Meet the McKeevers.
Last week, Lester and Nancy McKeever moved out of the penthouse apartment where they've lived for nearly 40 years.
If you only knew that the McKeevers are one of Chicago's longtime power couples, then maybe that would be enough to know about them. A prominent attorney and certified public accountant, Lester McKeever Jr., 78, was once chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
Nancy McKeever, 76, is a retired Chicago Public Schools teacher who is the board chairman of the ETA Creative Arts Foundation.
What I enjoyed learning about them is that in 1976 they bought a 25-story building — which had a penthouse, 24-hour doorman and valet shop — in the 6700 block of South Oglesby Avenue that, for decades, operated in the South Shore neighborhood as a sort of vertical village.
Lester said the couple wouldn't have been able to afford such a property at the time if not for a client and good friend who wanted to sell the building and made it affordable to them.
"He had faith in us and we felt we'd been tremendously blessed," he said. "So we felt we had a responsibility to do what the (previous owner) and we thought was right by the tenants."
Several former residents said living at Oglesby Towers was like living with a big extended family, which is not easy to manage in a building with 191 units, about eight apartments per floor.
In the fall of 1976, the McKeevers and their then-adolescent son and daughter moved into the spacious 25th-floor penthouse apartment with the panoramic view of Chicago's skyline and lake. The building was already home to physicians, lawyers, educators, government workers, a group of nuns and entertainers, including the late comedian George Kirby.
"I used to wonder: 'Can a building have a spirit about it?'" Nancy said, as she recently showed me around the now-empty penthouse. "If so, it came from the quality of people who were here and the concern they had for one another and the pride they took in living here."
She said that every year residents gathered for the annual Christmas party held in the building's lobby, and smaller groups met on the sun deck of the building's roof to watch the city's Fourth of July fireworks.
On the 25th floor of Oglesby Towers was an empty apartment that the McKeevers let tenants use as a recreation room. Yoga classes were held there, along with block club meetings, graduation parties, book club meetings, bridal and baby showers, and repasts, meals served after a funeral. Once when a family from Nigeria lived in the building, many of the residents came out for a naming ceremony for the couple's newborn.
"The McKeevers were intentional about creating a sense of community," said Mary F. Lenox, who lived in the building from 1997 until 2012. "They've given time and support to so many important causes. They didn't charge you what they could have asked for rents. They didn't try to gouge you."
Lenox said that neighbors weren't intrusive busybodies, but people who looked out for one another.
"Each floor had a little table by the elevator that some people decorated with fresh flowers or holiday decorations," Lenox said. "I would sometimes put fruit out there and a young surgeon on the floor told me that some nights when she came home really late, that fruit would be the only dinner she had."
Sonia Spencer lived at Oglesby Towers from 1990 until 2009. She said it wasn't unusual for people to move in and stay for decades even though they were renters.
"I was a single parent and it was such a wonderful place to raise a child," Spencer said. "Years ago, grandparents helped raise your children, but this building was the closest thing to that.
"My daughter was a latchkey kid and I would call home and if I couldn't get her, I would call the doorman and he would say, 'She just went to the store. She'll be right back.'"
Nancy said many of the children in the building worked in the valet shop after school, accepting packages and running errands while doing homework.
She said several of the children went on to universities such as Hampton, Harvard, Northwestern and Florida A&M. The McKeevers' children are both attorneys, and other kids who grew up in Oglesby Towers became doctors, accountants and educators.
The McKeevers sold the building five years ago and stayed on as tenants. Many of the older tenants have moved on, and last week the couple officially did so, settling into a new place in Hyde Park.
Last month, more than 100 current and former area residents attended a ceremony during which a section of Oglesby Avenue was named after Lester.
"We wanted to be neighbors and not just owners," he said. "And, I think we achieved that."