In Chicago, loyalty to clout is eternal.
And the people who late Cook County Board President John H. Stroger Jr. gave jobs, counsel and friendship showed their loyalty by saving a bit of his legacy from oblivion.
After Stroger died, someone packed up the contents of his office — autographed photos, the gavel he used to preside over board meetings, two replica Chicago Bulls championship rings, among other things — and put them in a South Side storage locker where they were abandoned and sold off like somebody’s old dining room table for 450 bucks.
The guy who bought the stuff thought he struck gold, but when he tried to sell it at auction the highest bid came up short of the minimum he would accept.
“There was political memorabilia, plaques from little leagues, photos with every politician under the sun. And [Stroger] had stories about each of them,” said Pat Shymanski, Stroger’s former chief of staff. “When it didn’t sell at auction, a couple of people in his administration decided it would be a shame to let it go, so we didn’t.”
Shymanski and Caryn Stancik, a former Stroger spokeswoman, privately negotiated to buy their late boss’ belongings and donated all of it to the DuSable Museum of African American History in Washington Park.
They paid for it with their own money — how much, they won’t say — because it was the right thing to do.
“If you knew President Stroger, love him or hate him, you knew he was an incredible person and politician in Cook County history,” Shymanski said. “He was the first African-American Cook County Board president, who had a legacy worth remembering.”
Stroger’s son, Todd Stroger — who replaced his father in office for a single term — said he appreciated that people who worked for his dad cared about keeping his memory alive.
“I never thought that my father was given his due as a leader and someone who made really positive things happen,” Todd Stroger said. “There were a lot of solid people who worked for him and understood that, too. They want to preserve his legacy for generations.”
On Wednesday, a committee of John Stroger loyalists — former county Chief Financial Officer Tom Glaser, former Forest Preserve District Supt. Albert Pritchett and former Comptroller John Chambers, among them — will host a fundraiser at Tufano’s in Little Italy to raise cash to help the DuSable Museum archive and display the collection.
“I think it’s especially important that it’s in DuSable, a stone's throw from where my dad lived when he came to Chicago from the South,” Todd Stroger said. “Those things really deserve to be somewhere that people can see it and talk about the accomplishments made by an important African American in this city.”