The Century Walk Corporation


June 27, 1999 — Source: Naperville Sun, The (IL) — Author: Joni Hirsch Blackman

One of the truest lessons is perhaps the first that we learn: Life's not fair.

Children think it's just a thing parents say when they don't want to explain why something is the way it is, like, "Because I said so!"  But while that "said so" thing begins to ring hollow when a child grows up, the "Life's not fair" thing tends to hold true forever.

Earlier this month, a life-sized bronze statue of Genevieve Towsley was dedicated as part of Naperville's three-year-old Century Walk. The Century Walk is an inspired project, begun by Naperville attorney Brand Bobosky, in which artworks depicting significant Naperville people, places and events have been placed in downtown Naperville for the past three years.

The goal is to continue the program for another seven years.

The choice of Genevieve Towsley as a subject for the Century Walk couldn't have been better.

After all, she was a columnist for the Naperville Clarion and The Naperville Sun for decades and I would be the first to acknowledge what an important and worthy job that is.

So what's not fair?

Well, you take a woman who, for almost 50 years, told stories about Naperville's history, a woman whose columns were compiled into a book called "A View of Historic Naperville" and you place her likeness in front of one of the newest buildings in town?  In front of a chain bookstore?

It ain't fittin', it just ain't fittin'.

Like most "life's not fair" stories, this one has no grand conspiracy.

In fact, the circumstances surrounding the placement of Genevieve are downright boring: The owner of the perfectly lovely Barnes and Noble building, Dwight Yackley, charitably donated the space and $15,000 toward the creation of a piece of artwork.

The Century Walk board then chose a subject.

"It all came together because of her writing, having it in front of a bookstore," said Pat Springer, Century Walk administrator.

That's one way to look at it.

But it seems to me that placing such a historic figure there gives the faceless chain bookstore a link to Naperville history, a claim to belonging that it hasn't earned.

I admit that I had never heard of Genevieve Towsley until recently, never read any of her columns (although I will now) and know very little about her.

But for some reason, I feel sure that she would have preferred another spot for her statue.

Such a commemoration of a legendary Naperville author belongs in front of a Naperville store owned by a Naperville family, such as Anderson's Bookshop. Or, assuming that most authors love to read, maybe near the Nichols Library.

Or even, maybe, in front of Pottery Barn, which until not too long ago, was The Naperville Sun building where Mrs. Towsley worked. (I'm not too thrilled that Pottery Barn's purchase of the building necessitated the moving of another piece of Century Walk art, but if the artist was willing to re-paint it on the side of Ellman's Music, I won't belabor the point.)

Instead, I'll belabor another point: According to Springer, sometime before the Towsley statue was conceived, Sharon and Arie Hoogendoorn, owners of the Anderson's Bookshop building, came to the Century Walk board about the possibility of having some artwork on the western wall of their building.  An art teacher from School District 203 had approached the Century Walk board about creating a mosaic for the walk and the two ideas were put together.

The awesome "River of Life" mosaic, created by more than 250 art students at Naperville Central High School and all five District 203 junior high schools, was dedicated the same day as the Towsley statue.

I asked Springer whether any plans are underway to include the three other middle schools in Naperville, which happen to be in School District 204, in the Century Walk. That is a question, she said, that no one else has brought up.

"We're open.

If they come to us and they would like to do something we certainly would be open to it," Springer said.

"Things just kind of happen.  It's almost like an inspiration.

You don't plan every detail, it all seems to just come together.

The students who weren't involved, it's not to say they were excluded or not asked or couldn't be involved in another project."

There is, again, no grand conspiracy, just another example that life's almost never completely fair.

But I bet Genevieve Towsley would have tried to remind Naperville that the city consists of more than one school district.

Joni Hirsch Blackman is a journalist and Naperville mom who lives on a cul-de-sac with her husband, three children and dog.

Contact her through her cyberspace address, jonihb(at)aol.com


Section: NEWS — Page: 15