Sep 24th 1970 - Jan 11th 2013
When reflecting on the life of Elizabeth Kaplar, words such as strong, hard-working, and gracious come to mind, but perhaps the thread that is most often woven throughout her tapestry in time is compassion. Whether her children and husband, her patients, or numerous families with special needs, her compassion was unmatched. Although she accomplished so much of which to be proud, there was nothing that mattered more to Elizabeth than the family she treasured with every breath. With an unwavering faith as her constant companion, she lived a life of purpose while deeply loving all those who were within her reach. Taken from her loved ones much too soon, Elizabeth will be dearly missed while the timeless legacy she leaves behind will be carried on by those who follow her.
The 1970s were a colorful time in American history. The disillusionment of government continued while civil rights and women’s rights kept the momentum they gained during the prior decade moving forward. Pet rocks, lava lamps, and disco colored the cultural fabric of our nation, and words like floppy disk and microprocessor became part of the American vocabulary. It was just as this decade was beginning that a young couple from Pensacola, Florida, was blessed with the birth of a healthy baby girl on September 24th. Baby Elizabeth was born to her parents, Steven and Laura Shoemaker, although it was Omar El'Asri who raised Elizabeth from the time she was two years old and considered to be her father. She was raised in the family home in Bourbonnais, Illinois, alongside her sister, Nadia, during her earliest years. Elizabeth’s father was a correctional officer while her mother worked for the state.
In many ways Elizabeth experienced an upbringing that was reflective of the times. She has been described as a Chatty Cathy doll while growing up as she was always bubbling over with something to say. Elizabeth had a favorite sock money as a young girl and loved going for rides in her mother’s Volkswagen convertible. From the time she was seven until she was eleven years old she lived in Morocco with her family and learned to speak both French and Arabic fluently.
After returning stateside Elizabeth attended local schools where she was a member of the high school color guard and marching band. In addition to holding down her studies she earned some extra money by babysitting for local families. It was during high school that Elizabeth met a young man named Larry whom she married in 1991. They later divorced in 1998.
With her high school education behind her, Elizabeth set out on a path that led her to a very rewarding career. She began taking classes at Kankakee Community College, later earning her associate’s degree in nursing. For a time Elizabeth worked at Shapiro, and she later worked for Trinity Nursing Home. After that, she primarily focused on being a homemaker.
Throughout her life Elizabeth always had a deep love for children. She adopted three children as a single parent, Andrew, Jazmine, and Jeremy. From the moment she became a mother Elizabeth fully embraced the role and lived for her children. A bit later Elizabeth met a man named Michael Kaplar who would forever hold the key to her heart. After falling deeply in love they were married on March 28, 2003, at the local justice of the peace. Michael adopted Elizabeth’s three children, and together they adopted their fourth child, Jacob. Their dog, Oliver, and their two cats, Boo and Boots, were also important members of their family. As a lover of all things Disney Elizabeth took her children on trips to Disney World every two years, and in 2008 their trip was especially priceless as they were a complete family. In 2012 they enjoyed a Disney cruise, and there was also a fun-filled trip to South Dakota in 2011. Elizabeth loved planning their vacations and always tailored what they did to ensure that everyone would have a great time. Since she was organized by nature, their list of adventures was always well planned.
A longtime resident of the community she loved, Elizabeth made a significant impact in the lives of so many around her. She was a member of the First Church of the Nazarene in Kankakee and a co-founder S.K.I.P. (Special Kids Incredible Parents), a local support group for the parents of special needs children. Elizabeth was an educational advocate who taught foster care and adoption classes and a foster parent herself. She coached Special Olympics, was a Brownie Leader for Girl Scouts, and was also a member of the Easter Seals.
When relaxing at home Elizabeth enjoyed a variety of things. She often watched television shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Revenge, and Parenthood. Elizabeth also had a diverse palette of music that she enjoyed like Neil Diamond, Adele, and Dolly Parton.
Through the life she lived each day, Elizabeth Kaplar exemplified what it means to live a life of grace, compassion, and selflessness. She continually looked for ways she could make a difference in the world around her while making priceless memories with those she loved most. A true blessing in the lives of countless others, Elizabeth leaves behind a footprint that is deeply embedded in the sands of time.
Elizabeth Kaplar of Bourbonnais died on Friday, January 11, 2013, at Horizon Hospice in Chicago. Elizabeth’s family includes her husband, Michael Kaplar; three sons; Andrew, Jeremy, and Jacob Kaplar of Bourbonnais; daughter, Jazmine Kaplar of Bourbonnais; father, Omar Elasri of Bourbonnais; sister, Nadia (Jim) Kerschke of Waukee, IA; and several nieces and nephews. Elizabeth was preceded in death by her mother; Laura El’Asri and her biological father, Steven Shoemaker. A gathering time for friends and family will be held on Tuesday, January 15, 2013, from 4:00-7:00 p.m. at the Schreffler Life Story Funeral Home’s Bourbonnais Chapel. A second gathering time will be held on Wednesday (January 16, 2013) morning from 10:00 a.m. up until the time of service at 11:00 a.m. at First Church of the Nazarene in Kankakee. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the family’s wishes. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com where you can learn more about Elizabeth’s life, archive a favorite memory or photo, and sign the online guestbook.