Barbara Ballinger

 Most Oak Parkers think of July 21 as Ernest Hemingway’s birthday (if they think of Ernie at all), and indeed, the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park, along with the Hemingway Business District (what would Ernie think of that?) have a full schedule of activities planned starting tomorrow. 

But Ernie isn’t the only one with a July 21 birthday. In addition to Robin Williams, Don Knotts (Barney Fife), and Paloma Faith (who?), next Tuesday is Barbara Ballinger’s birthday. 

Ballinger was the head of the Oak Park Public Library for 24 years and more recently supervised the Hemingway Archive Center at the main library, which contains in its collection the famous “Dear Ernie” letter that Agnes Kurowsky wrote the lovesick and shrapnel riddled young medic who fell for his nurse bigtime in Europe during recuperation. She broke his heart, which inspired him to write one of his most famous novels, A Farewell to Arms. Ballinger, we suspect, can recite the letter by heart.

Anyway, Barbara has been a Hemingway and Oak Park stalwart for years. She visited Hemingway sites in Cuba during the Foundation’s 2000 trip. And she has also been involved in Frank Lloyd Wright preservation efforts.

So if you see Barbara running with the bulls this weekend, don’t forget to shout out a hearty happy birthday.

Join the discussion on social media!