By Dan Haley
Odds and ends with some a bit odder than others:
Marion Street Mecca: The pricey redo of North Marion Street has been oversold by the village as having created a retail Valhalla. To be sure, we shouldn't overreact to the news and the For Lease signs indicating that three storefronts on the block are going up for rent. Kelley Frame Shop, Fringe and Croix are all vacating or relocating. There is a natural ebb and flow to retail, intensified by these still-hard times. I would just point out that bricks and curlicue lampposts don't protect fully against those inevitable cycles.
Columbus gets mulched: You driven up Austin Boulevard along Columbus Park lately? Ever seen so much mulch piled up around trees? Must be 18 inches of lovely mulch stacked up about two-thirds of the way around each and every tree. Why two-thirds? Response to the drought? A surfeit of mulch? I'm curious.
Until death: We ran the obit last week of Beta Balgemann. She was 94, graduated from Rosary College (that's Dominican U. to you newcomers), and lived in the same Oak Park house throughout her 71 years of marriage to Ralph.
I didn't know the Balgemanns very well. But when a couple is as active around town as these two were, chances are they're going to run into the newspaper guy a few times. So I met them at dinners and events and fundraisers and two things struck me. This couple was totally put together. Always looked sharp, always engaging, always in a lovely and low-key way. Second, they seemed devoted to each other in a loving and respectful way.
So after we carried the obit for Ralph earlier this year, it wasn't much of a surprise that Mrs. Balgemann would follow shortly. Well-lived lives, thoroughly interwoven.
Olympic star: Sure Ellis Coleman didn't get far into the Olympic wrestling competition. Oak Park's claim to Olympic fame was eliminated early in the competition on Monday. But what a thrilling ride and enormous accomplishment for this young man.
Did someone say bankruptcy?: Oak Park Trustee Colette Lueck, who tends to say things that reporters write down, used the spectre of municipal bankruptcy to focus attention during a board discussion of the 2013 budget. While short-term things are looking a bit fiscally brighter, daunting pension obligations loom, said Lueck. And while no one joined her in suggesting possible bankruptcy, no one on the board interrupted her either.
Good reads: Last week's Journal was filled with good reads, if I do say so myself. There was a great, leisurely story by Tom Holmes about Rev. George Omwando, the new pastor at St. Catherine-St. Lucy Catholic Church over on Austin Boulevard. The new fellow is from a rural village in Kenya and has been in the states since 2003. How he is adapting to this diverse parish and how parishioners are responding to his arrival was fascinating.
Then there were the astounding recollections of George Vrechek, a member of the 1962 Fenwick football team. A half-century ago this team went undefeated and won the city's all-important Prep Bowl by a 40-0 margin. And they played that game in front of 91,328 fans at Soldier Field. The reunion takes place in October when the team gathers to watch the 2012 Friars play.
Finally, we had an interview with Bonnie McDonald, the new chief of Landmarks Illinois, the historic preservation advocacy group. She's also new to Oak Park and talked to Deb Quantock McCarey about the reasons she landed here on her arrival from Minnesota. The historic nature of the town, diversity of our architecture, its walkability, the focus on sustainability all factored into making Oak Park home.
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