MORTON - Karen K. Pflederer, 72, of Morton died at 1:03 p.m. Tuesday, April 9, 2013, at Apostolic Christian Restmor in Morton, Ill.
She was born on Dec. 27, 1940, in Peoria to C. Vernon "Pat" and Freda Widmer Pflederer.
She is survived by her sisters, Ethel Grimm of Morton and Jeanette (Chuck) Sparks of Amboy, Wash.; and one brother, Jan William (Linda) of Kenosha, Wis.
Her parents and her sister, Donna Martin, preceded her in death in 2008.
She grew up living "an idyllic youth" in rural Morton, wandering the woods and creeks, learning about and appreciating the wildlife, collecting rocks and fossils. She especially followed the example of her maternal grandfather in searching for and collecting Native American arrowheads and artifacts, saving some 40 arrowheads. (The last one she found in the decorative rock at ACR Nursing Facility when visiting Charlene Orr.)
From early childhood she had a quick wit and great sense of humor, sending family, aunts, uncles and cousins into sidesplitting laughter. At the age of 7, she began singing publicly on the radio with the Cooper School of Vocal Culture and on the bandstands in neighboring town celebrations. As a second-grader, she won second place at the Morton Fall Festival amateur contest. The prize money bought her first trumpet - she could still trumpet a welcome last year. She grew up in a family who enjoyed singing and playing music, and learned to enjoy classical music, ballet and opera while Donna attended Bradley University as a music major. Ethel introduced her to the many forms of jazz.
She credited her paternal aunt, Lois Baer, for her desire to become a teacher. She graduated from MTHS in 1958, earned her Bachelor of Science in Education degree from Illinois State University in just three years by going to summer school and post-sessions, and took her first teaching position at Thomas A. Edison Middle School in South Bend, Ind., in 1961. After moving back to Illinois, she taught at Lombard Junior High in Lombard, Ill. She earned a Master of Arts in Teaching Literature from Northeastern Illinois University in 1969. Since 1969, she earned 89 graduate semester hours of credit in English and 43 in the fields of education, reading or social work, believing that a good teacher is also an avid student.
She began with Maine Township High School District 207 in 1967, first at Maine West in Des Plaines, then Maine South in Park Ridge in 1980. She was described as "a dedicated, loving, caring teacher who has a wonderful sense of humor" and as "demonstrating a keen intellect and a devastating wit!" She was one of two chosen Outstanding Secondary Educators in 1975. While she never married and bore no children, she became teacher, mentor, counselor and friend to thousands of young people, including her own nieces, nephews and their children.
During her teaching career, she watched as challenges changed from students not studying in study hall and chewing gum in class to students with severe challenges because of family or personal drug and alcohol abuse, physical abuse, rape, depravation, AIDS, weapons in school, etc. She recognized that in order to reach students, one must also be a social worker. Her interest in counseling adolescents led to a graduate program at the University of Illinois, Jane Addams School of Social Work, and achievement of the Master of Social Work Degree, interning at her own Maine South high school.
Teaching was her life. Whether helping high school students to read, teaching Advance Placement English Literature, serving on numerous committees, co-directing the Operation Snowball (a statewide substance abuse prevention program for high school students and adults program), working on the Suicide Awareness Team, Crisis Intervention Team, organizing the commencement activities, or sponsoring the sophomore class, she demonstrated a deep caring for students and their growth. In 1991, she was chosen by the State Board of Education as a recipient of the Award of Merit in the Those Who Excel awards program. She was recognized by her peers to receive the PTC Huizinga Award in 1991. She received hundreds of notes of commendation and gratitude from staff members, parents and students. In her teacher evaluations, she repeatedly received a "superior" rating.
She retired from Maine Township High in 1994 and began working as a social worker at The Moorings in Arlington Heights. In 2002, she returned to Morton to live a quiet life, again wandering the woods and creek of her backyard and enjoying gardening, saving and transplanting oak trees, listening to music, reading and writing. She again had season tickets to the Peoria Symphony Orchestra and enjoyed local jazz performances. For 10 years she cared for fellow retired educator Charlene Orr, who suffers from dementia, until her own health interfered. She conquered ovarian cancer in 1996. Karen died after a valiant fight against multiple myeloma.
At Karen's request, there will be no service.
Deiters Funeral Home and Crematory in Washington is handling arrangements.
Karen's memorial website may be found at www.deitersfuneralhome.com, where online condolences may be sent to the family.
Memorial contributions may be made to Illinois Cancer Care in Peoria.