Edna Pardo worked tirelessly to improve her community, focusing much of her effort on the inequities of Illinois school finance in her longtime role as a leader of the League of Women Voters of Chicago.
"Edna was a very optimistic lady, and she really thought we could effect great change (on those inequities) and she worked very hard for that," said fellow league member Dorothy Scheff. "She was never discouraged and of course kept us all going."
Mrs. Pardo, 92, died of natural causes Tuesday, Feb. 25, in the Imperial of Lincoln Park in Chicago, according to her son Victor. She and her husband Louis, who survives her, lived in the Austin neighborhood for about 45 years.
"Edna was very much involved with the League of Women Voters and worked on a lot of issues," said former Chicago city clerk and state Sen. Miguel del Valle, who now is on the Illinois Commerce Commission. "But I think the one she was most passionate about was education reform, funding reform and tax reform as it related to education."
Mrs. Pardo, who served two terms as the League of Women Voters president and chaired its Fiscal Policy Committee for many years, was one of those responsible for producing a well-known league publication, "A Guide Through Chicago's Tax Maze," aimed at educating city residents about the many ways they are taxed.
In addition to her work for the league, Mrs. Pardo was also active for many years in the Chicago Region of the Illinois PTA, Scheff said. She was a regular at Chicago City Council meetings and often traveled to Springfield to lobby legislators on education, funding and tax issues.
Louis Pardo has also been active in the community, particularly in voter registration efforts, according to del Valle.
Mrs. Pardo was born Edna Fried in Yonkers, N.Y.. She studied for a time at New York University and got involved in left wing, radical politics, her son said. She later received a degree in urban studies from Roosevelt University.
Through her work in politics and social causes, she became involved with organizations including the Communist Party, which asked her to help expand its office in Indianapolis, her son said. There she met her future husband, who headed the Indianapolis office.
Neither Mrs. Pardo nor her husband remained party members after the McCarthy era of the 1950s.
The couple moved to Chicago in 1952 and in 1958 bought a house in North Austin.
"She joined the league right away and was active in the PTA right from the start," her son said.
Fair taxation and proper funding for schools were major themes in Mrs. Pardo's life.
"Without fair funding, she believed children in poorer neighborhoods could never get ahead, could never come up to the level of children in wealthier neighborhoods," Victor Pardo said. He added that his mother was also a great advocate of reading programs for younger children.
In an effort to help others understand the complexities of Chicago taxes and the ways education was funded, Mrs. Pardo worked with others in the league in the mid-1980s to put together the tax guide.
"She was extremely well-informed and did a lot of research," said Peggy Lipschutz, an artist and league member who worked on the guide. "She wrote the text, and I laid it out and did the cartoons."
The guide went through several editions, including one in Spanish.
"It was sad how little changed over the years," Lipschutz said. "There are still inequalities everywhere, and increasingly working people foot the burden."
Scheff said the guide is still in print, but hasn't been updated because of a lack of "womanpower" and is no longer very useful.
In a 1985 opinion piece in the Tribune, Mrs. Pardo lampooned what she called "junk taxes," specifically a plan to fund school reform programs with an 8-cent tax on cigarettes and a 5-cent tax on long-distance calls. She suggested the new slogan could be "Save our schools, start smoking."
Instead she proposed restoring some then-recently eliminated income tax surcharges on individuals and corporations to provide a stable revenue source for what she said were essential programs.
"I can't think of anyone that today matches what she and her husband have done," del Valle said.
Mrs. Pardo is also survived by sons Zack and Richard; a sister, Marjorie McCarty; and a grandson.
A memorial service is planned for May 31 in the United Electrical Workers Hall, 37 S. Ashland Ave., Chicago.Copyright © 2015, CT Now