Roy Svenson, now retired, used to be our neighborhood banker. A community organizer, community activist, community maven, he organized everything from theater outings in the neighborhood to financial seminars for those interested. He lived in Schaumburg but spent almost all of his time at a small South Loop bank–which changed names several times through the years–in an iconic historic landmark at Dearborn and Polk, The Dearborn Station. He loved to connect people. host meetings of neighborhood movers and shakers, host art and photo shows, educate, communicate, illuminate….
Almost everyone had some sort of an account with him. Many homeowners associations in the neighborhood kept their operating funds with him. The real estate agents, the small businesses, most of the residents had checking accounts or CDs or something because they trusted him, liked him and wanted to give him some business. He made the South Loop another Mayberry, Grover’s Corners, Bedford Falls.
So when Roy retired at the end of last year, the neighborhood was bereft, bewildered and adrift. He was our anchor.
A collection was taken up with the idea that we would honor him in some way. Donate the money in his name for a good cause? Put a plaque on a park bench or some other outdoor structure in the neighborhood? Or?
It turned out to be “or.” A committee decided to donate a ton of books in his name to Jones College Prep, to enhance the library in their new building at State and Harrison, just a stone’s throw from the bank. Jones, when it was in its old building next door, was always uppermost on Roy’s priority list. He did what he could to help them: like get the neighbors together to go to their school plays. He’d host a casual dinner at the bank beforehand, then wine at a neighborhood bar after. The price was right for all of that, but still, with the extra cash, he’d buy tickets for neighborhood senior citizens to go to the Jones matinee.
In any case, the lovely fact about the book donation is that of almost all the 47 books on the “Roy Svenson Bookshelf,” the vast majority are written by South Loopers or about the South Loop. I know all the books. And almost all the authors. And Roy, at the dedication a while back at Jones, knew them, too. And they knew him.