Who's who in Naperville

Naperville is all over the map these days. This summer, we learned that our fair city is among America’s top “beach towns,” albeit no shore in sight. Now, a popular show on Netflix, Ozark, features a fictitious family (thankfully, given the drama’s focus on drug money laundering) from – you guessed it – Naperville. To add extra intrigue to our suburban milieu, one of the show’s characters dubs it “Naperthrill.”

With 58 people from Naperville listed by Wikipedia as “famous,” perhaps we don’t need a television show to shine a light on our town. Among them are award-winning poet and novelist Luis Alberto Urrea, actors Paul Brittain (Saturday Night Live), David Eigenberg (Sex and the City) and Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad; Better Call Saul), American Idol finalist Gina Glocksen, TV personality Paula Zahn, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, Olympic figure skater Evan Lysacek, and basketball stars Antonio Davis, Anthony Parker, and Candace Parker. And a long-standing rumor that Oprah Winfrey bought a home in “horse country” on Hobson Road in Naperville still persists.

Monarch Landing itself has some residents with local celebrity and considerable influence. By now, most citizens are aware of, have perhaps even participated in, the Naperville Area CROP Walk. On October 15, this community effort to end world hunger will celebrate its 35th year.

But it was United Methodist pastor and Monarch Landing resident Duane Mevis who helped the CROP Walk take its very first steps. A founder of the annual Sunday stroll that has now raised well over a million dollars in the fight against hunger, Duane is still actively involved in the CROP Walk, as are several of his fellow Monarch Landing residents.

Duane is also one of the founders of the Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity affiliate, which has been building homes for qualified families in the Fox Valley area since 1989. What a humanitarian rock star!

Another Monarch Landing resident, John Baber, takes a real-life page from the X-Files, having started a career with the FBI at the age of just 18. “I didn’t intend to be an agent for all my life,” said the retired Assistant Special Agent in Charge of Chicago in a Daily Herald feature a few years back. “It just seemed like a challenge to figure out what a criminal was doing in terms of embezzlement or fraud. That was fun for me.” Fun for him, good for justice.

In Monarch Landing resident Merrill Litchfield is a real-life hero like those in the Backdraft movies about the perils and valor of being a firefighter. A 31-year veteran of the Naperville Fire Department, Merrill dreamed of this profession from the time he was a young boy, witnessing the courage of volunteer firefighters in his boyhood town of Fremont, Indiana. A trained paramedic too, Merrill saw his share of life-and-death situations and often put his own life on the line to save others.

Famous citizens, quasi-beach town status, number one-ranked town in America…”Naperthrill” has certainly earned a national name for itself. But, as any real Naperville resident knows, it could fly completely under the radar all the time and still be the best place to live, anywhere, any day.