Name:    Blair (Perkins) Grumman

From:  The Chicago Sun Times, Chicago, Illinois
Date:  Friday, November 14, 2003

Blair Perkins Grumman believed private homes were the right place for day care for very young children of working mothers and helped create a home day care network in Evanston that became a statewide model.

Drawing on state and private funds, she mandated higher education in early childhood development for workers at the Child Care Center of Evanston, which handles children 3 to 5 years old, and arranged better pay and extensive support services for women providing day care in their own homes for children 6 months to 3 years old.

"She really valued what family child care had to offer -- wonderful care in a small group setting. She really worked to promote that and to support the homes in our network," said Helen Roberts-Evans, the present director of the center.

"What she did that was new was that her agency gave very broad and significant support to these independent caregivers," said Betty Luning, a longtime member of the center's board.

Homes were equipped with age-appropriate toys and were visited weekly by someone to read stories and by a musician who sang with the children.

"Caregivers themselves had the opportunity to go to Oakton Community College to further their education. She also arranged for caregivers and children to get together once a week at a nearby gym so the caregivers could have some camaraderie with each other. Isolation is a hazard for people caring for young children," Luning said.

Mrs. Grumman, a lifelong Evanston resident, died Nov. 6 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital of multiple myeloma. She was 67. A fighter to the last, she lived until three days after the birth of her daughter Cornelia's first child, a boy named Blair in her honor.

"She had told her doctor a few months ago her goal was to hang on long enough to meet him," said her daughter, Chicago Tribune editorial writer Cornelia Grumman, who gave birth Nov. 3.

"She saw the kid on Tuesday, fed him on Wednesday and then passed away," said Cornelia Grumman's husband, James Warren.

Mrs. Grumman was born Blair Perkins, daughter of Margery and Lawrence Perkins. Her father founded the international architecture firm of Perkins & Will. Her grandfather, Dwight H. Perkins, was a noted Prairie School architect and a founder of the Cook County Forest Preserve.

Her mother was a community activist who wrote the book Evanstoniana about the town's history. Her grandmother was Lucy Fitch Perkins, author in the early part of the 20th century of a popular series of geographical and historical children's books. Her Twins series, 26 books in all, sketched tales of lives of twins in countries from Ireland to the Philippines.

Mrs. Grumman graduated from Evanston Township High School and earned a bachelor of arts degree in government from Cornell University in 1958.

At a Cornell fraternity party she met David Grumman, a member of the aircraft-making family. He loved sailing and she got seasick, but she fooled him into thinking she was a sailing fan by mentioning her father's 43-foot sailboat.

They married in 1958 and she taught school in South Carolina while he was in the Navy. The young couple settled in Evanston, where her husband founded his own engineering consulting firm and she earned a master's degree in education from the University of Chicago in 1960. She tutored at Evanston and Chicago schools, joined the board of the Child Care Center of Evanston, and became director of its home day care program in 1980. She became the center's executive director in 1985 and retired in 1998.

"She found all the lessons of life in the child-care center: of politics, of social policy, of child development, of management," her daughter said.

Mrs. Grumman was a woman who was interested in everything and loved to laugh. "Everyone said she was the greatest audience, she would laugh at anything," her daughter said.

Other survivors are her husband; a son, David; another daughter, Eleanor Grumman; two brothers, Dwight and Bradford Perkins; a sister, Julia Califano, and three grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Nov. 21 at First Congregational Church of Evanston, Hinman and Grove. Burial will be private.