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Illinois: Why I Live Here

Illinois: Why I Live Here

Thirty-five of my seventy years have been spent going to school, working, marrying (twice), raising children, and now living in retirement in Illinois. Good fortune came to me in my lifetime by living in three countries and seven different states, with half of that time spent in Illinois.

I’ve reflected on how it’s been partly coincidental and partly preferential that I’ve chosen to live in Illinois. 

My Army stepfather was transferred to the Chicago area in 1950, which began my first four-year residence in Illinois. I was in a good high school that had excellent teachers, courses, and high enough standards so that my National Honor Society recognition and upper 5 percent class standing was good enough to admit me to Dartmouth in 1954. Having a stepfather who was at the dining room table every afternoon when I returned from high school, and not having dinner until I had finished my schoolwork, also helped a lot.

Several of my favorite memories of that time were as a Boy Scout in a Park Forest, Illinois troop. We built a Klondike sled to pull through the snow during a Scout Jamboree in a local forest preserve (the troop were the horses), and we competed with other local area troops in many of the areas Scouts earn merit badges—compass reading, fire building, rope bridge building, first aid, and speed of completing the course. Our twelve member troop won first prize out of 400 scouts—one of my all-time favorite memories of growing up in Illinois.  

Another memory was playing on a very good high school football team as an occasional player, playing football under the lights on Friday nights, and being joined by our high school sweethearts after the game. We would go down to the A & W Root Beer drive-in for a hamburger and root beer float and end up at one of the girls’ houses jitter bug and dancing in her basement, a scene that was common around the country at that time. I hope that is still the case because it was a great way to grow up and learn how to deal with young men and women in a mutually respectful, fun-loving way.

My second four years in Illinois was when I returned to Illinois after graduating from college and business school as a result of a job transfer. I was a bachelor living with other bachelors in the near north of Chicago, and met a lovely lady by the name of Wynn. She and I both loved to sail on Lake Michigan, and my affection for her, I have to admit, was influenced slightly by the fact that her Dad owned a beautiful sailboat. Wynn and I were married in Illinois and promptly moved to Massachusetts where our three daughters were born. 

Wynn’s and my marriage ended in 1979, and coincidentally, I was transferred and promoted to a new position as General Manager of a recently acquired company  back in Illinois, where I have lived for the past twenty-eight years. I enjoyed my new job and single life in Chicago and spent my free time sailing on a sailboat that I co-owned with my brother-in-law. After awhile, the single life got old and I was fortunate to meet my present wife, who was new to sailing but we shared a love of Platform Tennis, among many other activities. Liz and I got married in 1983—again in Illinois.

She and I have been married and living in Illinois for the past twenty-four years. We have a large family of six children, and now ten grandchildren between us. While we are residents of Illinois, we are also blessed to have a home in a nice golf community in Naples, Florida. 

Liz and I have talked a lot about why we have grown up and have loved living in Illinois. We’ve concluded the following: 

  • Illinois, and particularly the Chicago area, is centrally located. You can get anywhere in the world relatively easily from Chicago—and we have! 
  • Chicago has been, and continues to be, an area of economic opportunity and vitality, primarily due to the diversity of its many different enterprises, a cooperative relationship between business and city government, and a very strong sense of civic pride. Chicago is a good place to work and to find work. 
  • Illinois is the Land of Lincoln. Illinois residents embody and embrace many of the qualities of Abraham Lincoln—hard work, a strong work ethic, patriotism, and compassion for others. The Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois is a place everyone should visit, along with the Lincoln Monument in Washington, D. C.
  • Chicago is one of the cultural centers of the world. Within a twenty-mile radius, you have the Chicago Symphony, the Art Institute, the Lyric Opera, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum, the Aquarium, the Chicago Botanic Garden, the Ravinia Festival, and just recently, Millennium Park, which was added in the center of Chicago.
  • Illinois has natural beauty, from the shorelines of Lake Michigan to the hills of western Illinois. It might not be as spectacular as some of the more dramatic locations in our country, but Illinois remains a lovely place to live and visit. 

Because I’ve lived in so many places and residences (I think I counted over fifty) during my lifetime, I’ve concluded that I could be happy living just about anywhere, but I’ve also concluded that I’m very happy that many of those years have been in Illinois.