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Who was Lora Aborn?

Passing the Oak Park Arts Center, Ontario Street and Oak Park Avenue, recently, we noticed that, in addition to the Ernest Hemingway Museum, the old building also houses the Lora Aborn Auditorium.

Perhaps, like us, you've wondered who Lora Aborn was.

According to her bio on the Internet, she was the organist and music director at Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple for over 40 years, where she wrote over 40 songs and choral numbers, some of which are still sung today at the Unitarian-Universalist congregation.

One of her symphonic works was played just this past May 30 by the Symphony of Oak Park-River Forest.

She died in 2005 at the age of 98, a few months after passing her driving test "with flying colors," according to Chatka Ruggiero, owner of the Arts Center, who also happens to be Lora Aborn's daughter.

"I now have the task of managing her music," Ruggiero writes. "She was an artist and only wanted to have her music played, so I am getting everything printed (all was hand-written) and published."

Her son put together a Web site, loraaborn.com, where you can hear Lora play "Ten Preludes for Piano," which she composed in 1928 at the age of 20 and performed at the age of 94. Three of Lora's compositions are also featured on a 1997 CD titled, "My Native Land - A Collection of American Songs," performed by mezzo soprano Jennifer Larmore.

Holy Toledo!

Meanwhile, just down Oak Park Avenue at Pleasant Street, the bells at St. Edmund Church are sounding fuller these days. One of the bells was out of commission for months, its "clapper" mechanism missing a piece and the area generally gummed up by residue from the wrong side of some fine feathered steeple-squatters. Brave employees of the Verdin Company in Ohio (Cincinnati actually, not Toledo), which services the bells twice each year (along with the bells at Grace Episcopal and First United churches), cleaned out the area and replaced the missing piece (thanks to the largesse of a parish donor). Now the bells ring freely at noon and 6 p.m., announcing the end of the war in Europe - or whatever other cause for celebration you can imagine. If you've ever walked by the church when they go off, the sound really gets your attention.

Don Giannetti, a parish administrator, called with the good news, since we were the first to point out the glitch. Then again, maybe it's not all good news.

"The bells," he said, "are tolling for you."

A $2,000 water bill?

Oak Park Village Hall got a shock earlier this year when it discovered a $2,040 water bill for an empty village-owned building.

While perusing village spending records, Wednesday Journal noticed that Oak Park paid $2,040 on March 27 for a month's worth of water at 828 S. Oak Park Ave., the vacant building just north of the expressway. The village tallied water bills of $514 and $1,227 for the building the previous two months.

In contrast, Oak Park paid $1,362 for three months of water at village hall - a building housing more than 250 employees - during that same span.

The village must have caught the problem because the water bill for the following month, paid on April 28, at 828 S. Oak Park dropped to $65. So what happened?

According to David Powers, spokesman for the village, there was an undetected water leak at the property. When Oak Park offered it up for sale, an interested buyer asked to see that all the utilities worked, Powers said in an e-mail.

But in the following weeks, Nicor went after a former tenant of the building and shut off the heat, without telling the village. In the midst of the winter, the pipes froze and eventually started leaking.

Craig Lesner, chief financial officer for the building, says Oak Park receives a bill from Chicago each month for water usage throughout the village. Then it splits up its bills to help track water at all its properties.

Village officials were unsure how the problem was first caught. But Lesner said the village started tracking water usage this way to help catch leaks.

Fenwick principal joins archdiocese

Former Fenwick Principal/CEO James Quaid starts his new position today as an associate superintendent for the Chicago Archdiocese. Quaid was with the school for 21 years and served as principal at Fenwick, 505 W. Washington, for the last 16 years. He taught history and coached track and field when he first joined the faculty.

"Fenwick has come a long way in the last 16 years, and I have been most fortunate to have been part of the journey," said Quaid in a news release from the school last week.

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