Remembering Our Friend: Sigrid Pilgrim

Last December, the paddling community lost one of its premier members. Sigrid Pilgrim, a dynamic leader and promoter of paddle sports here in Illinois and beyond, passed away December 21, 2022, at the age of 78, after a hard-fought battle with cancer.

Avid not just in paddling, but in promoting our sport and putting her time where her passion was, Sigrid influenced and encouraged paddlers across the state while taking an active leadership role in the paddling community. She was instrumental in organizing IPC’s WaterTrails Conference in Channahon, a successful conference that brought together water trails professionals from across the state and at the local, state and federal levels. 

Sigrid was a force to be reckoned with on the IPC Board. She led by example. If she expected more from others, it was because she was already giving her all. She was creative and thought outside the box. Her ideas for promoting paddlesport and the IPC were endless. And we could always count on her for fresh ideas for the IPC newsletter, learning a lot ourselves through those articles, like the number of organizations dedicated to making paddling more accessible or used as a therapeutic tool (e.g., for Veterans or women battling cancer).

Jennifer Satorius of the IPC Board recalls: “When I served as newsletter editor, she surprised me with an editor’s award at one of our annual meetings: a miniature paddle custom made with a notepad and pen attached. I was so touched! But that was another side of Sigrid I came to know – she was thoughtful and generous. Having only known her for a short time through the IPC, she invited me to stay at her house if ever I needed to when I was in the area for an IPC meeting. That was the Sigrid I knew – strong yet kind. I only wish I could have known her a little bit longer.”

Sigird and Husband Al paddle the Upper Des Plaines River in 2008

In addition to her work with us, Sigrid served as a representative to the area ACA chapter and was very active with Prairie State Canoeists. In fact, most paddle clubs across Northern Illinois have felt her influence one way or another.

Don Mueggenborg, one of our longest serving IPC Board members, recalls the Paddle In The Park held at Twin Lakes in Palatine, which Sigrid organized. Sigrid recruited local venders to bring boats for the public to try with an on-the-water experience.  She arranged for instructors to give a mini-lesson and for the Voyageurs to give the public a chance to paddle a big boat.  Sigrid introduced many to paddling during this weekend event which she ran for several years.

Sigrid’s obituary shares that: “Sigrid has left a legacy of kindness, self-less generosity, hard-work, and dedication to her local community of Evanston, and of immeasurable, unconditional love and support to her family.”

We here at the IPC will miss Sigrid’s drive and enthusiasm, and we think we can speak for the entire paddling community in saying that we were glad to call her friend. But as for us, we bet that she’ll be giving St Pete instruction on how to properly and safely paddle a kayak!

Rest in Peace, Sigrid, Paddle On!