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Lois (née Milton) Zimmerman was born in 1923 near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She graduated from high school in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and earned a BA degree from Lesley College, a teacher training college in Cambridge, Massachusetts. During her time in Cambridge, she met her husband who was training to become a chaplain in the army. Their oldest child Donnie died of polio at age seven; they had four other children. She was a kindergarten teacher for many years, including during the era of school desegregation in Indianapolis, Indiana. She also enjoyed leading outdoor educational programming.
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