River Forest, Forest Park and Oak Park have lost a true gentleman with the death over Christmas of Don Offermann.
Where do you know Don Offermann from?
Maybe you were in his English class at Oak Park and River Forest High School starting in the 1960s or on a track team that he coached with passion and empathy. He rose up the ranks at OPRF, serving as English Division Chair, principal and then, because he was a healer, he was named superintendent to replace a deeply unpopular and controversial leader who was pushed out the door.
You might know Offermann if you have any ties to Grace Lutheran Church in River Forest where he was an elder of welcoming and abiding faith. He served on the boards of local nonprofits too numerous to list, but including West Suburban Hospital, during one of its perilous ownership transitions.
He was the casual cofounder of a local group of runners, the OWies, which marked its 50th anniversary not long ago. Why OWies? Because it started when Offermann and a former track team member started running together in the early mornings and began each run just outside Offermann’s house at Oak and William in River Forest.
After his retirement from OPRF, Offermann was snapped up for a second career in community banking by Art Jones, another gentlemanly retired superintendent, who had landed as a community connector at locally owned Forest Park National Bank.
Jones, Offermann and one or two other Forest Parkers played a quiet but vital role in the rejuvenation of Madison Street when they formed the Windmills, a small LLC that began to acquire key but long-vacant parcels along the street. To say they were patient investors is an understatement. They held retail spaces open by the months and years waiting for the right tenant, almost always independent, local and female led.
Gracious, smart, kind, loyal. You could go on for a while listing Don Offermann’s virtues. He lived with intention and purpose. He made these three towns, his hometowns, better places. And he will be deeply missed.