Residents remember 'Elliot Parks grandmother'

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November 13, 2009
By: Amanda Kushner
Amanda Kushner

Isabel Buri weighed in on issues in Elliot Park speaking both emotionally and passionately while thinking rationally and logically about how to solve the neighborhood’s problems, said Alan Arthur, president of Aeon.

Buri died on Oct. 19, 2009. She was 86.

Her involvement with EPNI included the neighborhood’s crime prevention committee where she was interested in meeting with police officers, said EPNI President Millie Schafer.

Buri worked to rid the neighborhood of Dolly’s Bar on Chicago Avenue, which had a lot of street fights and petty crime, Schafer said.

She helped galvanize neighborhood support for affordable housing on the site, which was developed by Aeon, Arthur said. Aeon’s first affordable housing development is named Buri Manor to honor her community activism, he said.

Arthur remembers Buri would wait for all to speak, then she would stand up to the tallest of her 4 foot 9 height, point her finger in the air and would talk in formal and flowing words about why it was important for people to have a home, and why the neighborhood should support affordable housing, he said.

“She spoke formally, logically, comprehensively, and she always, always spit out the most important words with dramatic force and effect. She projected. She was a perfect e-nun-ci-a-tor,” he wrote in his own eulogy of Buri.

She also sang with the Crooners in Elliot Park, and she volunteered for the park, said her friend Paula Petersen.

Schafer said Buri always offered the board encouragement.

“She was quite a cheerleader,” Schafer said.

One of her Buri’s loves at EPNI was clean-up day where the neighborhood collects trash, Schafer said.

She was a secretary at the David Agency, Petersen said.

She was raised by her mother and uncle and because she didn’t have any living relatives she was dedicated to the First Church of Christ Scientist, Petersen said.

Her friends also point out that she was a fixture at the Band Box Diner.

In her later years she lived in Augustana Apartments, where she had a view of the park she loved, Petersen said.

“There was just, I think, a woman with a heart of gold,” Petersen said.

Petersen said she remembers Buri belting out the words to her favorite song, “Vienna, My City of Dreams,” which someone sang at her memorial service.

“When you left visiting Isabel you felt better than when you came,” Petersen said.
And while collecting his thoughts about Buri, Arthur wrote, “Isabel was Elliot Park’s grandmother.”