Several words always emerge to describe Emilie Klich Kolodzey.
Resilient. Elegant. Creative. Strong. This incredible woman departed our world surrounded by those who loved her on June 19, 2019.
Born almost a century ago, a daughter of Polish immigrants, Stefania Rosa and John Klich, Emilie was a startlingly contemporary woman of her time. Standing her ground with four brothers who constantly challenged her while growing up, and seasoned by the Depression years, she possessed a fearless spirit, ready to take on anything. She entered the military during WWII despite her older brother’s vehement objections and served proudly as one of the 150,000 women who comprised The Women’s Army Corps (WAC) class finally recognized by the Federal government as a formal branch of the service. Her stories of life as a woman in the service enthralled the family for decades after, as recently as the Honor Flight she flew in 2014.
Emilie spent her young adult years before and after the war in the fashion industry, first as a seamstress like her mother, then patternmaker and designer at Chicago dress shops like Klafter & Sobol. She was a master of the textile arts, as adept with a skein of wool fiber as she was with a bolt of silk fabric. Her children rarely wore anything store-bought except for their shoes, and if she could have crafted those, she would have, she enjoyed the process of design and production that much. Outside of work, her athletic prowess rivaled that of most men in golf, softball and bowling, activities she played well into her 80s when she had both knees replaced.
She met her husband of 41 years, Stanley, in Chicago, enjoying the nightlife of the fine restaurants and clubs he managed in the city like the London House and Del Prado Hotel. They went to Cuba on the their honeymoon, a year before the revolution, then settled back on the west side of the city to raise their three children in the early 1950s. She was an active, enthusiastic stay-at-home mom for the first several years of her young family, but when her children entered school, she happily returned to the workforce at the legendary Marshall Fields and Company on State Street, where she thrived for over 23 years until her retirement. After caring for her husband who succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease in 1993, she split her time between being a proud, active grandmother to her grandchilden and a post-retirement career working at her daughter and son-in-law’s marketing agency where she handled billing until 2011.
She lived in her own home until the very last, that was absolutely nonnegotiable to her. She enjoyed daily visits from her family and good friends, keeping her trusty Singer sewing machine primed to tailor clothes for one of them or make pillows from some exotic fabric they picked up overseas on a trip. Not a year went by when she didn’t have a special request for a bespoke sweater or hat or her beautiful ‘owl’ baby blankets.
No one enjoyed visiting the Hines VA Hospital for her regular check-ups more than Emilie. From the EKG technician to the Pacemaker clinic specialist to the staff in the Women’s Clinic, the frequent exclamation of “I can’t believe you are 85….or 90…or 98!” echoed in every department she visited over the years. Age was just a number and not a reflection of her incredibly positive attitude and her iron will to squeeze all that she could from life. Even in her final days, she cautioned that she didn’t want pain meds because ‘she could handle it’.
She is predeceased by her dear husband and all four of her brothers (Marion, Richard, Fred and Stephen). But her spirit survives with her daughters Lori (Richard Brayer) and Karen (George Brigandi); her grandchildren Samantha, George, Zachary, Cara and husband Ted; her sisters-in-law Pat and Irene; and all her loving nieces, nephews, cousins and dear friends across the country who were so committed to her. Emilie is remembered at the Chicago Botanic Garden, where she worked in the Dixon National Tallgrass Prarie Seed Bank for years to help preserve plant life for future generations. A lovely bench that sits in the Crescent Garden there is dedicated to her. In lieu of flowers, a donation to the Chicago Botanic Garden, www.chicagobotanic.org or Honor Flight Chicago, www.honorflightchicago.org, would be a most welcome tribute to Emilie. Better yet, she would love if you take time to plant something beautiful to remember her by.
Interment will be private.
For further information please call (847) 823-1171.