By Ken Trainor
If you want a flavor of the remarkable array of individuals who inhabit these villages, all you have to do is read Wednesday Journal's obituaries. The frustrating part is finding out about so many of them when it's too late.
We couldn't include them all, but here's a sample of those whose lives had an impact:
Bill Shafer, 89, of River Forest. The longtime Oak Park Township assessor was an electrical engineer with Commonwealth Edison who became an advocate for electric cars. He even taught a class on the subject at Triton College.
Bob Ransom, 88, lifelong Oak Parker. The local attorney was an active political organizer in Oak Park and also involved in numerous service organizations and business groups. He served as president of the Optimist Club, the Art League and the West Suburban Bar Association. He was a Cook County Justice of the Peace in the 1960s.
William Dugal Jr., 83, of Oak Park. The longtime owner of the Moore-Dugal home in Oak Park, designed (and re-designed) by Frank Lloyd Wright, he opened the home for tours for a time in order to raise funds for research on Friedrich's Ataxia, a degenerative condition afflicting several of his children.
Betty Van Wyk, 71. The former education beat reporter for the Oak Leaves, later worked as the communications director for Oak Park and River Forest High School. She also served as an Oak Park Township trustee for one term, followed by a long tenure as township clerk. She was a tireless advocate for Zonta International and a supporter of the Oak Park Conservatory and the OP Regional Housing Center.
Jim Eitrheim, 78, retired chair of Speech, Drama and Performing Arts at OPRF High School. He became a legendary figure at the high school, running the theater program from 1959-90. Many of his students went on to professional careers, including actors Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Dan Castellaneta. OPRF theater alums put together a retrospective book on his tenure at the high school, titled Look and Lean, which he saw before he died of cancer.
Gus Kostopulos, 81, of Oak Park. Local architect who became involved in local politics, serving two terms as village trustee, 1997-2005. He also served on the Oak Park Plan Commission and as a president of the Oak Park Housing Authority board.
Rev. M. Randolph Thompson, 55, founder of Fellowship Christian Church, the first predominantly African-American Church in Oak Park. He was also active in youth issues, organizing Friday Night Place at Julian Middle School to give pre-teens and teens a safe, structured place for activities in response to fears of growing gang activity in the 1990s. Wednesday Journal named him Village of the Year in 1997.
Dave Perry, 63, of Oak Park. Legendary, longtime swimming and water polo coach at Fenwick High School, whose teams won 10 state championships.
Susan Anderson, 62, a gay rights activist in Oak Park and Berwyn. She was also the chair of the Visit Oak Park board, promoting local tourism.
Nancy Dillon, 87, of River Forest. A former tennis star, she won state and national championships and was ranked nationally as an adult. After her husband died, she worked two jobs to raise her five sons. She served as a River Forest trustee for over two decades.