Cheers to a Memorable Year

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Receiving some very happy news in June of 2018!

Like every year that passes, 2018 was filled with little ups and downs as well as moments of great joy and sadness. One particular happy memory for me this past year is captured above in the photo taken just hours after receiving the news that our covered bridge in Long Grove had been officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The joy that I felt in that moment is something I will never forget. As we move into the new year I am looking forward to seeing progress on the restoration of our iconic bridge, so that it will last for generations to come.

In May of this year, the Historical Society organized and sponsored a children’s art contest for entries featuring our covered bridge. Many of the local public and private schools participated, with students from the Montessori School of Long Grove shown below taking in some up-close inspiration.

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Judges from the Long Grove Arts & Music Council awarded prizes in various age categories, with winners receiving gifts donated by our generous historic downtown merchants. The winning entries were showcased at the Covered Bridge Creamery in late May and June.

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Pictured below is a lovely winter view of the bridge created by one of the students, a scene that now lives in memory but will hopefully be realized again in holiday seasons yet to come. Best wishes to Long Grove in 2019, and may the joyous memories continue!

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The Holiday Spirit

Max, our Christmas Eve helper at Sunset Foods today, sporting his festive holiday sweater.

Max, our Christmas Eve helper at Sunset Foods today, sporting his festive holiday sweater.

Merry Christmas, dear blog readers! I have to admit that I was feeling a little bit of a Grinch-like attitude earlier this morning–my holiday overload reaching the peak. But then the magic of the season returned with delight, at non-other than Sunset Foods here in Long Grove. As my husband and I shopped for last-minute items to complete our Christmas Eve dinner, we smiled at the crazy holiday sweaters being worn by the employees. I would like to publicly thank Max, for not only bagging our groceries proficiently, but for showcasing the most colorful, creative, cute and clever sweater I’ve seen in my rounds of holiday festivities this year. Pictured above, the chic knitted pullover in a purple and teal snowflake pattern featured not only a Christmas unicorn clutching a candy cane in it’s mouth, but was festooned with blinking lights! (Unfortunately this didn’t come through in the picture, but believe me, it was brilliant!) As if that wasn’t enough, when we stopped by the Starbucks drive-thru on the way home, our drinks were free because a generous elf had gifted everyone in line behind him. Goodwill towards others abounded this afternoon in Long Grove, and reinforced to me what I like best about this time of year. Happy Holidays!

Santa Says

Sharing a laugh with Jolly Old St. Nick this morning at the Long Grove Coffee Company.

Sharing a laugh with Jolly Old St. Nick this morning at the Long Grove Coffee Company.

Feeling virtuous after surviving my morning strength training session, I stopped by downtown Long Grove to reward myself with an eggnog latte (I know…not as nutritious as a smoothie…but ’tis the season!) and what to my wondering eyes did appear–Santa! Seizing the opportunity for an interview, I spent a few minutes basking in his holiday glow and finding out what was up for the day.

Santa gave his reindeer this sunny Saturday off as he claimed to have driven himself to Long Grove, cruising down our newly resurfaced Old McHenry Road in his convertible, with the top down! I guess our 30 degree temps might feel tropical to someone acclimated to the North Pole. I asked him what kind of cookies he would like us to leave out this year on Christmas Eve, and get this–he is cutting back on the calories this holiday season and working out five times a week! Kudos to Santa for being a role model for healthy living, even though I still could not resist the temptation of the eggnog.

Visitors to Long Grove will get numerous chances to see Santa as he is spending the entire day in town, greeting families and listening to children’s wish lists at various shops and restaurants. The top of my wish list? Seeing our covered bridge restored. Tonight Santa is paying a special visit to the Historical Society farmhouse, to lead the start of holiday carols at 6:00 pm for our annual Yuletide Sing. This family friendly event is free and will feature complimentary hot chocolate and fire pits for warmth. I invited Santa to be our guest later tonight at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio’s Holiday Ball, “Dance your way to Fred’s Chalet.” Alas, even though Santa loves to dance he has plans to thank the local volunteers who make up the CERT team of first-responders, at their Christmas party. No doubt about it, Santa is a busy man these days spreading hope, happiness and holiday cheer throughout the village.

