Left Justified: Our friend, Jon Lundin

Jon Lundin was a friend to us lefties here in Rockford. He was a friend to everyone, but I especially appreciated his humor and support. God, he could tell a good story. And his combination intelligent grin and laughter would set my heart aflutter.

He’d say I have to hide from his Republican acquaintances, and, now that I think about it, I’m not sure whether he was really concerned that he’d lose their support if they saw him with me, or whether he was pulling my leg ever so gently.

I do know he was able to bring tons of resources to bear on a neighborhood that has working poor; is full of refugees, boarded up houses, children and parents worried about the basics of food and shelter. Jon loved them and gave them all hope.

And he gave us all wonderful programs, buildings, ideas, inspiration and a sly smile that seemed to say, “you’re gonna make it.”

He did all that good stuff with other people’s money. I’m sure his lovely wife helped him tap the heart of the rich, because she, Gloria Lundin, is a gracious angel to many struggling organizations through the Community Foundation. My heart goes out to the whole family, who must still be in deep shock.

Jon Lundin towered over us in many ways. I’d crane my neck looking into his eyes, trying to get his opinion on whether Rockford was always so conservative. He assured me that many a fine socialist served on the city council, commies inhabited Seventh Street, and pacifists marched against the first world war and were rounded up and thrown in jail. All in 1920s Forest City.

If I knew half of what he knew about Rockford…

He wrote great articles concerning a mutual liberal interest: Mr. Fay Lewis of Rockford, born before the turn of the last century and a local gadfly who supported liberal causes like prison reform and free parks. Jon thought he knew most everything about Mr. Lewis, but I found a book written by Fay. It encouraged the Rockford fathers to build a new jail. That was in 1903. The building at First and Walnut was the result. It pleased me to no end that I could attract his attention with my find.

Why does life end, just as our knowledge reaches its peak? Why does the great heart fail just as the sun seems to be rising, conquering a dark night?

I wish God had allowed Jon to stick around for a while longer. Maybe let him see how we get out of Iraq. I’m sure Jon would have rehabbed more buildings, encouraged the state to landscape the mess they will make out of Kishwaukee Street, and find some environmental technology to grow Rockford “lean and green.” Jon could do that on a fair day. On a good day, he could make the sun smile.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

from the May 2-8, 2007, issue

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