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Esther Kaplan

Published On: Feb 24 2013 06:54:05 PM CST

Esther Alk Kaplan, died on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, at age 97. Born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on August 20, 1915, she graduated from Green Bay East High School as valedictorian of her class in 1932 and from the University of Wisconsin with an economics major and Phi Beta Kappa honors in 1936. Esther married Louis Kaplan in 1939 and except for the years of World War II lived continuously in Madison both before and after her husband's death in 1994. Louis Kaplan had been the Director of University Libraries. Beginning in 1946, Esther was actively involved in Democratic party politics and in public affairs. She became a devoted and highly knowledgeable financial manager of campaigns, serving as the treasurer in the campaigns of Horace Wilkie (for the U.S. House), Gaylord Nelson (for governor, the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate), Patrick Lucey (for governor), Anthony Earl (for governor), and Shirley Abrahamson (for the state Supreme Court). The legal impeccability of her records was legendary. Esther put her experience in campaign finance to wider use as a member of the Wisconsin State Elections Board from 1974 until 1987. When she left the Board her fellow members unanimously adopted a resolution commending her fairness and impartiality as well as her dedication to public service. Esther also served on the state''s Higher Education Aids Board from 1971 to 1978, and on the Madison Mayor's Ad Hoc Committee on Reapportionment in 1979. When Gaylord Nelson was governor between 1959 and 1963, Esther was his personal secretary and was called the "most powerful woman in Wisconsin politics" by the state's best-known political columnist. Esther's public deeds are not her only legacy. She will also be remembered for her private devotion to her husband and to her friends--especially when they needed help.

Esther is survived by her sister, Ruth Alk Hulbert, of Racine, and many nieces and nephews, grand nieces and grand nephews, among them Anita Krasno (Dan Hobson) of Madison, as well as great grand nieces and nephews.

At her request, there will be no memorial service.

As Esther was a great supporter and fan of local theater, memorial donations to the Madison Savoyards, Forward Theater Company or similar organization would be appreciated.

The family would like to extend thanks to the dedicated staff of Segoe Gardens for their wonderful care of Esther over the past several years and especially at the end.

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