Women, Gathering to Make a Difference

Mary Edly-Allen, Candidate for Illinois State Representative District 51 (on the left) is pictured with several Members of VOWs (Voices of Women, strong) at a Long Grove gathering on September 28th.

Mary Edly-Allen, Candidate for Illinois State Representative District 51 (on the left) is pictured with several members of VOWs (Voices of Women, strong) at a Long Grove gathering on September 28th.

It has been a difficult week for anyone following the news headlines or televised senate hearings relating to the current supreme court nominee. I belong to a group of Long Grove ladies who gather on a weekly basis to discuss state, national and local politics. This week I was particularly grateful to have this caring, strong and smart huddle of female powerhouses to process together the events of the moment. But rather than wallow in the unpleasantness being created on the national political scene, this week we also focused on making a positive difference in the state of Illinois.

Long Grove is represented in the Illinois 51st District. Last month, our former State Representative suddenly resigned from office due to a girlfriend’s allegations of misconduct. Running for this seat in November is candidate Mary Edly-Allen of Grayslake, and our group of women has been eager to hear more about her. Mary graciously accepted the invitation to join our coffee on September 28th, and we thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her, what motivated her to run for office, and her stand on the issues. Kudos to Mary for stepping up to run for office and giving us all hope for a better tomorrow. One thing that our opinionated group of individuals can all agree on is that having more women on the ballot, in elected office at all levels, is a step in the right direction. Instead of just getting frustrated by the current state of affairs, we can all do what we can to work towards positive changes. It starts by asking questions and seeking to become better educated, so that your informed choice is counted at the polls in November.

Here’s to Strong Women:

May we know them, May we be them, May we vote for them!

Why History Matters

Members of the 2018-2019 Long Grove Historical Society Board of Directors at the Annual Meeting on  April 25, 2018.

Members of the 2018-2019 Long Grove Historical Society Board of Directors at the Annual Meeting on April 25, 2018.

The Long Grove Historical Society has a website, and we are contacted fairly often by people all over the country with inquiries relating to our Village, past and present. I would like to share with you an email that we recently received, because it underscores the importance of remembering and honoring our history. I read this correspondence at our Board meeting last month so that all those who work so hard to preserve our past know that their efforts really do matter. Last week I paid a visit to Barbara Turner who will turn 99 next month, and had the pleasure of sharing these fond remembrances with her:

“We raised our three sons on Old McHenry Road in Long Grove until the 1970’s. When they went off to college, my husband John and I moved to Oregon in 1976.

Looking back, those were the years where we really matured. I worked closely with Barbara Turner to turn the local school library at Kildeer Countryside into a vibrant and relevant school library. My husband John was one of the first volunteer firemen who took the paramedic training. We really became contributing adults there. It was a wonderful learning experience.

Now I am living in a high rise retirement home in Portland, Oregon. I had dinner tonight with a couple who I knew but had no idea her family was originally from Buffalo Grove. We had a nice time exchanging reminiscences, so I came up after dinner and reread Virginia Park’s book on the area, Long Grove Lore and Legend. I had kept it all these years–I am so glad I did! For some reason, it made more sense tonight than when I was active living among the people mentioned in the book.

These days I am pretty ancient. I suspect Barbara and Virginia are long gone. But I wanted to make sure that their descendants, and you who are working to ensure that history is not forgotten realize that your work is SO worthwhile. I will now share this material with my Buffalo Grove friend. Who would have imagined?

If any of you are still in contact with the Turner and Park descendants, let them know. Even after all of these years, they will never be forgotten. If it had not been for Barbara, she and I would never have decided to pursue our advanced degrees in library science–and I would never have received a lifetime achievement award in the field. She was an amazing leader and loved Long Grove.”

Sincerely,

Sybilla Cook

On May 29th, while vacationing Greece, I got a personal tour of the local history museum in Kaloxylos, on the island of Naxos. I'm pictured here with museum founder Flourios Horianopoulos who gave me a personal tour and some awesome lemonade he makes from his lemon trees. Hats off to local historians world wide. Opa!

