Betsy Foxwell, 75

Betsy Foxwell, 75, a Park Ridge educator and Kalo Foundation president, passed away Jan. 22. (Kalo Foundation, Handout / January 31, 2014)

 

She was ill, and friends and colleagues could hear it in her voice. But even as her health failed, those who knew Betsy Foxwell said the longtime educator and Park Ridge resident never stopped promoting and preserving her city's artistic heritage.

"She was superwoman, and superwoman never has any health issues," said Beth Allegretti, who taught with Mrs. Foxwell for 20-plus years at DeWitt Clinton Elementary School in Chicago's West Rogers Park neighborhood.

Active in a variety of civic organizations, Mrs. Foxwell mobilized a group of residents with the goal of preserving the Kalo Arts Crafts Community House, where early 20th Century silversmiths, artisans and artists helped fuel the Arts and Crafts movement.

The Kalo Foundation, established in 2006, was unable to purchase the Kalo House, which still stands as apartments.

Mrs. Foxwell turned the group's focus toward another of the near northwest suburb's famed artists: Alfonso Ianelli.

In 2011, the foundation raised money to purchase the Iannelli home and studio – once considered one of Illinois' 10 most endangered historical sites.

The group renovated the building and converted it into a center for hosting exhibits on the city's artistic heritage.

"Park Ridge has come through with flying colors as well as people from Chicago and the suburbs," Mrs. Foxwell said in a 2011 Tribune interview about plans for the Iannelli Studios Heritage Center.

As president of the foundation, Mrs. Foxwell drove the group's exhibits and events.

"Her enthusiasm and passion were contagious," said Kalo board member Annie Eriksson. "Betsy and I would have lunches that would just go on for hours, brainstorming how we could promote the city of Park Ridge. She was a free-thinker. Her brain could go a million miles a minute, and synthesize a billion ideas at once."

Born July 29, 1938, Mrs. Foxwell grew up on Chicago's South Side, her husband, Warren Foxwell said.

She attended Lake Forest College and later graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

A nearly 40-year veteran educator, Mrs. Foxwell received numerous awards for her work in the Chicago Public School system.

After retiring, she continued to teach students through a nonprofit Chicago Area Problem Solving program she established, and through volunteer work at Chicago's Decatur Classical School history fair team.

"She was an extraordinary teacher," Allegretti said. "She changed people's lives – not only the kids, but the families and teachers around her."

Marianne Sharping is one of those students whose life was changed in Mrs. Foxwell's 6th and 7th grade classrooms.

"She was that ultimate educator," said Sharping, who credits Mrs. Foxwell with influencing her decision to become a teacher.

"She was always thinking about how to make education better for kids. She always felt like there was a story you could tell that would make it interesting for kids – whatever the topic. And if you gave them that story, they would become that lifelong learner."

An illness sent Mrs. Foxwell to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, where she died Jan. 22, her husband said. She was 75.

Mrs. Foxwell is survived by her husband, brother-in-law Leo G. Foxwell, sister-in-law-Elizabeth Foxwell, and nieces, nephews, cousins and godchildren.

"She's going to be sorely missed," said fellow Kalo board member Judy Barclay. "There was only one Betsy."

Services are still being finalized. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the Kalo Foundation at http://www.kalofoundation.org.

jbullington@tribune.com
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