Memorial service held for late Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough

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Monday, April 15, 2024
Memorial held for Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough
A public memorial service was held Sunday for the late Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough at the University of Chicago in Hyde Park.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The community said goodbye Sunday to Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough.

Yarbrough's family held a public memorial service at the University of Chicago Rockefeller Memorial Chapel in Hyde Park.

"We are extremely comforted by all the people and it's been thousands that have come out to say goodbye to Karen," Yarbrough's sister, Denise Williams, said.

The trailblazing Maywood Democrat, who served in public office for more than two decades, was remembered as warm and energetic person who championed causes that promoted social justice.

"She's a bright light," former Illinois state Senator Jaqueline Collins said. "So kind and generous with her time, and mentoring other women coming into the business."

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Local leaders paid their respects, including Governor JB Pritzker, along with Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth.

Yarbrough was the first African-American and the first woman to serve as Cook County clerk.

Congressman Danny Davis remembered her as an excellent leader in charge of the second largest county in the country.

"I cherish her life," Davis said. "I cherish what she was able to accomplish."

Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza said Yarbrough helped to move a lot of progressive legislation forward during her years as a state representative, including a ban on indoor smoking.

"She accomplished one of the biggest pieces of legislation in my time, in the legislature and out of the legislature, and I'm always going to remember her for that... I'm asthmatic," Mendoza said.

Yarbrough died last weekend at age 73 from an undisclosed illness. She leaves behind six children and 12 grandchildren.

Senator Durbin said one of her favorite duties on the job was announcing the first couple of the year to be married.

"Just imagine how much kinder and better this great city, county, state and nation would be if we all had a small measure of Karen's goodness," Durbin said.

The politicians said Yarbrough's legacy will impact generations to come.

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