Just three weeks ago, Helene Bartz received a standing ovation after delivering the commencement address at Quest Academy in Palatine.
It was the 30th anniversary of the school and Bartz was honored as its founder. She had started it in Arlington Heights as the Creative Children's Academy in 1982, to serve the needs of gifted children.
Bartz passed away June 21, two weeks after delivering her speech, at her home in Naples, Fla. The former 45-year Arlington Heights resident was 87.
"Helene's vision 30 years ago to build a school to meet the needs of gifted children was brilliant," said Ben Hebebrand, head of school at Quest Academy, "as the need for the education of gifted children today is more acute than ever. She truly was a visionary."
Bartz was born in Elgin, N.D. and began teaching in a one-room schoolhouse, where her roots in creatively teaching children to learn were formed.
She moved in 1957 to Arlington Heights with her first husband, the Rev. Robert Bartz, who was named pastor of St. Peter Lutheran Church. Bartz began teaching at the school and was named head of the lower school, while also directing the church choir.
Working closely with the church organist, Don Hermann, they created annual Christmas operettas for children in the school. Hermann composed the music while Bartz wrote the words, and their musical tradition continues today.
Bartz taught for 27 years at St. Peter's, before she opened Creative Children's Academy. Her daughter, Susan, in part drove her to establish a learning environment for creatively gifted children.
"I started harmonizing with my mother while doing the dishes, when I was very young," says Susan Bartz Paschal, associate professor of speech and drama, University of North Carolina at Fayetteville. "I played the piano at 3 and my mother says I recognized tones as early as 6 months. But I had a hard time at school; I really didn't fit in."
Bartz drew a group of 50 interested parents to an informational meeting at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library.
"The intellectually gifted and artistically talented children in our community will be among tomorrow's leaders," she told them. "How effectively they will lead, depends on the opportunities you as parents give them."
She opened the school in an vacant public school building with 11 children and five teachers, including those that specialized in math and science, music and French.
Ten years later, Bartz founded the Arts and Sciences Academy in Des Plaines. It began with a handful of children who met in a church basement, and soon moved to an office space, which they shared with the Betty Haag Academy and violin students.
Bartz continued to serve on the board of directors of the Arts and Sciences Academy, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year.
Besides her daughter and her daughter's fiancÚ, James Herrick, both of Fayetteville, Bartz is survived by her son, the Rev. Robert Bartz Jr. and wife Lindy Sue, of Mattson, IL, as well as nine grandchildren and four great grandchildren. Her first husband passed away in 1983, and a second husband, Joseph Kubik passed away in 2010.
A memorial service will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Peter Lutheran Church, 111 W. Olive St. in Arlington Heights.