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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Ann Lord reminisces about life, music and Naperville Municipal Band

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Update, Jan. 17, 2021 / Led by Naperville Municipal Band Conductor Ron Keller, dozens of musicians participated in a 90th Birthday Parade for Ann Good Lord the Sunday before her special day. Family, friends and neighbors by the carload wished her well. A gallery of photos will be posted on Ann’s birthday, Jan. 18, 2021. Stay tuned!

Ann Lord expressed great appreciation to dozens of well-wishers— family, friends and neighbors—who ventured by her driveway with banner birthday greetings as her great-granddaughter watched the festivities.

Featured in the centerfold of the Jan. 2021 issue of PN, this online post appeared originally on Jan. 9, 2021 / Initiating a conversation with Ann Good Lord is a great way to learn secrets to a good life. The longtime emcee with the Naperville Municipal Band turns 90 years old on Jan. 18, 2021, and PN had plenty of questions for the woman known for taking the stage with her entertaining narratives that lead into songs.

Yet, where do you start with a rich, creative life that has attracted the love and attention of the community off and on stage for nearly 75 years?

Emily Ann Good was an only child, born 12 years after her parents married. (As an aside, Ann noted it’s been complicated to go through life known by her middle name, but that’s another story.)

Ann Lord through the years. From left, Ann at age 4, 14 and in the early 1980s when she was a teacher at
Naperville North High School.

Ann jokes that she only remembers back to age 3. At that time her father, Sankey Good, was postmaster and sometimes he took her with him to the post office when it was located on Chicago Avenue in downtown Naperville. She mostly recalls the unpleasant smell after a delivery of coal when her dad shoveled it into the furnace.

“My mother, Evelyn, came from Georgia and she had a real Southern accent that certainly was distinctive here in Naperville. I think some people thought she was from a foreign country. For years, she had a dress shop in her home on North Ellsworth, designing fashions for wives of prominent doctors and lawyers.”

Evelyn Good later opened a dress shop called “Mrs. Good’s Dress Shop” on Washington Street in downtown Naperville. Her fashions were called “Emily Ann Frocks,” Ann said.

Turning serious, Ann recalls the trials that followed her father’s death when she was five years old, a time when she and her mother were urged to return to Georgia to live with her grandmother. Her mother sold her dress shop to Daphne Wilson. Ann’s aunt and uncle moved into their Naperville home.

Soon after, Ann and her enterprising mother returned to Naperville. Unable to reopen her fashion business because of a non-compete clause, Bill Broeker hired Evelyn to manage the women’s dress shop upstairs at Broeker’s Department Store on Jefferson Avenue in downtown Naperville.

“My mother had a knack for knowing styles that looked like Mrs. So and So. She really knew how to please her clients,” Ann explained.

In third grade, Ann joined most kids in her class by signing up to play a musical instrument under the direction of the only band director in town, Elmer Koerner. She chose clarinet. She also began piano lessons when she was 10. She played in school bands all the way through high school, but mostly she favored accompanying vocalists on the piano.

Seven years after her father’s death, her mother remarried. Ann recalls how proud her stepfather, Oliver Fry, always appeared when she performed.

Back then, Naperville’s population was about 5,000.

When she was a sophomore at age 15, Ann was thrilled to have a seat in the clarinet section with the Naperville Municipal Band during the summer concert season.

“It seemed like everybody went to summer band concerts in Central Park,” she said. “The band played in a wooden band stand. And Mr. Koerner, my band teacher, also directed those concerts.”

Ann recalls summer band concerts, Memorial Day Parades in downtown Naperville, Fourth of July Parades in other communities and a pre-fireworks concert for Naperville that kept her teenage years filled with sounds of music.

After high school, she was off to Grinnell College in Iowa where she studied speech and theater.

In the early 1960s, Ann performed a one-woman show called “A Visit With Ann,” which she would do for service clubs and women’s clubs throughout Naperville.

“I did a lot of theater and summer stock,” Ann said. “And I took a job in Mason City, Iowa, with radio station KGLO in 1952.”

Mason City is where Ann met and married John Lord two years later in 1954.

In 1957, John, a script writer, received a job offer from a film company in Chicago, and that led to moving back to Naperville.

“My mother had died and she left me her house,” Ann said. “John and I had one child —Steve was born in Iowa in 1955 — and I was pregnant. …The timing seemed right to consider moving back to Naperville and we did.”

That summer the young Lords attended a Thursday evening band concert with two-year-old Steve, and they were welcomed by many people they knew.

Ann reminisced that soon after that concert, then-NMB President Jerry Pickell and Elmer Koerner came knocking on her door to check her interest in serving as emcee of the summer concert series. She agreed to “try it.”

“Cathy was born that next year in 1958.” And Ann’s “try it” has been ongoing for more than 62 years.

