February 4, 2021

Barbara High Kummerfeldt

Barbara High Kummerfeldt, 87 of Monroe, WI, passed away on January 20, 2021, after a brief illness. Barbara was born on February 8, 1933, in Freeport, IL, the daughter of Glenn and Marie (Ludolph) High.

She started performing at a young age, tap dancing at age four, then becoming a vocal soloist, pianist, and a highly respected and sought-after accompanist. She graduated with honors from Freeport High School in 1948. She received her Bachelor of Music Education degree from Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, IA, where she met her future husband, Irvan J. Kummerfeldt. Irv and Barb were married on August 14, 1954, and spent almost 35 wonderful years together before he passed away November 12, 1988.

Barbara and Irv lived in DeKalb, IL, for almost 40 years, raising their family and being very active in the community. After earning her Master of Music from Northern Illinois University in 1970, she taught music in the public schools, Kishwaukee College, NIU, and also privately. She believed very strongly in giving back to her community, fulfilling this goal as an active member of Altrusa International, DeKalb Landmark Commission, Downtown DeKalb Association, Illinois Art's Council, Rotary Club, a founding member of DeKalb Area Arts Council, and a founding board member of Children's Community Theater, among other roles. She was also an advisor to the NIU chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota women's music fraternity and mentored many young women as part of their internship programs.

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She was very active in the First Congregational Church in DeKalb, where she taught Sunday School, led the children's choir and served in various committees and leadership roles.

Relentlessly determined to "find out why God put you on this earth and do it to the best of your ability" and "never say it might have been," she took on challenges, broke barriers, made a difference and left a lasting legacy. She often described herself as having four lives, each of which she lived to the fullest, including: wife and mother; pianist, organist and accompanist; teacher; Owner's Representative for Renovation and Executive Director for the Egyptian Theatre; and Consultant and Business Owner. It would seem as though paring this down to four lives is an over-simplification. She never let fear get in the way of learning the skills or knowledge required to complete her goals, as evidenced by her many diverse accomplishments. She always found her next calling as she was at her peak or successfully completing her current missions.

She and her husband Irv received local, state and national recognition for their efforts to save, restore and develop a volunteer supported Egyptian Theatre. She served as Owner's Representative for PET (Preservation of Egyptian Theatre) during the construction project, served as their first Executive Director and became a recognized expert in art facilities construction and management and a consultant for the planning, feasibility studies, adaptive reuse and construction of arts facilities.

She was honored with the ATHENA Award and selected as a Woman of Accomplishment in 1997, for overcoming many obstacles and persevering in a male-dominated area of construction and facilities management to accomplish her dream of saving and restoring the Egyptian Theatre to become a self-supporting major cultural center for the community and surrounding area.

She loved to travel and learn, exploring much of the United States and traveling extensively in Europe, China, Australia, Russia, and Egypt. She was even at the Berlin wall when it was being torn down.

In 1998, she retired to New Glarus, WI, returning to the area and village she held in her heart from her childhood. Never one to rest for long, she purchased and operated, with her new love, Steve Wisdom, the Maple Leaf Cheese and Chocolate Haus and Hoch Haus Bed and Breakfast. They were also very involved in the community, participating in the Historic Preservation Society, Chamber of Commerce and volunteering at the Swiss Historical Village and Museum. In later years, they spent the winter months in Vidalia, LA, where they made many friends and enjoyed volunteering at their beloved Auburn House in Natchez.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Irv; and their son, Kurt.

Barbara is survived by her life-partner of 22 years, Steve Wisdom; her daughter, Krista (Joe) Mann; grandson, Joseph Mann; and her precious cocker spaniel, Annie Kummerfeldt-Wisdom.

A celebration of her extraordinary life will be held at a later date.

The Zentner-Beal Funeral Home of New Glarus is assisting the family.

An online memorial with guestbook is available at


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