Schrader: Keeping up with Kay Shelton not easy

One might say that Kay Shelton is a Type A personality, considering that she holds three jobs, serves as president of the DeKalb County League of Women Voters, and is in her second term as national president of the Lincoln Highway Association.

I did manage to chase her down for a brief interview about the celebration along Lincoln Highway during its 100th anniversary as the first cross-country road that stretched from New York to San Francisco.

June was her busiest month for the centennial observance. She flew to New York City on a Friday, to be chauffered in a red 1963 Valiant convertible along the highway from Times Square to New Jersey on Saturday for the East Coast kickoff of the antique and classic cars caravan. She caught a plane to San Francisco later that day for the West Coast tour kickoff dinner, and on Sunday participated in the ceremony launching the procession leaving from the Western terminus of the route.

Later that day, she flew back to Illinois and still managed to show up for work Monday morning. Days later, she rejoined the Eastern caravan at Joliet and went as far as Kearney, Neb., at the geographical center of the Highway, where they met the Western group and took part in the centennial year conference. Her ground and air travel that week she totaled more than 5,000 miles.

There have been many other events during this special year, including the 100th Birthday Bash at the Egyptian Theatre in DeKalb back in May, at which she emceed and acted and dressed as Alice Ramsey, the first woman to drive (a Maxwell 30) from coast to coast. She was joined in the presentation by professional actor Jeff Keel, who portrayed Carl G. Fisher, the man who first envisioned and promoted the Lincoln Highway project.

Discussing the centennial caravan, Shelton said some of the Lincoln Highway route is marked with red, white and blue “L” signs, but unlike an interstate highway, it was cobbled together by connecting dozens of roads that already existed, making it more like a patchwork than a straight path. She said the highway “underwent four generations of road improvements, some of which changed the 1913 route to take it closer to populated areas.” So some of the people retracing the route took different paths this time.

As an aside, I mentioned to her that the only two remaining original markers in DeKalb have been moved from the highway to private sites, one outside  the Ellwood House Visitors Center and the other in front of Oak Crest DeKalb Area Retirement Center. Shelton said she has no problem with them being relocated, because she feels they are safer than the original locations and are being l cared for as well.

To make a living, Shelton teaches geography and anthropology part-time at Kishwaukee College, works full-time in an office job at Northern Illinois University and holds another part-time job at a local pharmacy. She is state director for the Illinois Lincoln Highway affiliate, and manages the website and newsletter, plus handles publicity. In her remaining spare time she serves on the Presidential Commission on the Status of Minorities at NIU.

But, as they say, “If you want to get something done quickly and efficiently, give it to a busy person.”

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