Paul and Edna Ruth Kliger Family (1920-2020) | University of Illinois Archives

Name: Paul and Edna Ruth Kliger Family (1920-2020)

Historical Note:

Paul I. Kliger was born on June 1, 1911, in Mount Vernon, New York, the son of Jewish immigrants from Czarist Russia. Paul played drums in his school band and orchestra, and claimed that he honed his technique observing drummers in the orchestra pits of New York’s Yiddish theater. In his twenties, Paul played professionally with jazz bands in the Catskills, and on steamers to Cuba and Panama. In 1939, he decided to enroll in college. He was accepted at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, and began his studies. When World War II began, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army. He played in the U.S. Army Band and  worked in the army's Public Relations Office. Edna Ruth Schaeffer of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (the WAACs) was assigned to his office as his secretary. Three months later, they were married and Paul was deployed to France with the U.S. Army Band. As a quartermaster, he was responsible for storing the instruments. He also managed supplies for the troops and was active with support services on D-day-4. In 1946, Paul returned with Ruth  to continue his studies at Illinois, and earned a Master's Degree in Social Work. Paul spent most of his working life in Chicago in community organization for the Illinois Department of Mental Health. In 1997, he and Ruth moved to Louisville, Colorado to be near their elder daughter. Paul’s health was declining, but he lived to greet the new millennium. Paul passed away in March 2000.

Edna Ruth Schaeffer was the daughter of Jewish immigrants from Belarus and Romania. She was born in her maternal grandmother’s home in Purcell, Oklahoma, on Oct. 28, 1918, two weeks before the Armistice of WWI. At the time of her birth, her father, Leon Schaeffer, was serving in France as a U.S. Army medic. Edna’s mother, Helen Schwartz, was the third of nine children. In 1900, her mother, Selma, had sailed from Odessa with four little girls and a baby boy, to join her husband, Paul, in Oklahoma. They entered through the Port of Galveston, to settle and become Jewish pioneers of the West. Edna Ruth graduated from high school in 1937 and studied art at the University of Oklahoma. In 1943, Edna Ruth enlisted in the Women's  Army Auxiliary Corps (the WAACs, the first cohort of service women to shed the title “auxiliary” and be inducted into the Army). Sergeant Edna Ruth Schaeffer was stationed at Pine Camp, New York, as Private Paul Kliger’s secretary in the Public Relations Office. Three months later they were married, on Aug. 15, 1943. After the war, Ruth and Paul moved back to Champaign-Urbana to continue Paul’s studies in social work. Ruth worked at the News-Gazette in Urbana. In 1949, their first daughter was born. Their second daughter, Elizabeth, was born in Peoria in 1952. In 1956, they moved to Minneapolis to study social work at the University of Minnesota. Ruth earned her B.A. Degree. In 1960, they moved to Evanston, Illinois. Ruth taught full-time for the Head Start Program in Chicago. In 1997, Ruth and Paul moved to Colorado to be closer to their eldest daughter. When Paul died in 2000, Ruth moved to Moscow, Idaho, near Elizabeth. She later moved to assisted living in Boulder, Colorado. Ruth passed away on July 2, 2020, at the age of 101.

Elizabeth "Lisa" Kliger (1952 -  ) was born in Champaign, IL and grew up in Evanston, IL. She attended the University of Illinois from 1971 until 1978, earning a BA in 1975 and an MA in English Education in 1978. During her time at the University of Illinois, Lisa regularly performed at the Red Herring Coffee House on banjo. In 1974, she participated in the first National Women's Folk Music Festival, which was produced at the Red Herring by Illinois student Kristen Lems. Following her graduation, Lisa moved to Moscow, ID, where she continued to compose and perform on the banjo.

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