Former Oak Park President Furlong dead at 85

Served in village's leader from 1997-2001

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Barbara Furlong, a former Oak Park trustee and village president from 1997 to 2001, died on Oct. 2. Furlong, who also served as village trustee from 1989 to 1993, was 85.

Former Village Clerk Virginia Cassin, who served in that position from 1972 to 1992, said Furlong and her late husband, William R. "Bill" Furlong, were "very well thought of" and were both active in the Village Manager Association (VMA), a local organization that vets and slates candidates for public office.

Furlong, who retired from her career as a medical technologist in 1992, also was a longtime volunteer with the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust, earning a 25-year service pin for her volunteer work with the organization in 2012. She also volunteered with the village of Oak Park's Housing Program and the League of Women Voters.

A Wednesday Journal article published in April 11, 2001, bidding "farewell" to Furlong, who chose not to run for a second term as village president, noted that her tenure was defined by tackling issues such as diversity, gay couple registration and affordable housing.

She explained her selection to run for the president's seat by the VMA in that article.

"I think my selection [and subsequent victory] was based on my longtime involvement in the community," she told Wednesday Journal.

The story goes on to identify Furlong's involvement in the Community Relations Commission, Oak Park Housing Center, the Parents' Human Relations Commission at ORPF and Metropolitan Mayors' Caucus. 

Furlong stated in the article that economic development was a top priority during her time in office.

"In fact, what has tended to consume most of our time has been the push for economic development," she said. "Firstar [the new townhouse project behind Firstar Bank on Oak Park Avenue] was a real coup for the village and we had consensus on the board for development. … It's a wonderful addition to the tax base and when the village works to expand the tax base, that's a positive for every taxing body."

The article noted that Furlong was born and raised in Cleveland, attended Notre Dame College in Euclid, Ohio, and was certified in medical technology at University Hospital.

Furlong was the mother of Mary (Jere) Mendelsohn, Thomas (Ann Williams), Timothy (Gayle) and Matt (Julia) Furlong; grandmother of Nathan and Rachel Mendelsohn, Christopher Furlong, Michael (Carmen), Rebecca (Eric) Duenke, Emily, Sarah, Hannah, Peter and Jonathan Furlong, and Jayne, James and Jennifer Furlong; great-grandmother of Ian and Evan Duenke; sister-in-law of Jack (Kit) Furlong; and an aunt to many.

A funeral Mass and celebration of Furlong's life will be held at a later date. Donations can be sent to St. Giles Church or the Oak Park River Forest Community Foundation.

Drechsler, Brown and Williams Funeral Home, Oak Park, handled arrangements.


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Jere S. Mendelsohn from Los Angeles, CA  

Posted: October 19th, 2017 4:34 PM

In addition to her work on behalf of Oak Park, Barbara- in tandem with her husband Bill- was a caring and loving mother and grandmother to many, including our family. She and Bill were role models for my wife, Mary,, myself, and our children. We can only hope we can demonstrate the level of compassion and commitment evinced by these two wonderful people.

Tom Gull  

Posted: October 10th, 2017 4:05 PM

The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust shares in the community's loss of Barbara Furlong. For over 25 years, Barbara was a valued volunteer at Wright's Home and Studio. She and her husband Bill were community leaders who contributed significantly to the success of the Home and Studio as a public treasure.

Bob Kane  

Posted: October 6th, 2017 10:12 AM

I worked with and for Barbara on many a Village election. I was amazed at how thoroughly prepared she was for every undertaking she ventured into. If Oak Park ever starts a Citizens Hall of Fame she will be a unanimous first ballot choice.

Stuart Barnes Jamieson  

Posted: October 5th, 2017 2:29 PM

The Oak Park Regional Housing Center is saddened by this lose, but deeply grateful for the leadership that Barbara provided our diversity and integration work over the years. We will continue to honor her legacy in the work we are doing. We always appreciate this community's support!

J Michael Williams from Oak Park  

Posted: October 5th, 2017 8:44 AM

Barbara was tireless and generous in the giving of her talents to the village and its citizens.

Pat Koko  

Posted: October 4th, 2017 6:36 PM

Barbara and Bill were kind and generous folks. Bill helped me in the early days of the Oak Park Food Pantry and Barbara was one of our honored Celebrated Seniors several years ago. Both gave much to what made our community a wonderful place to live.

Jim Kelly  

Posted: October 4th, 2017 5:46 PM

She epitomized what it means to be an Oak Parker -- committed to preserving and expanding the quality of life we enjoy here. A living legend, she now entrusts us to honor her legacy and to actively continue in the civic engagement that makes Oak Park so special and unique.

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