 

Following the death of her husband in 1995, she lived and worked in Oak Park near her children and volunteered for Hephzibah Children's Association and St. Vincent De Paul. In August 2003, she married John "Jack" Hemwall of Philadelphia. The couple moved to Naples, Florida and traveled around the world, as well as making many friends at the Tower Pointe at Arbor Trace. 

When Jack died in 2017, she returned to the Chicago area and lived with her daughter Nancy in Elgin until her death. 

Toddy Van Wieren will be remembered by her brothers, Richard and Alan Hemwall; her children, Billie (Joseph Jordan), Laurie (Chris Holman), Nancy, Christopher (Teri) and Abigail (Patrick Strader); her grandchildren, Andrew Van Wieren and Rachel Van Wieren; and her many nieces, nephews, extended family and dear friends. She was preceded in death by her husband, Kenneth H. Van Wieren; her son, Kenneth D. Van Wieren; and her second husband, Jack "John" B. Hemwall. 

A memorial service and reception will be held at Oak Park's Grace Episcopal Church on Jan. 18 at noon, followed by a reception. Her ashes will be interred, alongside her husband Ken's, in the summer of 2020 at Grace Episcopal Church in Holland, Michigan. 

Memorial donations may be made to the Alzheimer's Association, 225 N. Michigan Ave., Floor 17, Chicago 60601, www.alz.org.

Love the Journal?

Become our partner in independent community journalism

Thanks for turning to Wednesday Journal and OakPark.com. We love our thousands of digital-only readers. Now though we're asking you to partner up in paying for our reporters and photographers who report this news. It had to happen, right?

On the plus side, we're giving you a simple way, and a better reason, to join in. We're now a non-profit -- Growing Community Media -- so your donation is tax deductible. And signing up for a monthly donation, or making a one-time donation, is fast and easy.

No threats from us. The news will be here. No paywalls or article countdowns. We're counting on an exquisite mix of civic enlightenment and mild shaming. Sort of like public radio.

Claim your bragging rights. Become a digital member.

Donate Now

Reader Comments

No Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2019

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2019 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.


            
SubscribeClassified
MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad