Friends are remembering Paula Ulreich, the longtime former Wheeling Township Clerk and a dedicated volunteer in Arlington Heights, as a fun-loving and brave woman who gave much to many causes across the community.
Ulreich, 69, died Wednesday morning after a battle with cancer. Her death comes just three days before she was to receive the Pam Stocking Heart of Gold award in Arlington Heights on Saturday. The award recognizes someone whose passion and spirit impacts the community in a special way.
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"You will never meet a person like Paula again. She was extremely unique, very energetic and put her heart and soul into everything she did," said Nancy Kluz, the village's community relations coordinator and staff liaison to the special events commission on which Ulreich served nearly 20 years.
During Ulreich's time with the commission she helped plan annual events including the Autumn Harvest, Hearts of Gold, Frontier Days and the Taste of Arlington. She also helped plan the original Mane Event, a summer festival celebrating local businesses and restaurants, Kluz said.
A former kindergarten teacher, Ulreich could always be counted on to help organize children's activities at village events.
"She didn't volunteer just to say she was a volunteer, she put action behind her words," Kluz said. "She was a wonderful lady and she's irreplaceable."
The Hearts of Gold ceremony on Saturday still will honor Ulreich, but her daughter and sister will accept the award on her behalf.
"She was there for so many people for so many years. It's a shame, and it's a great loss," said Claudia Stark, friend and fellow member of the special events commission.
Ulreich was first elected as Wheeling Township Clerk in 1981, which is where she met longtime best friend Jo Stellato, the township administrator. She was re-elected repeatedly until choosing not to run for another term in 2013.
Stellato remembered a conversation the two had in 2000 where Stellato mentioned she had never been to Washington D.C. Within days the two took time off work and hopped in the car for a road trip to the nation's capitol.
Ulreich and Stellato were part of a group of longtime female friends in Arlington Heights that would travel together to places including Georgia, California, Michigan and Wisconsin.
"Paula would run us ragged, but we saw everything in every town we visited," Stellato said.
"No matter where we went, when the elevator opened she knew someone in it," Village Trustee Carol Blackwood remembered. "You just wanted to be around her, she had a magnetic personality."
She also was known among friends for a competition called the Ulreich Classic -- a contest she ran with a group of fellow retired teachers from Addison Elementary School District 4. The group would travel to different states and play golf with Ulreich handing out different awards along the way, Stellato said.
One year during the annual adopt-a-family program at Wheeling Township, Ulreich heard that there were four families yet to be adopted, meaning they wouldn't be receiving Christmas presents. That is, until Ulreich adopted them all.
"If she knew someone in need, whatever it was, she would do her best to meet that need," Stellato said.
Ulreich was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October 2012 and given between three and six months to live, Stellato said, a prediction she long outlasted.
"She was just an inspiration to all of us," she added.
Longtime friend Kris Stabler called Ulreich "one of the bravest people" she knows
Ulreich is survived by her husband, Del, three children, eight grandchildren and many friends.
Visitation will be held from 2 to 8 p.m. Sunday at Glueckert Funeral Home, 1520 N. Arlington Heights Road. Another visitation will take place at 11 a.m. Monday at St. Peter's Lutheran Church, 111 W. Olive St., preceding the noon funeral.