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Carolyn ‘Skippy’ Golab dies; her word-processing expertise powered law firms

Skippy Golab at the British Museum in London in 2005.

Skippy Golab at the British Museum in London in 2005. | Provided photo

As a young woman in the 1960s, Carolyn “Skippy” Golab drove through Mexico with her boyfriend in a Volkswagen bus, stopping when it felt right and learning Spanish along the way. In her 70s, she returned to an activity she delighted in as a girl twirling on the Midway Plaisance: ice skating.

In between, she became a word-processing pioneer and enjoyed travel, especially if it meant a chance to hear opera.

Ms. Golab, 75, a West Ridge resident, died March 25 of liver cancer at Wesley Place in Andersonville.

Young Skippy grew up near 53rd and Ingleside in Hyde Park. An uncle nicknamed her for her love of peanut butter, and soon everyone was calling her Skippy rather than her given name of Carolyn.

(From left) Skippy Golab, her friend Tazama Sun, her younger sister Elizabeth Golab Ter Haar, her mother Gwen E. Davis Golab and younger brother Stanley Golab. | Provided photo

She went to St. Thomas the Apostle grade school, Hyde Park High School and Central YMCA High School. Her mother, actress Gwen E. Davis Golab, and stepfather Arthur Golab, a dispatcher for Glendenning Motorways, liked to play opera and operettas as they cleaned house. Skippy was particularly fond of “The Merry Widow” and “La Traviata” and the conducting of maestro Wilhelm Furtwangler. But her operatic ideal was La Divina–Maria Callas.

Like many children of the 1960s, she started the decade wearing dresses and pearls and ended it in bell-bottomed hippie mode, her hair in a natural. At one point, she shaved her head, said her brother Art Golab.

In addition to opera, she loved rock, folk and protest music. “I remember her taking me to a Joan Baez concert a week after [Baez] appeared at Woodstock,” her brother said of a 1969 show at the Aragon Ballroom.

She had friends at underground newspapers of the era, including the Chicago Seed. Ms. Golab liked the folkie scene at the Gate of Horn club and the barroom badinage at O’Rourke’s, a popular journalists’ saloon in Old Town.

After attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Ms. Golab became an administrative assistant for Montgomery Ward. She also did work transcribing research projects, including interviews with people who were migrating to Chicago to escape poverty in Appalachia.

Skippy Golab’s early mastery of accounting and word-processing software landed her positions at major law firms. | Provided photo

When computers were the size of refrigerators, she’d already mastered early versions of accounting and word-processing software. Her expertise landed her positions at major law firms.

She worked for Sidley Austin, the Legal Assistance Foundation and Foss, Schuman & Drake. For about 24 years, she was an office manager, bookkeeper and paralegal for Johnson Jones Snelling Gilbert & Davis, P.C., a general litigation firm whose clients include union and labor interests, the Chicago Housing Authority and black-lung disease claimants.

“She was a very valued colleague and friend and a real driving force in whatever was needed,” said law firm partner Phillip Snelling. For anything involving computers, “We definitely relied on her for all of that.”

Ms. Golab was a “serial remodeler,” her brother said, who filled her home with antiques and Mexican pottery she collected, as well as artwork from her travels, including a large painting on window glass of a scene from old San Juan. Whenever inspiration struck, she’d paint the walls a new color or reupholster furniture.

Skippy Golab. | Provided photo

She wore classic, elegant clothes from Marshall Field’s and Nordstrom. She appreciated sushi and English murder programs like “Prime Suspect” and “Midsomer Murders.”

When she was about 72, she resumed her childhood pastime of ice-skating, this time at Robert Crown Center in Evanston. “She was always ready to try something new,” her brother said.

Late in life, Ms. Golab fell in love with Puerto Rican salsa and the music of singer-composer Cheo Feliciano.

Skippy Golab at the Tower of London in 2005. | Provided photo

Ms. Golab enjoyed travel, from museum tours of London, to visits with a friend in downstate Ottawa or at her sister Angela’s home in New Mexico. Once, she journeyed to the Metropolitan Opera in New York to hear Renee Fleming in “The Merry Widow.”

With her ear for classical music, “She could tell me which singers were on, which singers were off,” her brother said.

“She made friends out of the blue,” he said, and knew everyone in her Loop office building, from maintenance workers to the security staff.

Skippy Golab in London. | Provided photo

Ms. Golab married twice, both marriages ending in divorce. She is survived by her sisters Angela Cochrane and Elizabeth Ter Haar, brothers Art and Stanley Golab, nieces Amanda Ciciora, Elizabeth Coetzer, Jane Golab and Alana Schiffel-Golab and a nephew, Richard Cochrane.

A gathering in her honor is planned from 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, with memories to be shared at 8 p.m., at Drake & Son Funeral Home, 5303 N. Western.