Thanks to Mrs. Stromberg, the “Bee” will go on

On International Women’s Day, as the accomplishments and advancement of women around the world are celebrated, we’d like to share the story of a woman who lived a very normal life in Rockford; a woman whose posthumous generosity saved an event that will inspire academic excellence and bring once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for local students — forever!

Eunice Wilma Wishop Stromberg was born May 16, 1912, in Owen Township, Winnebago County, to John Chester and Birdie Mary (Weatherhead) Wishop. She graduated from Hononegah High School in Rockton and Brown’s Business College in Rockford. She worked as a secretary at National Lock and at Drop Forge in Rockford. Later she was a caregiver for her mother, aunt and father-in-law. She enjoyed researching her family history, including ancestors who were early settlers of Winnebago County. She had been a member of both the Winnebago and Boone County Genealogical Societies and the Women of the Moose. She enjoyed sewing and some quilt-making. She married Phillip William Stromberg on Sept. 14, 1940, in Rockford. They lived all their life in Rockford and enjoyed dancing to the big bands, playing cards with friends and traveling. 

Although Eunice and Phillip had no children of their own, Eunice loved children (especially her nieces and nephews!) and was very interested in their education and development. After her death in 2006, the Stromberg family approached the Community Foundation to establish an endowment in her name. Shortly thereafter, it was announced that the lead sponsor for the regional Boone-Winnebago spelling bee withdrew their support, putting the event in jeopardy. CFNIL President Gloria Lundin approached the family to consider directing a portion of Eunice’s estate to establish a fund to support the spelling bee. With their enthusiastic support and ultimate decision to make a lead “challenge” gift of $50,000 the Eunice Wishop Stromberg Spelling Bee Endowment was established.

Over the next months, organizations and individuals in across the region stepped up to meet the challenge and meet the goal of raising an additional $50,000. Today, the balance of the fund stands at nearly $130,000. The fund’s annual distribution supports each year’s regional spelling bee as well as paying for the travel expenses of the local winner when they go to Washington D.C. for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Because the principal of the fund will never be spent, the fund will support the spelling bee in perpetuity — forever!

Although we cannot thank her in person, today we celebrate Eunice’s life and her generous spirit. Her legacy is a testament to the power of every woman to make a lasting impact on her community. Thank you, Mrs. Stromberg!

The 36th Annual Regional Spelling Bee has been scheduled for March 19, 2019 in the Harlem High School Auditorium. Learn more.

You can help ensure the Eunice Wishop Stromberg Spelling Bee Fund continues growing to provide resources for spelling bee champions in the years to come. Make a donation!