A gentle soul with a vision for Oak Park

Opinion: Columns

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Robert Milstein

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When I heard that my friend, and former village board colleague had passed away, I was overwhelmed with sadness. Gus Kostopulos was a gentle soul. He took me on tours of Oak Park to share his vision of the future. He described it as an eclectic blend of tradition and modernity. He loved the village and its citizens. He also voiced his fears about how others wanted to make Oak Park just another suburb. He lamented their lack of appreciation of history and knowledge of architecture.

Yes, Gus and I met in his office — often — discussing Oak Park, family, architecture and just telling stories. His office was a mess. Filled with years of work, you sensed he loved his profession. He knew when a building had value. He understood what a sense of place meant. If he had an ego, he kept it silent.

The 1120 building on Lake St., he said, "Is not what was voted for, or at least it is not what I voted for." He called Whiteco "ugly," and the high school garage a first-class bribe for the continuation of the TIF. OK, Gus would not say bad things about anyone, nor lament to story-hungry reporters, but he was clearly frustrated by these less-than-acceptable structures — and the politics that surrounded them.

I asked Gus if he ever got angry. He said, "Yes," but I can't think of an instance that showed him angry.

I recall a debate on building codes. We had all been copied with the tomes. He was recognized to speak at the board meeting. From behind the dais, he lifted the piles of books, and then he presented a small book of codes from another village and asked us to eschew obfuscation (my words). Then he sat down.

We all laughed. Then the vote was taken: 5 yes, 2 no. In his simple visual, I knew he was right. He swayed my vote.

In his last year on the board, Gus was confused at times about what was being discussed. I like to believe his confusion stemmed from his trying to balance all those years of wisdom he had acquired and that, like Socrates, he wanted to share all his knowledge with the "next generation." He wanted them to appreciate the great good place they lived in and to be sure to do no harm.

Unlike Socrates, he did not drink Hemlock, but like Socrates he will be remembered not for his material wealth but for his wealth of virtues.

Robert Milstein is a former Oak Park village trustee.

Reader Comments

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S.Oak Park  

Posted: July 16th, 2011 12:49 PM

What do you know,Cheerleader? How much inneraction did you have with Gus Kostopulos during his lifetime? Seems like you are taking advantange of a sad time for his family and friends to offer more nonsense. That's truly shameful but par for the course.

Cheerleader  

Posted: July 16th, 2011 1:50 AM

Easy with your quotation marks Milstein. It looks to me to be a political conversation your having with a person who has departed this world. Shame on you. I'm sure Gus wouldn't approve of you using him and his own words(even if they are true)to attempt to further your closed minded ideology of what is "ugly" and acceptable. Now Gus would laugh at stuff like this , as he did many times. Ironic?

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: July 13th, 2011 10:57 PM

Your punchline is a knockout, John.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: July 13th, 2011 10:41 PM

Did Gus call you by your more formal name, Wow, or did he use the buddy form -- Wowwie.

Wow  

Posted: July 13th, 2011 10:21 PM

Bob, I think Gus can speak for himself. No need for you to speak for him. You should honor him, but dont put words into his mouth. I knew Gus, and Sir, you are no Gus.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: July 13th, 2011 6:21 PM

Nice to hear from Bob Milstein once in a while. Never met Gus but never heard a bad word about him.

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