On page one today we highlight the deaths of three remarkable men. All dead too soon, two of them from COVID-19.
John Prine, the songwriter, had his roots deep in Maywood, but his ties to Oak Park and River Forest were also important. It was just a year ago that we reported on his visit to Val’s halla record store on Harrison Street to mark his long affection for the one and only Val Camilletti.
Our Michael Romain writes his local obit, quoting Prine’s niece in River Forest talking about Uncle John. It is a lovely piece and we recommend it to you. It runs on page 10.
We also remember today two other singular Oak Parkers who had profound impact in this town on vital issues where they worked to erase our blind spots and tamp our fears.
Alan Amato was 68 when he died last week of a bad heart. He was one of the early advocates for gay rights in Oak Park, part of a band of men and women who in the 1990s joined together to form the Oak Park Lesbian and Gay Association (OPLAGA).
And, yes, there was “a gay agenda.” It involved political change, active outreach and service to every nonprofit in Oak Park and, seemingly when gathered up, having more fun than any other group we knew.
Amato headed a public policy committee that successfully pushed a referendum to create a Domestic Partnership Registry in Oak Park. It was a radical success narrowly won and it was Amato, together with Lynne Clark, pictured celebrating on the Journal’s front page under our best headline ever: BIG GAY DAY.
And then there’s Bob Dugal. He was 58 when he died April 9 at West Sub from COVID-19. In a wheelchair and dealing with the encroachments of Friederich’s Ataxia, a progressive attack on muscles and nerves, Dugal and his siblings knew he was vulnerable to the pandemic and took all precautions. It was not enough, ultimately.
Bob Dugal was the human face, the smiling face, the determined face of rights for the disabled in Oak Park. He founded the Oak Park Committee on the Disabled and was the force that led our elementary schools to acknowledge their 10 buildings of barriers, who led the way on curb cuts that we now all take for granted, who convinced so many restaurants and businesses that he would be their champion if they got him in the door.
He also was a co-chair for A Day in Our Village, active in the Democratic Party of Oak Park in the Phil Rock era and, living in the family’s spectacular Wright home on Forest Avenue, an early tourism advocate.
He was the complete package. As his sister Kathy told us Monday, “He was a good man with a good heart.”
And you can read the obituaries for two other remarkable lives, Wayne Lucht and Jane Clark, on page 28.