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Grotberg remembered as ‘true musician’

Published: Friday, March 7, 2014 11:04 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, March 13, 2014 2:30 p.m. CDT

Elizabeth Jean Grotberg always had strong hands when she played music, even in her later years.

“She developed a tremor, so it was very difficult to write, but she could sit down at the piano and her fingers were steady as could be,” said Vern Oie of St. Charles.

Friends and colleagues said Grotberg usually was connected in some way to music, and her efforts allowed others in St. Charles to embrace performing. Grotberg, a former Batavia resident, died Feb. 21 in Geneva. She was 93.

Grotberg was the force behind starting a stringed instrument program in 1967 and later an orchestra program in St. Charles Unit School District 303, said Ron Koeppl, retired St. Charles East High School drama director.

Grotberg used to travel around to the different schools until the district hired more staff, then she became the pit director for Koeppl at St. Charles East.

Koeppl remembers her as warm and supportive with the students.

To Grotberg’s credit, Koeppl said, many students stayed with their string instruments and continued playing as they got older. She made performing fun and interesting for them, he said.

Grotberg also was involved in the Playmakers, a Geneva-based community theater group in the 1940s and 1950s.

There, she met her second husband, John Grotberg, as well as Oie and his wife, Sharon, of St. Charles.

“Jean was like my sister; we were extremely close,” Sharon Oie said. “We had some marvelous times and great laughs together.”

The Oies would visit Grotberg when she and John moved to Washington, D.C., when he became a congressman.

Grotberg ended up playing at First Lady luncheons during different administrations and other receptions.

“She was a true musician,” Koeppl said. “She loved music, and she wanted to share it with everybody.”

Memorial service

A memorial service for Elizabeth Jean Grotberg will be held at 3:30 p.m. March 22 at Yurs Funeral Home, 405 E. Main St., St. Charles. The visitation will be from 2 to 5 p.m. on the same day.

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