Back in September 2001, we published our first monthly issue of Positively Naperville, timed to feature Jaycees Last Fling, the four-day fun-filled family festival held Labor Day Weekend. The Jaycees and Jaycees Roosters were featured on the cover in a Jo Lundeen photo at the then-new Jaycees Gazebo along the Riverwalk extension.
Beginning in 1983, the Jaycees had become known for their generous gifts to Riverwalk with funds raised by the nonprofit service organization. And since the Riverwalk played such a big part in our lives, we considered it a perfect first cover.
Folks familiar with our story know that Naperville printer Ray Kinney was responsible for our finding a web press to print our newspaper, a monthly preview of upcoming events and other good things happening hyper-locally. Oh! How we’ve learned about giant rolls of newsprint, big buckets of ink, distribution, mass mailings, deadlines, supply chains and the ever-increasing costs with ups and downs to do business.
Flash back to Aug. 31, 2001. With a few copies hot off the press, we headed to the sponsor’s tent at Rotary Hill where we found Chuck Bueche, Audrey Bueche, Frank Osterland and Gertrude Osterland sitting around a table rolling plastic flatware into napkins for use throughout Labor Day weekend. Chuck had become our friend via the Jaycees. Upon introductions, I recognized Frank as a never-met-in-person email buddy acquired via my weekly column, “Around Naperville,” in the Daily Herald. Frank expressed interest in writing for the new publication. He soon became our first contributing columnist.
The sunny Saturday and Sunday passed. Then early on Mon., Sept. 3, with bundles of the new publication, a couple neighborhood kids headed downtown where the Labor Day Parade was set to meander from NNHS to NCHS. The youngsters handed out copies to spectators along the parade route. What a memorable sight at 9:45AM along Mill Street! Hundreds of PN readers looked at that first 8-page edition. That image is forever emblazoned in my mind. It’s a good thing because that day we didn’t have our camera! Go figure.
Though 40,000 copies were distributed that first month, the October issue is the one many residents thought was the first one when it appeared 19 days after the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001.
Residents who had not seen the inaugural issue told us they thought the October PN was in response to Sept. 11.
This city showed its true colors, noted then-Mayor George Pradel, who had a habit of calling every few days to see how things were going. “This is George,” he’d say, and he had a way of lightening our heart.
Naperville responded to the tragedies in big and small ways. Citizens held candlelight vigils, donated funds for first responders and displayed patriotism with American flags throughout subdivisions and on the lawn at the Municipal Center along the Riverwalk. That location later became the site of the Cmdr. Dan Shanower Sept. 11 Memorial.
Our city also showed resilience of the American spirit by getting on with special events such as Rotary Oktoberfest over Columbus Day weekend as well as the Wes Spencer Crosstown Classic and the dedication of a Century Walk sculpture depicting war hero Bill Shatzer (Class of 1942) at North Central College.
That was two decades ago. Where are we now?
Today our thoughts go to the examples of critical thinking, passion and faith learned from my dad who died at age 96 on Aug. 6, 2019. My two younger brothers and I were fortunate to learn from his humanitarian ways and “go-go-go” experiences. I especially trusted his wit and wisdom.
Dad’s example of loyalty and doing what was right were displayed over and over again.
More than a few times the past couple years, I’ve mentioned the message on a desk top recorder/player with my dad’s voicemail that my brother, Jay, saved for us. It’s almost prophetic.
“What the hell’s going on?” the player plays. Comfort always follows hearing Dad’s questioning voice.
Let this pandemic end to assure good health, prosperity and peace for all.
– Stephanie Penick,