She also has vivid memories of the tragedy of Mr. Koerner’s death from a heart attack in 1965. She recalls the tight-knit concerns to keep the band thriving while plans already were in the works to build a new band shell.

The following summer the new “Elmer Koerner Band Shell” staged concerts under the leadership of a new conductor, 27-year-old Ron Keller. Ann had known Ron since they were kids who lived on the same street.

Time marched on. Naperville grew. And the tradition of summer band concerts on Thursday evenings in Central Park remained prominently on the local calendar.

As the new millennium approached, Naperville’s population approached 129,000 and plans were funded for the enclosed Community Concert Center with the big stage door, graced by the Century Walk mural, “The Great Concerto,” depicting the history of the Municipal Band that’s been around since 1859.

In addition to the band, Ann’s personal history includes fond memories of performing a one-woman show of songs, music and skits called “A Visit with Ann,” “Mother-Daughter” shows for church luncheons and other entertaining events throughout Illinois.

She recalled that after their son Doug was born in 1965, she began teaching piano in her home. Teaching became a challenge considering that students were scheduled after school when her three children needed attention, too.

Inspired to teach the arts that were such a big part of her life, Ann returned to college in 1974 to receive her Master’s degree at North Eastern, after which she began subbing at Naperville North High School.

“Every fall after the summer concert season,” Ann mused, “a student or two would look at me during class, listening intently as I spoke, and then finally connect and ask, ‘Are you the lady who announces at the band concerts?’”

Ann retired from teaching in 1991. Yet, she has continued to be the voice of the Naperville Municipal Band non-stop for 62-plus years.

Though Ron Keller counts 1957 as the year Ann officially assumed her role as emcee, others have suggested her summer performance at age 15 in 1946 is the time to celebrate her beginning.

“I’ve loved being part of the band all these years,” Ann said, adding that she also has appreciated every opportunity to learn that came with it.

“Years ago, I used to spend hours in the library reading up about composers and music before every concert.” She admits, the internet has made research much easier.

“I also was in charge of specialty acts back when there was an intermission,” Ann explained. “Singers, dancers, twirlers, dog acts… I’d even got my three kids to perform with me.”

She also reminisced about doing a voiceover for a TV commercial for Positively Naperville to help launch the publication back in 2001. “I loved doing that commercial… what a great studio experience to work with those good technicians.” She said she recently found her copy of the commercial on videotape.

In 2006, the Lords moved to Carillon at Stone Gate in Aurora. “I was born and raised in Naperville. Then John and I raised our family here. After our three children were out of the house, I looked around, noting how much our neighborhood had changed,” Ann explained. “Nothing in Naperville at the time was quite like the Carillon, and it turned out to be exactly the place for us to be—just seven miles away.”

At age 86, John Lord passed away on New Year’s Eve 2008.

Ann’s thoughts turned to preparing for the time when she would retire.

“Certainly,” she said, “I had no idea when I started playing clarinet in third grade that I’d have such a long career with the Municipal Band. … Or that my husband would become sound engineer and run sound for the concerts for more than 40 years. And that our three children would participate, too. … The band’s a group like family, all working toward the same goal to play good music to enrich the community’s cultural life. Ron always says, ‘Music is for life,’ and he’s right.

“I figured if I took it one year at a time, my retirement would take care of itself,” Ann said, adding that she never imagined something like a pandemic would make the decision for her.

“Maybe now is just a good time,” she added.

Happy 90th Birthday, Ann Lord!

Enjoy your three children, their spouses, seven grandchildren and their spouses and your four young great-grandchildren!

Your joyful good nature and upbeat attitude have been appreciated! As the Naperville Municipal Band has played many times, “Thanks for the memories!”

Editor’s Note / Thanks to Steve Lord for providing the photos of his faithful mother, the popular emcee who has entertained concert goers on Thursday evenings in Central Park as well as during indoor Sunday afternoon concerts throughout the year to celebrate holidays and the seasons.

Upon reflection of our longtime acquaintance with beloved Ann Lord, we’re thinking the funny and touching tales about the trials and tribulations of her long life would create a memorable volume of episodes on tape, much in the vain of audio books by actress Carol Burnett that include laugh-out-loud stories. Here’s hoping Ann Lord sits down in a recording studio with a microphone soon.

Ann Lord is the voice of the award-winning Naperville Municipal Band

Ann Lord and Ron Keller are flanked by members of the Naperville Municipal Band
at the 2017 Naperville Jaycees Distinguished Service Awards. (PN File Photo)
Ann Lord is depicted at her microphone center stage in “The Great Concerto,” a Century Walk mural painted by Barton Gunderson in 2005 on the huge stage door of the Naperville Community Concert Center in Central Park. (PN File Photo)

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PN Editor
PN Editor
An editor is someone who prepares content for publishing. It entered English, the American Language, via French. Its modern sense for newspapers has been around since about 1800.

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