Sunday, May 8, 2011

Remembering Rona Lerner

Joel and I are remembering his mom today. It was five years ago this month that she'd left us. Here's the obit that ran in May 2007, with some embellishment.

Rona Lerner, Educator (and mom, mother-in-law, sister, aunt, gardener, neighbor...)

Rona Lynn Lerner, an Evanston resident, was the kind of teacher who didn't stop being an educator when the school day was done.

An educator and community activist, she taught 21 years at the Rudy Lozano School, 1424 N Cleaver St, Chicago.  She also co-founded the Evanston School Children's Clothing Association.

A passionate believer in the potential of every child, she devoted her life to knowing her kids, their families and their communities, said her son Joel Lerner of Skokie, a photographer for Pioneer Press. She specialized in teaching 4th and 5th grade science and rediscovered the delights of very young minds three years ago when she started teaching pre-K students, he said.  She was pleased to teach many children of former students in her new position.

For Mrs. Lerner, what other people discarded, be it an old detergent bottle or a plastic bag, became the stuff of arts and crafts and science projects, said her daughter, Elita Lerner, of Atlanta.

She would turn things into planters and containers and art objects for her students. The whole family would keep a collection pile for her various projects.  She was also famous for cultivating plants and having kids start terrariums or outdoor gardens.  An avocado seed was a lesson, she said.

Mrs. Lerner was also a profound believer in the value of field trips to broaden a student's horizons, sometimes paying a student's way, bringing members of her own family when chaperones were needed.

She would go to great lengths to provide a unique experience for the children who were her students'? said Mr. Lerner, her son.

Mrs. Lerner was a lifelong learner who could be found on any given weekend day or evening at the Field Museum, the Chicago Botanic Gardens or the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Born Rona Lynn Weiskirch to William and Ruth Weiskirch on July 7, 1938, Mrs. Lerner grew up in atwo-flat in North Park, attending Peterson Elementary School and Von Steuben High School. She was a graduate of Roosevelt University.

She met her husband, Howard Lerner, who died in 2002, after a friend originally fixed him up with her younger sister.

At their Evanston home, Mrs. Lerner  cultivated a garden full of Rose of Sharon, purple hibiscus,
snapdragons and other unusual plants.

Mrs. Lerner died May 14 in Skokie of complications following a cerebral aneurism. Other survivors include a sister, Marla Heller and grandson Gabriel Lerner-Sperow. Funeral services will be held  3 p.m. on Thursday, May 17 at Chicago Jewish Funerals, 195 N. Buffalo Grove Rd, in Buffalo Grove.


The photo above, made by John Brooks, was taken during an exhibition opening of PICTURE THIS Projects' kids work. She was supported her kids and her kids' kids, whether they were her grandson, our PTP young participants or the children of students she'd taught earlier in her career.

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