Penny was an active member of the Woman’s Board of the Winnetka Community House and spent many years as a volunteer at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
While Penny enthusiastically participated on the WHS Board as an officer and a committee member, her most lasting contribution was as the founding editor of the Gazette. In the spring of 1999, when Penny retired from editing the Gazette, after more than five years shepherding four issues per year through planning, publication and distribution, Tom Hermes her co-founder said, “Without her it never would have gotten off the ground. It was just an idea, and she came along and made it take flight.” Penny’s dedication and commitment helped the Gazette grow from a four-page insert in the short-lived Winnetka Paper to an eight-page newspaper mailed to every household in the Village and to WHS members in over a dozen additional states.
Nancy Judge, former WHS Board President, remembers that Penny was “instrumental in determining that it should be a newspaper rather than a newsletter.” Penny said: “We wanted a publication that would interest the entire community-not just the members of the Society-and decided to present history as news. Our mission and biggest challenge was to show that local history is not only interesting, but relevant to the present.”
Nan Greenough, a long-time contributing writer to the Gazette, remembers the lessons learned from working for an editor with exacting standards. “Penny taught me so much about writing. She would give me large topics to fit into impossibly small word counts. Since she did the layout of the issue front-end, there was no negotiating with her. Penny had an amazing eye for detail. She changed permanently how I write and I’m grateful.”
With Penny’s high standards, the Gazette won three prestigious awards during her tenure: Superior Achievement awards from the Illinois Association of Museums and the Illinois State Historical Society (both in 1995) and a Certificate of Commendation from the American Association for State and Local History (1998.)
The Society is grateful for the many contributions of this dedicated volunteer. After almost a quarter century of publication, the Gazette serves as a living legacy of Penny Kohlmeyer’s hard work and high expectations.