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Barrington woman active in politics, civic issues
By Eileen O. Daday | Daily Herald Correspondent

Elizabeth 'Betty' McGeachin McKee

 

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Published: 9/26/2008 12:05 AM

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It has been several years since Elizabeth "Betty" McGeachin McKee worked in local government, but her legacy in the Barrington area remains.

Mrs. McKee died on Monday. The 57-year resident of Barrington was 88.

Friends point to her involvement with the Barrington Area League of Women Voters as her springboard into local issues, including a stint as chair of the Lake County Democratic Party. Early members of the League remember Mrs. McKee as an active and highly visible member.

"She was one of the ones who inspired people like myself to go on and do things," says Carol Bease of Barrington, former executive director of the Barrington Area Chamber of Commerce. "It was people like her that you could tell really cared about the community.

"You could see it by the way she was at the meetings," Bease adds. "She stood up for things, for improvement."

One of the areas Mrs. McKee first became involved in was the League's housing committee, leading her to become active in trying to secure more affordable housing in Barrington, while resisting high-density development.

Mrs. McKee and her first husband, Howard, moved to Barrington in 1951, where they raised their five children. Their youngest daughter, Barbara Bays, now of Raleigh, N.C., recalls that Mrs. McKee sought ways to put her knowledge from her business degree earned from the University of Nebraska to work.

"She was very smart, and probably would have liked to have gone into the workforce, but at the time women didn't do that," Bays says. "But she wanted to get out there and make a difference."

While volunteering with the League of Women Voters, Mrs. McKee became involved with the Democratic Party's Central Committee in Lake County, eventually serving as its chairwoman.

In 1973, Mrs. McKee began working as the administrative assistant for former State Rep. Richard Mugalian, known in Springfield as a civil-rights activist.

Mrs. McKee held down his suburban office, helping with legal research, organizing advisory groups and answering needs of constituents through 1980.

Her most important role came when she was appointed to the Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission. Mrs. McKee led the commission as its chairwoman for five years, and the investigations of its Human Rights Authority Division led to recommendations and ultimately advocated change. The division was charged with investigating complaints from residents of institutions dealing with mental health issues, developmental disabilities and nursing homes.

Besides her daughter, Mrs. McKee's surviving children include Jan Griesinger of Athens, Ohio; s William McKee of Golden, Colo.; and Jean Barry of Chicago, six grandchildren and seven great grandchildren, as well as her second husband, Alan Roberts of Barrington, whom she married in 1974.

A memorial service will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 4, at St. Paul United Church of Christ, 401 E. Main St. in Barrington.