On May 29th, 2018 while vacationing in Greece, I got a personal tour of the local history museum in Kaloxylos, on the island of Naxos. I’m pictured here with museum founder Flourios Horianopoulos who gave me a personal tour and some awesome homemade lemonade he makes from his trees. Hats off to all of us world-wide with a passion for saving local history. Opa!

The Original Gloria Jean

Long Grove entrepreneur Joanie Shunia (on the left) is pictured here with the original Gloria Jean.

Long Grove entrepreneur Joanie Shunia (on the left) is pictured here with Long Grove resident, Gloria Jean.

Guest blogger Aaron Underwood returns with the following story which originally ran in the December 2017 issue of Long Grove Living:

Once upon a time, Kaldi, an Ethiopian goat herder, noticed his goats dancing with unusual fervor after eating the red fruit of the coffee shrub. He tried some beans himself, and he too, had more pep in his step. He shared the discovery with some local monks and they tried boiling the bean and drinking the result, and then noticed they were unable to sleep that night. Coffee and humans have been intertwined ever since.

America got its first commercial coffee roaster in 1793. Beans were hard to come by and expensive, so coffee was really only something for the wealthy elite. The advent of steamships improved the supply and quality and brought the price down to something most people could afford. After World War II, production in Central America boomed, and by the 1950’s, coffee was an everyday staple in homes throughout the country. Maybe you’re like me and remember coffee coming in those big red tins with name brands like Hills Brothers. While this was, no doubt, an efficient way of getting coffee consumed by the masses, it wasn’t the tastiest end product. By the late 1970’s, a space in the market was opening up for specialty and gourmet offerings.

In our neck of the woods, there was a young enterprising mom from a gritty Chicago neighborhood, busy with her successful beauty parlor, but chasing her dream of a custom home. She had acquired a lot in Long Grove, and as her savings accumulated, the idea of opening a second business in the quaint little town of Long Grove became a passion. Back then, there were no available store fronts, and if you wanted a store, you had to grab one the moment someone decided to close up shop. The first one to come available for our young mom was the Coffee Bean. It was located across from Red Oaks in what had been a garage. The little shop sold antiques and coffee beans. The antiques were sold off and coffee beans and the trappings to grind and brew them became the sole focus. For variety, she started making her own flavored beans, which was unheard of at the time.

She was on to something – people were buying it, and the word spread. Woodfield mall called asking for her to open a store. Then Northbrook court called. Then Randhurst mall. This was big. For legal purposes, Coffee Bean was too common a name, so the lawyer suggested the prefix it with their own name. Her husband Ed suggested Ed’s Coffee Bean, but the young mom’s middle name was Jean and that rhymed with bean, so Gloria Jean’s Coffee Bean it was. Over the next dozen years, well over a hundred stores opened around the country. Long Groveresident Gloria Kvetko had turned Gloria Jean’s Coffee Bean into the most recognized coffee franchise in America.
In 1993, an offer she couldn’t refuse for the company was put forth, and, somewhat reluctantly, she sold her coffee empire in 1993. The new owners eventually ran into difficulty, but the brand remained strong and positive, and today, under new owners yet again, it’s making a comeback.

The little Long Grove garage that was store #1 was sold as well. The new owner Karen Krahn, renamed it Beans and Leaves. A couple of years ago the store was acquired by Ethel Berger. Ethel has recently started working with the Long Grove Confectionary to create a new coffee shop next to Towner Green, to be called The Long Grove Coffee Company. A new company is moving into the little garage that Ethel vacated and will offer coffee and ice cream. The name Covered Bridge Creamery will now adorn the little garage.

Gloria Jean is happy to share her experiences and did so recently with a group of downtown merchants. Pictured is Gloria Jean with one of Long Grove’s current female entrepreneurs, Joanie Shunia, of Joanie’s Pizza. While Joanie currently doesn’t have any national expansion plans, you never know. Perhaps you should grab a slice now, so you’ll have bragging rights if Joanie’s Pizza ever becomes the household word that Gloria Jean’s Coffee Bean did.

On Living

While my husband Aaron and I are no Fred and Ginger, we are adding more joy to the time we have left together by learning how to dance.

While my husband Aaron and I are no Fred and Ginger, we are adding more joy to the time we have left together by learning how to dance.

