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Local Column

Schrader: Marilyn Stromborg retires, once again

Those who know Marilyn Stromborg will agree she is a “Type A” personality. I can speak from experience because we have known each other as far back as 1960, when we worked together at Northern Illinois University’s campus newspaper The Northern Star. More about that later.

Last week, Marilyn completed another chapter in her life, retiring as the DeKalb County Drug Court administrator, choosing the same time her husband, internist Dr. Paul Stromborg, retired from his practice. Marilyn and Paul met as undergrads at NIU, then both went into the Air Force, she in the nursing field stateside and he as a pilot in the Vietnam War.

She had graduated from NIU with a degree in biology and chemistry, then went to the New York City Medical College to earn her registered nurse and master’s degree. While working at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Nursing, she enrolled in NIU’s doctoral program. In 1978, she and Paul returned to her hometown of Sycamore, where he joined her father Dr. Irving Frank in medical practice and she began teaching in the NIU School of Nursing. She moved up to chair her last 10 years at the Nursing School and retired from NIU after 29 years.

She decided to seek new challenges at age 50, and entered law school at Northern while still working full-time, earning her law degree in 1994. She quickly moved into the legal field, starting out as an assistant state’s attorney in Kane County, then into the same position in DeKalb County. Judge Robbin Stuckert and then-State’s Attorney Ron Matekaitis (now a judge himself) tapped her to organize a drug/DUI court pilot program for the county, a program she then led for the past 10 years.

The program became nationally recognized for its success and was named one of 10 top Mentor Drug Courts in the country by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals.

There is not space enough here to list all her awards, books she wrote in the nursing field, boards and nonprofits she has served. Her latest honor came this year, when she was named one of Sycamore High School’s distinguished alumni.

Now getting back to my earlier mention about how long we have known each other, I wanted to explain what I think was one of her finest acts of kindness. During my senior year at Northern, she told me she knew just the girl I should meet, one of her best friends in high school who now worked at NIU. She arranged that first date and, one year later, Kay and I were married. That was 50 years ago.

Marilyn’s longtime friend, Circuit Court Clerk Maureen Josh, read a message at the retirement reception that had been sent by one of Marilyn’s sons, Nels.

“Today, my parents begin a marvelous new chapter,” it said. “Contrary to what my mother believes, that does not mean almost certain and immediate death. It means a chance to reinvent yourself; a chance to teach us even more; a chance to reflect on the amazing things you both have accomplished and the amazing things to come. It is your time and our chance to pay you back.”

I asked Marilyn that day if she had any political ambitions or would continue to use her law degree. She said definitely no to politics, but added she would let me know what she does have in mind after she and Paul return from a trip to Portugal and Spain.

I knew Marilyn could never really retire.

• Barry Schrader can be reached via email at or at P.O. Box 851, DeKalb, IL. 60115. His column appears every other Tuesday.

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