Photo of Oba Maja by Julia Pello, who is working on a collaborative project centered around Oba's poetry [Julia Pello]
WICKER PARK — Almost $2,400 in donations and the generosity of a funeral home director who previously lived in Wicker Park has ensured that 71-year-old poet Oba Maja will get a proper funeral and burial next Monday.
Wayne Douglas Locke, a neighborhood fixture who went by the name Oba Maja, passed away on Oct. 15. He was known by thousands of passers-by as the man who sat on the ledge of a Milwaukee Avenue storefront announcing "Poetry! Poetry!" in an attempt to sell his handwritten poems.
Services for Maja are planned for 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2 at Lawrence Funeral Home, 4800 N. Austin Ave. following a visitation from 9 to 11 a.m. After the service in Jefferson Park, a burial procession will head to Queen of Heaven cemetery, 1400 S. Wolf Rd. in Hillside.
Last week, Katy Travelstead, a bartender at Pint, 1547 N. Milwaukee Ave. — across the street from Maja's favorite spot — set up a GiveForward campaign to crowd-source enough money to help Maja's brother pay for a funeral and burial.
As of Tuesday, $2,385 was raised by 50 people who contributed to "Final Rest for Oba."
While many of the 50 people who donated work or live near the 1500 block of North Milwaukee Avenue and interacted with Maja on a daily basis, some who chipped in did so because of Maja's acts of kindness that they'll always remember, such as Mark Jaroski, who donated $250.
“He didn't know me from Adam. I was just some guy who would give a dollar or two from time to time. I'm not sure I could afford it at the time, but well... Anyhow, there was one night when I ran into a "friend" who was (wrongly) convinced that I had insulted his wife some years before, and commenced to beat me, along with his companion. Who came to my rescue? Who got attention? Who called the cops? Oba. I moved on some time ago, but I'll always remember,"' Jaroski posted on GiveForward.
Oba Maja (l.) at age 24; artist Matthew Donahue (r.) with a mural of Maja painted by Jeff Zimmermann. [Matthew Donahue/Family]
Scott Glover, a funeral director at Lawrence Funeral Home just moved from Wicker Park to the northwest suburbs in August and also knew Maja.
"I had talked to him a few times on the street too and I am a huge fan of making sure everyone gets proper burials," said Glover, who was alerted to Maja's death through DNAinfo Chicago and reached out to Travelstead.
Glover, who met with Maja's brother on Monday, said he negotiated a "drastically discounted" funeral package along with a casket and a burial site.
"We made it so the crowdsourcing was equivalent to what services would be. It was so cool to see everyone coming together. Oba's family will not incur any costs," Glover said.
Since Maja was Catholic, Glover said that Catholic Charities assisted with providing a grave in a Catholic cemetery.
Musician Matthew A. Donahue published several of Maja's poems online along with photos of a mural featuring Maja by artist Jeff Zimmermann on Damen Avenue just north of Lake Street.
Donahue helped Maja to publish a printed chapbook of Maja's poems, titled "Avenue of Happiness."
In a poem titled "The Utter Nots," Maja refers to being passed by on the street.
The Utter Nots
The utter nots are the people
(Or maybe they are the clones or gnomes)
They do not return a greeting of hello.
They pretend not to know.
They utter not.
If you ask them how they are today
they would not say.
Maybe because they are not being today.
What can you say?
The utter nots think they are special.
Maybe they think they are better
than the people that speak.
Are they being meek
by making the decision not to speak?
Well, God bless the utter nots because they are soulless.
They don't care to converse with the nothing people.
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