If you were down to the last weeks and months of your life, what kinds of stories would you tell? Perhaps you would have regrets, or the need to release a secret held too long. Maybe you would find the strength to make amends, or the will to finally grant compassion to others, or yourself. Kerry Egan is a hospice chaplain and the author of a beautiful and thoughtful book on this topic, called “On Living.” Recently recommended to me by a friend, I sat down after dinner last night to quickly skim through the 200 pages and found myself coming up for air four hours later deeply moved and in need of a tissue or two. This book was not sad. I found it to be an inspiring and sometimes humorous set of stories on how we as humans can find more meaning in our lives now, before we reach the end of our days.

By sharing many of the insights from her work counseling hospice patients, the author reveals what she has learned by listening and simply being present. I loved her chapter on “living in the gray” which dealt with judgement and the importance of kindness (which is not the same as niceness). Another section of the book that was meaningful to me detailed the contrast between toughness and strength, which are often thought of as being the same thing, but in fact are opposites. A favorite quote: “You have to be tough because you’re not strong. Being tough makes you mean. In most of life, you can be weak inside and get through by putting on a tough outer shell. But if you work in hospice, you have to stay soft on the outside. So in order to stand up straight, you have to have a spine of steel. Two ways to go through the world, two ways to deal with the loss that is an inevitable experience in life–with a hard shell or with a rock-solid backbone.”

My favorite chapter is entitled, “if I had only known, I would have danced more.” The author describes how many dying patients express regret that they had spent time hating their bodies for various reasons and wished that they had appreciated them more in the course of their lives. Egan writes, “They talk about their favorite memories of their bodies. And dancing. So many stories about dancing. I can’t count the hundreds of times people–more men than women–have closed their eyes and said, “If I had only known, I would have danced more.”

I am personally taking this last lesson to heart. I have always regretted not knowing how to dance. Six months ago, my husband Aaron and I started taking ballroom dancing lessons at the new Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Long Grove, and we have added one more joyful thing to our lives because of it. As a result of reading “On Living” I am also inspired to bring more peace into my life right now by working harder on forgiveness and compassion. My hope is to die with few regrets and I wish the same for you.

Award Winning Excellence

Left to Right: Citizen of the Year John Kopecky celebrates with fellow award winners Jenny and Rich Wierzchon of Primrose School of Long Grove, Best New Business.

Left to Right: Citizen of the Year John Kopecky celebrates with fellow award winners Jenny and Rich Wierzchon of Primrose School of Long Grove, Best New Business.

Don’t you just love it on those rare occasions when the stars align and good things happen to truly deserving people? Long Grove was shining bright last night at the Lake Zurich Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual Evening of Excellence event. What a thrill it was to celebrate John Kopecky as he was presented with the Citizen of the Year Award, and to cheer the success of Jenny and Rich Wierzchon of Primrose School as they were recognized as the Best New Business. In addition to awards, the night was filled with friends, good food, dancing, and pride in our community.

It is a generally held opinion in town that John Kopecky is an amazing volunteer who helps out anyone and anywhere he sees a need. It is impossible to list all the wonderful ways in which John has helped our village over the many years he has owned his downtown business, The Country House, and even prior to that growing up in the Long Grove area. Need a dozen or so creative mini golf holes for the Lions putt-putt fundraiser? John will design and build them. Clever marketing ideas and a giant teddy bear to promote the downtown festivals? Done. How about acquiring a historic tractor (or two) and wagon, then tirelessly driving loads upon loads of visitors throughout the historic downtown for Vintage Days, on your birthday? His pleasure. Emergency repairs to brewery equipment? Just call him MacGuyver. Another truck has hit and damaged the covered bridge? John is getting out the ladder and paint bucket as we speak. Need someone to portray “crazy” Jake Eisler or Mrs. Bigfoot in the annual Ghostwalk? Say no more. I could go on and on but I think you get the picture of just how indispensable John is to the fiber of our village. And beloved. Several of us from the community were moved to nominated John for this award and it is so richly deserved. Congratulations!

Jenny and Rich Wierzchon have parlayed their passion for early childhood education into the creation and establishment of the Primrose School of Long Grove. I was there for the ground breaking in October of 2015, and have been delighted to watch this new business grow into a real asset for our community. See my earlier post here about the Primrose Promise. Here’s to many more years of success!

