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Columnist
Nostalgia shows how Naperville has changed
By Stephanie Penick | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 4/26/2010 12:01 AM

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On a number of different scores, the ups and downs of last month created some March sadness for me.

Nostalgia set in on March 25 as I watched the biggest orange moving van I've ever seen drive into Whitebark Court to pack my cousin's prized possessions for delivery to her new home in South Carolina. After 28 years in Naperville, Candyce, and her husband, Dave Krumwiede, set off on a new adventure.

It's no secret that my folks in Muncie, Ind., my brother in Glen Ellyn and the Krumwiedes helped to attract us back to the Midwest from Chatham, N.J., in 1993. Back then a sign at the Naperville border proclaimed a population of 89,000. Sam Macrane was mayor.

When Candyce introduced me to the Riverwalk during my first visit on New Year's Day, the winding brick path ran from Washington Street to just short of Sindt Woods near the Grand Pavilion. The story of can-do spirit that followed this sesquicentennial gift sold me on this community.

So much has changed in so little time!

My first Naperville job started in the public relations department at Naper Settlement in May, 1993, a perfect match for my passions for history, travel destinations and volunteerism. At the time, the re-creation of the Pre-Emption House was slowly under construction. Just before I left the 19th century historic museum village after 18 months, Internet access was launched. While there, I became acquainted with some of the Naperville's most interesting citizens, past and present.

I also recall a meeting of the Naperville Visitors Bureau in the mid-1990s - before the Naperville Development Partnership had been established along with the Naperville Convention and Visitors Bureau. I served on the Naperville Visitors Bureau when it was still under the wing of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, then located above Lou Malnati's.

At the time, Naperville was home to 10 hotels compared to 17 today. Our group met monthly with a mission to help put heads in beds to grow revenue from the hotel-motel tax. Attorney Brand Bobosky was listed on our agenda to present an idea to create an outdoor art project modeled after one in Ottawa to attract visitors to downtown Naperville. He hoped to fund it, in part, with the hotel-motel tax.

Now take a look at the magnificent Dick Tracy sculpture along the Riverwalk, a tribute to longtime Naperville resident and editorial cartoonist Dick Locher.

I've also kept track of a couple runs for charity.

Back when Steve Chirico joined the board of directors for NCO Youth and Family Services, he had an idea to develop the NCO Spring Ahead 5K that stepped off in downtown near Centennial Beach in 1999. Then it found its way to Tellabs. The 12th annual Spring Ahead run stepped off April 18 from CityGate Centre where it was presented by Calamos Investments in memory of Scott Wing.

In 2002, my around-the-next-street-neighbor Mary Bazan teamed up with Mary Kelly to start the Run for Reading 5K at Hill Middle School. At the time, Bazan was a business partner with Hill and Kelly was a reading specialist there who had received a grant from the Jeanine Nicarico Memorial Fund for Literacy.

Kelly wanted to find a way to give back to the fund and Bazan, a runner, suggested a 5K run. The ninth annual Run for Reading is slated for May 16 at Riverwoods Elementary School. Race information is posted at nicaricoliteracyfund.org.

While collecting my thoughts, I reflected on the pioneer spirit that settled this city, remarkably emulated since 1831.

In less than 20 years, our city has nearly doubled in population. The Riverwalk now extends from Jefferson Avenue to Hillside Road. Fredenhagen Park sits where the Cock Robin Restaurant once served square scoops of ice cream. And North Central College has developed a theater district with state-of-the-art venues.

The landscape has changed from north to south and all points in between.

My cousin reports they're settling into their new home near the beach and Charleston. Recently she wrote, "Wow, vacation for life!" Boy! I wish her well.

But will Naperville ever mean quite as much to me?

It's a long shot.