When Nancy Foley left her job as a social columnist at the Chicago Tribune in 1962 to raise her son, Michael, the urge to write for a newspaper never left her.
In 1985, she joined forces with James Finnegan and John Koys to start The Landmark, which was devoted to telling stories about Riverside and its people.
“My mom was sick and tired of the Suburban Life,” said Michael Foley. “They just said, ‘We should start a paper just for Riverside,” and they did.”
Ms. Foley, who was the paper’s original features editor, died Dec. 2, 2012 at her home on Fairbank Road at the age of 81. She had battled cancer for decades.
“She loved Riverside, “said Michael Foley. “She never wanted to move.”
Born Nancy Fitzpatrick in Freeport, Ms. Foley’s family lived for a time in New Jersey before moving back to the Chicago area, settling in Oak Park. She attended Trinity High School in River Forest and then studied journalism at Rosary College (now Dominican University).
In a 2006 interview in the paper she help make a reality, Ms. Foley told Lonnie Sacchi that she landed a job at the Chicago Tribune two weeks after graduating from Rosary.
“I landed a job with the Chicago Tribune as a women’s interest and general news reporter,” she said. “It was really exciting for me, a young woman fresh out of college, to work alongside some of Chicago’s famous newsmen.”
During that time, said her son, Michael, Ms. Foley hobnobbed with Mayor Richard J. Daley and once had lunch with President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jackie.
“She was kind of the Michael Sneed of her day,” said Michael Foley, referring to the former Tribune and current columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times.
She married James Thomas Foley in 1956 and moved to Fairbank Road in Riverside in 1958. Ms. Foley would spend the rest of her life there. She worked part time as a substitute teacher at Hauser Junior High, Central School and at St. Mary School. She was also active as a volunteer at St. Mary Church, a former member of the National Literary Guild and was a volunteer at Loyola University Medical Center for more than three decades.
In 1985, she was approached by Koys and Finnegan to help them start up Riverside’s new hometown newspaper, The Landmark. Koys said he knew of Ms. Foley because of her journalism background “and I ran the idea past her. She said it sounded great.”
As the features editor of The Landmark, Ms. Foley contributed personality profiles of local residents and also wrote the popular “Behind Closed Doors” column, which gave glimpses and history lessons into many of Riverside’s historic homes.
“It was very popular and really conveyed the feel, the hometown feel, of Riverside,” said Koys. “It really added a personal touch to the paper.”
Finnegan sold the Landmark in 1995 to Judy Baar Topinka, the current Illinois State Comptroller and longtime Riverside resident. It was acquired by Oak Park-based Wednesday Journal, Inc. Inc. in 1997 and is still published under the banner Riverside-Brookfield Landmark.
In 1992, Ms. Foley was among the first people named to the Riverside Preservation Commission, which was tasked with reviewing local homes for inclusion on what became the local landmarks list.
There was some resistance to the effort, as some thought the village was attempting to dictate what the owners of those homes could do with their properties.
“They had a lot of convincing to do to get people not to be afraid of landmarking their homes,” said Sacchi.
In the end, the commission designated 59 properties as local landmarks. That number has now swelled to more than 70, and historic preservation is now regarded as a positive.
“All of Riverside owes her a deep sense of gratitude,” said Sacchi, now a village trustee. “Her passing certainly diminishes the entire village.”
Ms. Foley’s husband, Tom, was elected as a village trustee and died while in office in 1995.
She battled cancer for decades, said Michael Foley. She was diagnosed with breast cancer when Michael was a small child and continued to fight the illness for the rest of her life, undergoing 77 surgical procedures.
The final year of her life was particularly difficult, said Michael, but his mother was able to die at the home she loved for 54 years.
Ms. Foley was the mother of Michael (Karen) Foley; the grandmother of Thomas and Catherine Foley; the sister of Mary (William) Richardson, the late Jeanne (Donald) Patterson and the late Anne Fitzpatrick; and the aunt of Joan Eubanks, Mark Foley, Tom Foley, Thomas Richardson, Jim Richardson, William Richardson, Mary Richards, Jennifer Buzzi, Kathleen Gronert and Anne Richardson.
A funeral Mass will be celebrated Wednesday, Dec. 5 at 10 a.m. at St. Mary Church in Riverside, followed by interment at Queen of Heaven Cemetery.
Arrangements were handled by Riverside Funeral Directors, Brian D. Kuratko, director.