As usual, there was plenty of offbeat news to report in our eccentric villages. Here’s a list of 10 who had us scratching our heads:

  • Well known pandhandler Louie Bova, 80, was a familiar sight around Oak Park and a regular recipient of residents’ kindness. Unfortunately, he turned out to be a fraud who lives with his sister in Melrose Park and has plenty of money (Jan. 16, Crime).
  • River Forest Village President Frank Paris raised eyebrows with an offhand, hypothetical comment, which we originally reported as, “I’ll answer any question except if you ask me how many times I sodomized my parent.” Not willing to leave poor enough alone, Paris demanded a correction. What he really said, he insisted, was “parrot,” not “parent.” We dutifully reported the correction, which, of course, was immediately picked up on the Internet and spread like wildfire. [Jan. 30, Inside Report).
  • Someone broke into Trailside Museum in March and stole three live snakes and three live frogs. One was a 6-foot bull snake. The perp or perps didn’t take anything else. Seems they knew what they wanted. No one, including maybe the perps, has a clue. [March 26, News]
  • Viewpoints columnist Virginia Seuffert wrote a column critical of a “V-Day” event hosted by Students for Peace and Justice at Pilgrim Church in March to draw attention to domestic violence and raise funds for Sarah’s Inn. Among the items distributed, she said, were chocolates in the shape of vaginas. [April 2, Viewpoints]
  • In July, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms demanded an apology from Oak Park Village Manager Tom Barwin for a comment he made in an NPR interview following the Supreme Court decision overturning Washington D.C.’s gun ban: “It’s just completely befuddling that our Supreme Court would be in alliance with the gangbangers.” Apparently, the Citizens Committee members thought he was referring to them. Guilty conscience? [July 9, News]
  • A former Oak Parker with the appropriate name of Taylor Luck was reported missing in Syria in October, but emerged unscathed. Luck was lucky. The 2003 OPRF grad works for the Jordan Times in Amman. He and his girlfriend were imprisoned for a week before being released. [Oct. 15, News]
  • The long-awaited and once postponed “pooch wedding,” “muttrimonial” or “bow vows” (take your pick-we certainly did) was finally held in Downtown Oak Park, an attempt to raise funds for the Animal Care League and set a record for the Guinness Book. The latter didn’t happen, alas, but not for lack of trying. Despite inclement weather, 87 dog couples showed up to be hitched, but that fell far short of the 178 who showed up in Littleton, Colo., last year. Frankly, we’re happy to let them keep the record. [Nov. 12, News]
  • Catherine Vogt, a Brooks Middle School student, conducted an interesting experiment before the presidential election. She wore a handmade “McCain Girl” T-shirt around school to gauge the reaction. It was strong and negative. In fact, many responded like immature teenagers. Wait … where was this experiment conducted? [Nov. 12, News]
  • The Village of Oak Park held a demonstration, Nov. 13, on ways to market our doomed 2,600 ash trees, of which the emerald ash borer is in the process of making mincemeat. Horigan Urban Forest Products brought a portable sawmill to Maple Park for a demonstration. We suggested back in the summer that the village cut all the ash trees down and sell them to the Louisville Slugger company. Wooden bats have traditionally been made of ash trees. [Nov. 19, News]
  • And finally, 80 years later, a violano virtuoso has returned to Pleasant Home. The strange mechanical music device, which consists of a violin and the innards of a piano, was invented by Herbert Mills, the last private owner of Pleasant Home, and once upon that time, he had one of his violanos on display in this home. Thanks to the generosity of Jasper Sanfilippo (head of Evon’s Nuts), an avid collector of the devices, an old violano has been reconditioned and shipped to the home, where it will soon be playable. The Pleasant Home Foundation still needs to raise about $10,000 to pay for it. [Dec. 3, News]

Ten who made a difference

Among the many fascinating residents and former residents who died this past year, here is a sampling of 10 who had an impact:

  • Edward Brennan, 73, Fenwick grad, former CEO of Sears Roebuck and Co. Dominican's Brennan School of Business is named after him.
  • Fannie Bernstein, 98, of River Forest, former longtime owner of Russell's BBQ.
  • Lois Nettleton, 80, respected film, TV, and stage actress, who was once married to Jean Shepherd (author of Christmas Story).
  • Elsie Castellaneta, 81, mother of actor Dan Castellaneta (the voice of Homer Simpson).
  • Albert "Rad" Barton, 99, engineer, former senior vice president at Brach's Candy, married to his wife, "Glad," for 75 years.
  • Percy Julian Jr., 67, civil rights attorney, son of famed scientist Percy Julian, after whom Julian Middle School is named.
  • Siedah Sivels, 21, poet, OPRF grad, who fought an inspiring battle against a rare form of cancer.
  • Lynne "Angel" Harvey, of River Forest, philanthropist, wife and partner of radio personality Paul Harvey.
  • Ralph DeSantis, 78, former Oak Park village manager in the 1980s, known for his no-nonsense style, computerized village hall.
  • Al Gilliam, 59, longtime Julian Middle School teacher who inspired a generation of students.

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