Dooper's Memories: Supper guests who broadened our horizons

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By John Stanger

Al, Eddie and Bill were born and raised in Chicago, but after service in World War II, they moved to Oak Park.

Al Fyfe was a dentist and had an office at Fullerton and Cicero in Chicago, but he lived in an apartment on Grove Avenue in Oak Park. During WWII, he served as a medical officer at a military base in Georgia. He was originally a friend to my uncle Hubert, but after meeting our family in the late 1930s, he became a lifelong friend to us all.

Al was the best-read person I have ever known and probably the smartest. He graduated from Loyola in three years and finished dental school in three years as well.

His days off from work were Wednesday and Sunday, and he spent most of the day on Wednesday reading at the Oak Park main library. He could talk on most every subject, and he taught me valuable lessons regarding life and learning.

Al was a bachelor until he was in his late 40s. Before his marriage, he would come to our house every Sunday for supper and would entertain us by playing both classical and pop tunes on the piano. Even after he married, he and his wife would come for supper on Sunday once or twice a month.

Al's life was short, however, dying of pneumonia at age 55.

Eddie Paulsen was an artist. He met my mother when they were students at North Park Junior College in the 1930s.

After graduation from junior college, Eddie earned a BFA degree from the Art Institute. He taught privately for a few years, and when WWII was declared, he enlisted in the Navy and served for three years in the Pacific.

When he was discharged in 1945, he took up residence in an apartment on Oak Park Avenue and obtained a job teaching art in a Chicago public high school.

While teaching, he earned an MFA degree from the Art Institute. Degree in hand, he sought a college teaching job, and in 1952 he was hired as an instructor at Washington State University, where he remained, as far as I know, until he retired. Ed, the "lifelong bachelor," married a French professor within a year of his arrival at WSU.

During the years 1948-52, Ed was also a frequent Sunday supper guest at our house.

Ed and his wife drove to Chicago every June for nine years and stayed with Hubert and his wife for a week. After 1962, he and his wife stopped coming but kept in contact with our family for many years.

Originally, Bill Swanson was a friend to Hubert, but like the other men, he became a family friend. After graduation from high school, Bill went to Illinois College, graduated and took a job as a physical education teacher and swimming coach at Lane Tech.

During WWII, he served as an officer aboard a destroyer in the Pacific. After the war, he returned to Lane Tech where his swim teams won many championships.

Bill — a bachelor — lived in an apartment on Marion Street and was a regular Sunday evening supper guest at our house. He was the person who convinced me to go to Illinois College, and I'm glad that he did.

Bill's life was cut short at the age of 48 as the result of injuries sustained in an automobile accident.

These men were good friends to everyone in my family, and they treated me like an adult and not as some child who should be seen and not heard. I often think of these men and will always remember how they enhanced the lives of all my family members.

John Stanger is a lifelong resident of Oak Park, a 1957 graduate of OPRF High School, married with three grown children and five grandchildren, and a retired English professor  (Elmhurst College). Living two miles from where he grew up, he hasn't gotten far in 74 years.

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