The Historical Society of OP-RF will honor Doug Deuchler at its 50th Anniversary Gala this Friday night at the Carleton Hotel.
The 72-year-old retired high school teacher and librarian has written scripts and played characters for the annual Tale of the Tombstones cemetery walk for 25 years and written six books about area history.
As a child, Deuchler said, "When my other cousins were outside running around, I was listening to the older people or going through the photo albums. Going back in time was always a great deal of fun for me."
To this day, "I always appreciate doing things, writing things, sharing myself," Deuchler said. "I feel like I have a lot to offer."
When Wednesday Journal was in its infancy, a reporter invited him to review movies playing at the Lake Theatre. Within a year, he transitioned to reviewing area plays.
"There have been scores of production companies over the years," Deuchler said. "I have been reviewing shows for 36 years and have seen virtually every single show that has played in the community since 1982."
He has also written history articles for Wednesday Journal, including Frank Lloyd Wright's most famous love affair.
For anyone interested in indie/artsy/foreign films, Doug gives the introduction and leads a post-film discussion for the Lake Theatre's First Tuesday Film Club's noon showing.
In addition to writing about other people's plays, he has also written some of his own. One of his first encounters with the Historical Society came about when he created, along with a composer, the comic musical, Kick Up Your Heels in 1990.
"The opening night was a benefit for the Historical Society," he recalled.
Other comedies staged locally in the 1980s include, The Birthday Girls, Steppin' Out, Murder at Malibu, Vendetta, and Razzmatazz.
When Deuchler retired at age 55, he dared himself to do three things:
"I was going to write a book and I ended up doing six of them," he said. "Then I dared myself to do stand-up comedy and went to comedy school downtown. When you start out doing it in your 60s you don't have the energy to keep it up, but it was so much fun while I did it."
His books for Arcadia Publishing are Oak Park in Vintage Postcards, Maywood, Berwyn, Cicero, Brookfield Zoo, and Legendary Locals of Oak Park.
The last dare is still on a back burner: learning to bake pies. He's still writing, however. The latest iteration is a collection of personal essays to put a binder together for his kids as he takes memoir writing classes. Topics range from his experiences as a child to playing Santa Claus in Downtown Oak Park to saving a River Forest woman in the 1970s who had run outside engulfed in flames. He presented some of this writing at an evening at the Main Library in August.
Doug and his wife Nancy have three adult children. The couple live in the same Oak Park house they bought in 1975. As a mixed-race couple, they were steered to a neighborhood, all white at the time, as Oak Park attempted to diversify, and "had to go" talk to a Human Relations Department rep at village hall, he said.
Though he shows no signs of slowing down, he has stepped back from one position. After 24 years with the Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio, he is no longer a docent and trainer of tour guides.
Deuchler brings local history to life like no one else with his yearly portrayal of souls buried in Forest Home Cemetery who rise each October to tell their stories.
"I played 'Sausage King' Adolph Luetgert, who murdered his wife Louisa in the 1890s and threw her body into one of the sausage-rendering vats," Deuchler said. "For a while, a film clip showing me as this character, ranting in a bloody apron, was shown on local cable. Once I was waiting in a long line at the post office when a woman at the front of the line cried out rather loudly, 'You! You're the one who murdered your wife!'"
Deuchler is many things — historian, educator, film and theater expert, committed volunteer — and he's also perfectly harmless!
The Golden Gala is 6:30 to 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 16 at the Carleton Hotel, 1110 Pleasant St., Oak Park. $100; $90; members. Tickets/more: 708-848-6755, oprfmuseum.org.
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