We are deeply sorry for your loss - the staff at Champaign-Urbana Chapel
Elaine Sally Harbison (nee Grondahl) passed away on Sunday, June 19, 2022 at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, IL. She was born on April 25, 1939 in Buffalo, NY. the eldest child of William and Elsie Grondahl (nee Peterson). She was a graduate of Kensington High School, NY, Class of 1956.
She is survived by her brothers; Bruce R (Rose) Grondahl, William J. (Patricia) Grondahl, grandchildren; Ryan Keefer, Sunny Greene, Jenna Keefer as well as one nephew and four nieces.
Elaine was an active and acknowledged artist in Western New York in the 1960’s-70’s. An officer of the 1968 newly chartered Associated Art Organization and an active member of the Kenmore Art Society. Her artwork was featured in many exhibits, including the Albright Knox Art Gallery. Some pieces still hang in Buffalo-area businesses. Elaine’s (and her children’s!) favorite shows were the Allentown Village Society-Outdoor Art Festival and Chautauqua Institute American Summer Outdoor Art Exhibit. She taught art classes for adult education venues and as a substitute art teacher at Cheektowaga Central & Maryvale High Schools (New York). Elaine included her children in her art experiences by bringing them to her art shows and exhibits and exposing them to famous art and artists. She also volunteered in the Cheektowaga School District superintendent’s office.
Elaine earned a Professional B.A. in Fine Arts (1977) from State University of New York-Empire State College, Buffalo, NY. Upon completing this degree she took an internship at WNED-TV Buffalo, NY exploring educational programming in K-12 public schools. This led to her hiring in 1977 by Don Mullally, then Director of Communications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, to expand the WILL-TV in-school instructional television program as Director of Learning Services – a position she held until she retired in 1997. She was directly responsible for negotiating legal off-air broadcast rights for hundreds of schools throughout Illinois, which allowed teachers to use instructional television programs in K-12 classrooms, impacting thousands of children. She advocated for early childhood programs such as Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. She enjoyed many years of working with her Learning Services staff and WILL-TV production crew colleagues on the upper floor of the “old gray house”, which served as the WILL-TV administrative offices until it was replaced by Campbell Hall. Of course, her children were included and knew every nook and cranny of the old TV station and volunteered on many public broadcasting fundraising pledge drives.
After retiring from WILL-TV she started ‘Harbison Learning Systems’, where she was able to continue building the web-based Instructional Technology Marketplace. There she enabled instructional video producers, educators and communications specialists to market high quality, previously evaluated video materials that targeted both student instruction and teacher education.
Elaine’s biggest accomplishment was her children and in leading the family migration to Illinois. In Champaign-Urbana, she continued to expand their experiences, knowledge and opportunities, making Illinois their second home. They all became vibrant, confident and independent adults who love her very much and will be greatly missed. She is preceded in death by her parents, her ex-husband George R. Harbison who was the father of her surviving children; Laura L. (Don) Keefer, Cheryl A. (Brandon) Greene and David G. (Grant Burton) Harbison.
Cremation rites have been accorded and a memorial visitation will be held on Saturday July 9, 2022 in the Champaign-Urbana area at Sunset Funeral Home and Cremation Center 710 N. Neil St Champaign, IL. 61820 from 12-2pm. Elaine’s final resting place will be with her parents at Elmlawn Memorial Cemetery in Buffalo, NY. The services and interment date are TBD. The family requests no flowers, but gratefully requests donations in Elaine’s memory to either the Albright Knox Art Gallery-Art Bus, WILL-TV Public Education Program, or an organization of your choosing that provides education, training and mentoring to young artists.
Please join her family in sharing memories, photos and videos on her tribute wall at www.sunsetfuneralhome.com