Last week, Dr. George Rabb and Jack R. Kubik died, a day apart and at the same age. Both had powerful ties to the communities served by the Landmark, but their influence was felt far beyond.
Dr. Rabb transformed Brookfield Zoo into a world leader for conservation education and cutting-edge animal care. His influence wasn’t just felt at Brookfield Zoo, which draws millions to its gates annually. He was a national and international presence, spreading the gospel of conservation and the pursuit of scientific scholarship.
Through it all, he never left Brookfield, always living near the institution that he shaped and which shaped him.
The zoo he joined back in 1956 was of the era that preceded him, still rooted in the 1930s. As he ascended to the directorship in 1976, Dr. Rabb transformed the way animals were presented to the public, in new immersive exhibits that sought to connect visitors with the animals in a way that reflected the role humans play in species survival.
He left the directorship in 2004 with the zoo light years from the institution he knew as a Ph.D. fresh out of the University of Michigan.
Mr. Kubik’s influence may not have been international, but his impact on the lives of people in suburban Chicago for more than 40 years was profound.
Life Newspapers, initially a Berwyn-Cicero institution expanded its influence under Mr. Kubik’s direction to include dozens of suburban communities. But in Cook County particularly – Berwyn, Cicero, Riverside, Brookfield, LaGrange Park, LaGrange – The Life was the local paper, published two or three times a week depending on which town you lived in.
Its staff tended to be “lifers,” so to speak, with tenures lasting many years. That stability allowed the paper to resonate with readers, who grew to know the staff through their weekly interactions in print.
Kubik and his partners sold the newspaper chain in 1999. The difference between the family-owned and operated newspaper and the corporate ownership that has followed is stark.
A couple of years ago, the present ownership made the rather momentous decision, at least for many of its Cook County titles – including Riverside and Brookfield – to do away with staff reporters.
Fortunately for those who live in Riverside, Brookfield and North Riverside there was an alternative. But in many of the towns The Life formerly covered faithfully in the Cook County suburbs, there is nothing to fill the vacuum.
It’s a tough time for the newspaper business; it has been tough for the past 15 years. Mr. Kubik knew that. But he also knew the value, the critical role local journalism plays in the life of a community.
Mr. Kubik made that kind of impact for decades in these towns, and for that we’ll always be thankful.