2017 Historian of the Year
The Downers Grove Historical Society is honored to recognize Carol Wandschneider as the 2017 Historian of the Year.
Daughter of Fritz and Pauline Wandschneider, Carol was raised in Downers Grove, graduating from Downers Grove High School (now North High) in 1962.
She received her Bachelor of Science in Home Economics from the University of Illinois and worked in the restaurant and food service industries for 40 years. Fortunately, she returned to her home town after retiring and has spent the last 15 years researching and supporting Downers Grove’s history and legacy.
Carol has a wealth of historical knowledge and a great enthusiasm for all things Downers Grove. From childhood, Carol was drawn to the rich history of Downers Grove as her mother was the founder of the Downers Grove Historical Society and the first Museum supervisor. Carol worked part time at the Downers Grove Museum as a weekend Supervisor for several years and now enjoys volunteering there two mornings a week. For some time, Carol has been working on the monumental task of preserving a donation of 50,000 photographs of Downers Grove history, archiving and digitally storing them for the use of current and future generations. Her most recent project is indexing all the old phone directories for Downers Grove on an Excel spreadsheet for easy search-ability. Carol also enjoys answering research requests sent to the Downers Grove Historical Society’s webpage.
She serves on the Boards of the Downers Grove Historical Society, The Oak Hill/Oak Crest Cemetery Foundation, The Huguenot Society of Illinois and as a member of the Downers Grove Chapter – Daughters of the American Revolution, having served as the Regent four years. She also is co-chair of the Archive Committee at St. Andrew’s Church – she is a cradle-to-grave Episcopalian. She served for 20 years on the Board of Directors of Theta Chapter of Sigma Kappa Sorority at the University of Illinois and as a committee chairman for the Illinois Home Economics Association and Home Economists in Business.
In 2011, Carol and several other volunteers took on the challenge of inventorying both Oak Hill and Oak Crest Cemeteries which had not been done since 1960. She has also indexed all the published obituaries and marriages in the Downers Grove Reporter (now Suburban Life) since 1892. Another of Carol’s current projects is to index all the class photographs of students at both high schools in town along with faculty, staff and District Administration now totaling more than 100,000 entries.
She was named Du Page County Historian of the Year by the Du Page County Historical Society in 2015 and Volunteer of the Year in 2015 for the Downers Grove Museum.
Downers Grove is a richer place for Carol’s numerous achievements. Her efforts to research and preserve Downers Grove’s history are greatly valued today and will be appreciated for generations to come.
Carol passed away on 5 February 2020. In her memory, the Downers Grove Historical Society and the Downers Grove Museum have placed a park bench on the grounds of Wandschneider Park. The park was named in honor of Carol's mother, Pauline Wandschneider, who was one of the founders or the Downers Grove Historical Society. Carol was a long-time volunteer at the Downers Grove Museum. The bench serves as tribute to her decades of service to the Downers Grove Museum and to the preserving the history of Downers Grove.
In 2021, The Downers Grove Historical Society established an online Research Guide on the society's web site. Among the contents of this guide are a link to a index Carol created of tens of thousands of obituaries and deaths of Downers Grove residents.