While it is exciting to be recognized with an award, the real prize for our community is having John, Jenny and Rich giving every day in their own winning ways to make Long Grove such a great place to live. We salute you! Check out a short clip of the awards presentations below:

 

Attendees at the Evening of Excellence (L to R): Angie Underwood, John Kopecky, Aaron Underwood, Amy Gayton, and Vicki Kopecky.

Attendees at the Evening of Excellence (L to R): Angie Underwood, John Kopecky, Aaron Underwood, Amy Gayton, and Vicki Kopecky.

The Little Bridge That Could

R to L: Historic Downtown Long Grove President Ryan Messner, Andrew Heckenkamp from Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and Aaron Underwood, from the Long Grove Historical Society worked together today to advocate for placing the covered bridge on the National Register of Historic Places.

L to R: Historic Downtown Long Grove President Ryan Messner, Andrew Heckenkamp from Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and Aaron Underwood, from the Long Grove Historical Society worked together today to advocate for placing the covered bridge on the National Register of Historic Places.

It was a victory in Springfield today for Long Grove! The esteemed historians and archaeologists who make up the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council just dumped a big bucket of awesome sauce on our covered bridge by voting unanimously to recommend it to the National Register of Historic Places. Aaron Underwood, Past President of the Long Grove Historical Society, was instrumental in preparing the 35 page application, and spoke on the merits of this landmark before the board at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield. The bridge, which dates from 1906, qualified because of the steel “pony truss” construction unique to that time period, as well as the original and ornate pedestrian walkway, which is still intact. The nostalgic cover was added in 1972, and according to the experts at the meeting today, might be eligible in five years for historic status on this feature as well. The next step in the process is approval by the National Park Service, which administers the National Register.

It was a thrill and an honor to be in Springfield today to witness our beloved bridge advance one giant step further towards this respected status. The Village has tried several times over the years to achieve this recognition, most recently in 2014, while I was Village President. But just like the “little engine that could,” we kept on trying, and finally with enough persistence, diligence, research and hard work, it looks like we might just be able to achieve the goal this time. Our application now moves on to Washington and in about six to eight weeks we expect to hear back with the news of final placement on the national list. We think we can, we think we can do it! Continue to keep your fingers crossed.

Here’s the Daily Herald article that appeared online on June 30:

http://www.dailyherald.com/news/20170630/long-grove-covered-bridge-recommended-for-national-register-of-historic-places

Mentors and Heroes

Current elected officials with future elected officials at the April 15th WINGS meeting:  (L to R) Cheri Neal, Zion Township Supervisor, Teagan (our scholarship winner), Brighton (Teagan's sister) and Angie Underwood, Long Grove Village President.

Current elected officials with future elected officials at the April 15th WINGS meeting: (L to R) Cheri Neal, Zion Township Supervisor, Teagan (our scholarship winner), Brighton (Teagan’s sister) and Angie Underwood, Long Grove Village President.

Last weekend I attended a meeting of WINGS–Women In Government Service. Our theme for the program was “Mentoring and Heroes” which was certainly appropriate as we presented our annual High School scholarship. Teagan, who is our winner this year out of an incredibly talented pool of candidates, is graduating next month from Lakes Community High School in Lake Villa. She is heading to Dartmouth this fall to study government, and aspires to one day be a Senator.

Another young lady, a 5th grade student from Prairie Trail Middle School in Wadsworth, was at the meeting to give a short presentation. She is a member of the Great Americans Club, which is a civic group for students (both boys and girls) at the school. Every year they pick an issue to spotlight, and as a result of our national election last November the students are focusing on Women’s Leadership. They are sponsoring a Women’s Day Celebration Event on May 18th, featuring guest speakers on how women have shaped our world.

One of the very best things about holding an elected office is being in a position to show the next generation of women that it is possible. We are getting there slowly, but surely towards breaking that final glass ceiling. I have been fortunate to have had several women serve as role models and mentors to me. Their advice, expertise, and support has made a real impact in my ability to grow as a leader, and persevere through difficult challenges. Being able to pass along that legacy of encouragement to others has been very rewarding.

These girls make me so proud. They are our future. They are my inspiration.