Meeting Margot Fruehe back in 2006, I immediately knew I was dealing with a seasoned researcher and scholarly historian. I had just been named the director of the Lombard Historical Society and was eager to speak to the resident historian in Lombard and jump into the history of the community.
Margot had been with the Lombard Historical Society almost since its beginnings in the 1970s. She had worked on several of the major projects over the years, including the William R. Plum book, the models of Lombard's buildings on St. Charles Road, the research and restoration of the Sheldon Peck Homestead and starting a "house file" collection together with James Robinson's photos. The house files are hundreds of files on homes in Lombard, and, if you live in an old house in Lombard, chances are, we have a file on your home.
Margot retired from volunteering at the Society in 2010 and had long promised (or rather warned) that she would someday give the Society "her files." She would tell me that she was not ready to give them to us but I should not forget that she offered. I actually was not sure what that meant, because I assumed that she used the Society's archive to do most of her research. I was wrong.
All told, there were a dozen or so boxes, each perfectly labeled and cross-referenced, indicating what the file contained with the clarity that only a former librarian could bring. The files were far from a duplication of the history we already kept in the Society's archive – in fact, it was way beyond what we expected.
Not only did Margot have background information about Lombard's history – like the Underground Railroad, Suffragist Ellen Martin, Little Orphan Annie, Sheldon Peck, unabomber Ted Kaczynski and the Civil War – she also had her detailed notes about where she found resources, which trails lead to dead ends and what else we should know.
As we packed the car with her donation, she tearfully joked "take care of my babies" and I reminded her that by donating them, her files would be accessible by many others and she was making a major contribution to preserving the community’s heritage. Besides, she would still be able to come and visit them in their new home, the Society’s archive in the Carriage House at 23 W. Maple St.
Margot’s research files will be called "The Fruehe files" and will be kept intact for the time being as one collection. For more information about the Lombard Historical Society’s archive or museums, please visit our website at lombardhistory.org.
Jeanne Schultz Angel is executive director of the Lombard Historical Society