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In 2022, we said farewell to many who made Oak Park and River Forest what they are today. Here are just a few of the many we remember:

  • Betty White, 99, the “Golden Girl,” TV and entertainment personality who became a cultural phenomenon. She didn’t live here long, but she was an Oak Park native.
  • Jerry Koenig, 84, longtime teacher and principal of Grace Lutheran School in River Forest.
  • Tesse Donnelly, 91, founding member of Arbor West Neighbors senior living group, St. Giles Family Mass group, and the Experimental Program at OPRF High School.
  • Cliff Augustine, 82, former priest, banana farmer from Belize, and teacher at Malcolm X City College.
  • Larry Christmas, 86, Oak Park village president (1993-97), longtime regional planner for the Northeastern Illinois Regional Planning Commission (NIPC), and active member of the Hemingway Foundation.
  • Frank Limentato, 78, barber who learned to cut hair as a child in Sicily, ran the Oak Park Avenue Barber Shop for over 35 years.
  • Glenn Leonhart, 93, restored Frank Lloyd Wright-designed furniture for the Home & Studio.
  • Rich Gloor, 84, longtime Realtor who owned Gloor Realty for decades, active in The Avenue (now Hemingway) business district.
  • Hanny Leitson, 96, therapist and social justice activist who fled Nazi Germany on the Kindertransport.
  • Rich Cozzola, 69, longtime Legal Aid attorney, singer-songwriter.
  • Tom Monaco, 73, coach and supporter of Oak Park Youth Baseball/Softball.
  • Patricia Braxton Wills, 72, St. Catherine-St. Lucy parishioner, choir member, sister and confidante of Bishop Ed Braxton.
  • Randall Stoklas, 76, respected child psychologist.
  • Flora Green, 79, principal at Longfellow and Brooks schools in Oak Park, District 97 special education administrator.
  • Ann Shalla, 84, made a living laughing (in TV studio audiences), held the world record for continuous laughing (4 hours, 6 minutes), owned the B&B Ann’s Laff Inn.
  • Corrinne Blackman, 97, of River Forest, an avid bowler into her 90s.
  • Jim Grosso, 73, musician, survived the Our Lady of the Angels fire in 1958.
  • Cliff Johnson, talented rock musician, singer, songwriter who struggled with mental health issues.
  • Carolyn Poplett, 92, chronicler of 19th Century Club history, author of The Gentle Force, volunteer at the Economy Shop resale store.
  • Rick Carter, 62, pedicab operator with the gift of gab on Oak Park streets, known as “Rickshaw Rick.”
  • Gerhart Schmeltekopf, 80, musician, historian of musical instruments, owned the Early Music Center on Garfield Street.
  • John Eckenroad III, 78, city manager of Northfield who became the executive director of the Oak Park Development Corporation in the 1990s.
  • Harry Steckman, 76, co-founder and longtime head of the Steckman School of Music.
  • Dale Rider, 90, longtime River Forest village trustee.
  • Judy Tenuta, 72, comedian and author who branded herself “the Love Goddess.”
  • Gerald Clay, 81, educational equity advocate who founded African American Parents for Purposeful Leadership in Education (APPLE), and co-founded Black-White Dialogues.
  • Christine Burdick, 72, longtime head of the Downtown Oak Park business district.
  • Barbara Ballinger, 97, longtime Oak Park Public Library director, head of the Hemingway Archive, poetry lover who could recite many by heart.
  • Jay Champelli, 80, longtime VMA member, community activist, Ascension parishioner.
  • Rev. Bennie Whiten Jr., 89, United Church of Christ minister and administrator.

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