Born in Missoula, Montana, in 1912, and losing her mother at the age of 10, Hildred Miller Shellenbarger acquired an independent spirit and inquiring mind that lasted throughout her life. She lived in Marmouth, North Dakota, during the teens, when farm families were struggling to eke out an existence from the dry soil. She graduated from high school in the tiny town of Mobridge, South Dakota—second in her class, on the girls’ basketball team and active in drama. Then she attended Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
After teaching for several years, Hildred married Lyell Shellenbarger, a civil engineer for the Milwaukee Railroad. They moved to Chicago and then to Roselle in 1940, where they were to have two children and spend the next 50 years.
When something was needed in the community, a small town then of only a few hundred people, Hildred sought to provide it. She served in many ways, including Sunday School Superintendent, at the Roselle Methodist Church. She established a junior choir at the church and founded Brownie and Girl Scout troops. She also taught English to several generations of Roselle junior high students.
Although known and admired as a teacher, it was really learning something herself that she loved most. There was no area that she was afraid to tackle and almost always master, whether it was growing African violets or finishing her college degree at North Central College when she was in her 60s. She was not a passive learner and enjoyed doing as much as learning. She kept a card file of books she read and her critiques that numbers in the hundreds.
When two or more people got together, Hildred made it a party. A warm and gracious hostess, she set an inviting table with flowers and carefully polished silver. She always looked for, and usually found, beauty in nature and goodness in people.
She moved to Windsor Park Manor in Carol Stream in 1990 when she was 77 and recently widowed. There, she continued to be actively involved in countless activities from swimming to choir to line dancing and book group well into her 90s. When she was 86 she bought herself a computer and learned to send e-mails to her grandchildren and design and print her own greeting cards. In her 90s, Hildred focused on poetry and art. A nature lover, she taught herself scratchboard art and took many courses in botanical drawing and painting. She traveled alone cross-country well into her 90s. She loved to play bridge and Scrabble and Rook, usually beating her children and grandchildren.
Hildred was not hesitant about stating her political and religious views, and they were mostly liberal even though her own life style was conservative. “I don’t want to be a meek little old lady,” she sometimes said. She is survived by two children, Carol (Slavin) and David, their spouses Steve and Marsha, four grandchildren (Joan Slavin (Chuck Marcotte), Linda (Dan Feeney), Jeff and Steven) and five great grandchildren, Alex, Elena, Nick, Will and Kate.