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Former Orland Park Officials' Families Question Names Being Removed from Building Exteriors

ORLAND PARK, IL (May 2, 2024) - The families of three former Orland Park officials for whom village buildings were named are questioning the removal and planned removal of their loved ones’ names from the exteriors of buildings dedicated to their memories.

 

Descendants of the late Mayor Fred Owens, the late Village Trustee Bill Vogel and the late Village Treasurer Franklin Loebe have expressed concern with the names being removed or planned for removal from the exteriors of buildings in the Orland Park Village Center Complex at 147th and Ravinia Ave.

 

“Towns designating landmarks to commemorate influential people in the community is a custom around the world,” said Stephanie Owens, granddaughter of Fred Owens. “It pays homage to the community’s history and those who helped guide the town.”

 

The Orland Park Board of Trustees voted to dedicate the Orland Park Village Hall to Owens’ memory in 1993 shortly after his death in 1992. Owens succumbed to cancer at the age of 54, dying in office during the village’s Centennial Celebration.

 

A sign identifying the Orland Park village hall as the Frederick T. Owens Village Hall has been in place since 1993. The exterior sign bearing the late mayor’s name has now been removed.

“We were told that the signs with the names outside of all three Village Center buildings are going to be removed and so far, only my grandfather’s sign has been taken away,” Owens said.


Owens was elected an Orland Park village trustee in 1979 and was re-elected in 1983. He was elected mayor in 1985 and was re-elected in 1989. 

 

Prior to being elected to the village board, Owens served on the Orland School District 135 Board of Education. He also founded a cooperative group of homeowners’ associations in Orland Park. His first elected office was to the Evergreen Park High School District 231 Board of Education.

 

Owens was a social studies teacher at Hubbard High School, 6200 S. Hamlin Ave., in Chicago for more than 30 years. His academics included extensive postgraduate work beyond his master`s degree in geography. He was past assistant superintendent of Cook County Public Schools and served as director of legislative research for the Illinois State Office of Education.

 

Owens worked to bring Lake Michigan Water to Orland Park and initiated the ban on ”happy hour” promotions by Orland Park bars and taverns. The ordinance was used as a model throughout the state. His efforts as founder and president of the Argonne Regional Consortium helped lead to the Argonne region being designated a ”High Tech Corridor of Opportunity.”

 

As a village trustee, Owens led the effort to professionalize village government with the referendum to adopt the village manager form of government in 1983.

 

In 1987, Owens led the movement and created the Old Orland Heritage Foundation to save the 1898 Twin Tower Sanctuary of the United Methodist Church when the pastor wanted to demolish the building that was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. And, Owens oversaw the development of the award-winning Orland Park Village Center Complex in 1989, which included the village hall that would later bear his name.


The sign honoring the late Village Trustee Bill Vogel is slated for removal from the Orland Park Civic Center. When Vogel died in 1996, the village board voted to dedicate the Civic Center to his memory because Vogel was known as “Mr. Orland Park.” 

 

Vogel served as an Orland Park village trustee for seven years and was planning to run for re-election at the end of his four-year term in April 1997.


He was active with the Orland Park Kiwanis, the Orland Park Lions, the village’s Recreation Advisory Board, Friends of the Library, the Veterans of Foreign War Post 2604, the American Legion Post 118, the Boy Scouts, the Orland Park Veterans’ Commission, the Wabash Historical Society and the Old Orland Heritage Foundation. Vogel was a Navy Frogman during World War II.


The Orland Park Village Center includes the Frederick T. Owens Village Hall (clock tower), the William R. Vogel (left distance) and the Franklin E. Loebe Recreation Center (right),

“I do not agree with Mayor Pekau’s decision to remove the names of prominent, hardworking, selfless individuals from public buildings,” said Laura Kolpak, Vogel’s daughter. “These men helped shape and lead Orland Park’s growth and development. My dad didn’t do good deeds in hopes of recognition. He did them because he believed in helping people,” she added.

 

The only one among the three alive when the building was named in his honor was former Village Treasurer Franklin Loebe. 

 

The name Loebe is synonymous with Orland Park history. One of the town's first stores, Loebe Brothers General Store, opened its doors on January 2, 1898.The original Loebe Brothers, Franklin's father John and his Uncle Albert, operated the General Store for 53 years. Franklin and his brother, Stewart, took it over in 1951.

 

Franklin Loebe was born in an apartment above the store on April 18, 1906, the same day as the San Francisco Earthquake. He attended grammar school on Beacon Avenue and took the train to Englewood High School at 61st and Stewart on Chicago’s south side.

 

While a student at Northwestern University, Franklin played in the school band and in 1925 performed at the game when NU faced Notre Dame’s Four Horsemen coached by Knute Rockne.

 

In 1929, Franklin was working in the family store when Mayor Ralph Jennings came in to ask if he'd serve as treasurer. Loebe's academic background and experience with the family business gave him the skills necessary. And, his owning one of the few adding machines in town was an added plus. Franklin hesitated at first, not wanting to take the position from Treasurer Archibald Kay, the depot agent for the Wabash Railroad. Franklin took the job once he knew Kay was no longer interested.

 

Shortly after the award winning Orland Park Village Center Complex opened in late 1989, the Village Board voted to name the Recreation Center in Loebe's honor. 

 

"They passed it on a Monday night and Mayor Owens couldn't wait to come in the next day to tell me," Franklin Loebe said in a 1994 interview. His office in the Village Hall overlooked the building named for him. "I think they gave me that office so I could look out and keep an eye on things," he added, chuckling.

 

Believed to be one of the longest serving officials in the State of Illinois, Loebe retired in 1994. He died at the age of 97 in 2004.


“It’s very disappointing that someone can arbitrarily decide to remove the names of gentlemen honored by former mayors and boards of trustees for their contributions to the Village of Orland Park,” said Priscilla Loebe, daughter of Franklin. “You would think they would be so proud of Orland Park’s history – that they are now being permitted to add to through the grace of Orland Park voters.”


Echoing her sister’s sentiments, Nancy (Loebe) Hessler added, “Even more disappointing is that the replacement signs include the current mayor’s name. Why is it okay for his name to be on the buildings but not okay to have the names of the men who were honored? Frederick Owens’, William Vogel’s and Franklin Loebe’s names should remain. These were the gentlemen who were honored and who should be remembered.”

 

The Owens, Vogel and Loebe families are encouraging people to voice their opposition to the names being removed from the exteriors of the buildings. The families are calling on the public to email and call village officials. A change.org petition has also been created and can be accessed at change.org/saveopnames.

 

“My grandfather was a history teacher who loved Orland Park history and was an authority on Chicago history,” Owens noted. “It doesn’t make sense for the current village board to erase the parts of Orland Park history that include Fred Owens, Bill Vogel and Franklin Loebe by refusing to remember them as their village board predecessors voted to when they named these buildings.”

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