It readily stretches into a lounge and is reconverted
in an instant and without effort, into an easy chair. It has
a head rest, foot rest, and if desired can be made into a writing
A favorite resting place for many in the living room is the
recliner. Once an exclusive domain for the man of the house,
now you find matching recliners in many families.
enjoying a nightly snooze in front of the TV (flat panel or otherwise),
people probably are unaware that they have Isaac Johnson of Sycamore
to thank for their easy chair design. He obtained an early patent
for the reclining rocker back in 1886.
had come to Sycamore in 1846 from New York and went into the
furniture business making cabinetry at the corner of North Locust
and East Exchange streets, where he also had built his house.
Johnsons machinery was first operated by horse power. Local
boys made money gathering bull rushes along the banks of the
Kishwaukee River and nearby sloughs that he used for weaving
chair seats in his factory.
patent for the Johnson Reclining Rocker was granted 40 years
later. It was described in the Sycamore True Republican as a
stationary chair or a rocking chair:
Tribute to late Mayor Frank Van Buer
The paper reported various models
sold for $8 to $22. The factory building was torn down in 1900,
the same year that he died at age 76. I wonder if there is any
furniture made by Johnsons factory still in Sycamore homes?
Mary Beth Van Buer received a belated tribute to her late
husband Mayor Frank Van Buer over the Christmas holidays.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, had delivered a eulogy
before the U.S. Senate to the mayor shortly after his death in
July 2008. Mary Beth Van Buers daughter Michelle obtained
a gilt-bordered copy and presented it to her mother last month.
I had met the mayor only once after our move back
to DeKalb County in 2006, so I did not know the extent of his
career or public service. I was amazed when reading the tribute
that he had accomplished so much in his lifetime. Mary Beth filled
in more details, and it is worth sharing.
Van Buers parents named him after Franklin Delano Roosevelt,
so he was destined to be a Democrat the rest of his life. His
future wife snagged him at age 16 by inviting him to a Sadie
Hawkins dance, and they danced as a couple for 54 years of marriage.
Joining the Air Force, Frank and Mary Beth spent time at a base
in Germany. Returning home to Illinois, Frank earned his bachelors
and masters degrees at Northern Illinois University, then
a doctorate in economics from the University of Illinois. He
used these degrees to teach and consult in that field the rest
of his life.
But Frank and Mary Beth were an adventurous
couple, seeking new vistas and not just content to remain inside
the halls of higher education. First, it was one year in Nigeria
studying its tax system, then a year in Ghana, a few months in
the country of Malta, two more years in Nigeria, followed by
a two-year position in Kenya as adviser to the Ministry of Economic
Planning and Development as part of a Harvard University development
program. Then four years in Ethiopia as an economic adviser for
USAID. In between all this, he taught at NIU and then moved into
administration. He also managed short-term consultancies in Ghana,
The Gambia, Uganda, Nepal, Pakistan, Cameroon, Thailand and Liberia.
Most of us have never even heard of all those countries, much
less traveled there.
Then after retirement, there
was his election to the county board, then being chosen mayor
of DeKalb. Mary Beth has all these fond memories and now a framed
Senate tribute that tries to condense his life into one page.
I think a book on his life would be an even better tribute.