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posted: 7/19/2012 2:43 PM

Palatine resident celebrates ancestor's contribution to Baha'i temple

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  • Barbara Tobin of Palatine visits the exhibit honoring her great-grandmother, Nettie Tobin, at the Baha'i Temple in Wilmette.

      Barbara Tobin of Palatine visits the exhibit honoring her great-grandmother, Nettie Tobin, at the Baha'i Temple in Wilmette.
    Courtesy of Ellen Price

  • Barbara Tobin led a delegation of Baha'is to Nettie Tobin's gravesite, in Des Plaines, to say prayers and lay flowers for the 100th anniversary.

      Barbara Tobin led a delegation of Baha'is to Nettie Tobin's gravesite, in Des Plaines, to say prayers and lay flowers for the 100th anniversary.
    Courtesy of Ellen Price

 
Submitted by Richard Brill

Palatine's Barbara Tobin is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Wilmette's Baha'i House of Worship. This national landmark and center of the Baha'i Faith in North America is commemorating its centennial with yearlong events.

Tobin recalls how her great-grandmother, Esther (Nettie) Tobin, got the heavy, rough, limestone cornerstone of the temple from a Chicago Loop construction site and carried it to Wilmette via trolley, a child's wagon, and even on the shoulder of a friend for a short distance.

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"My great-grandmother was one of the earliest members of the Baha'i Faith in North America," explained Tobin.

Nettie Tobin, a poor Chicago seamstress, was a dedicated Baha'i and wanted to contribute in some way to the construction of the temple.

In May 1912, her piece of limestone was chosen as the cornerstone and blessed by the global leader of the Baha'i Faith, Abdu'l Baha, who traveled here from Persia. Speaking to about 300 followers on a hilly Wilmette bluff, Abdu'l Baha called for "Nettie's stone" and asked representatives from various races and nations to turn a bit of soil with a shovel. He rolled in the cornerstone and described the future temple, which was finally completed in 1953 -- after two World Wars and the Great Depression.

Today, there's a new cornerstone exhibit in the Baha'i Temple Welcome Center, which includes a display on "The Story of Nettie's Stone." Barbara Tobin always recalls her ancestor when she visits the Baha'i Temple and views the commemoration displays. To honor the 100th anniversary, last week, Tobin led a group of fellow Baha'is to say prayers and lay flowers on Nettie Tobin's gravesite in Des Plaines.

In addition to dedicating the grounds of the future Baha'i Temple, global faith leader Abdu'l Baha traveled across North America for 10 months in 1912 with a message of America's spiritual destiny: to lead the way toward world peace, advance women's rights, abolish racism and eliminate extremes of wealth and poverty. Adorned with flowing robes and a full white beard, he visited 50 U.S. and Canadian cities, gave 140 public presentations and addressed 93,000 people, from government and industry leaders to the poor and homeless.

The Baha'i Temple is a delicate, lacelike, concrete and glass architectural marvel overlooking Lake Michigan. It's a national landmark, one of the "seven wonders of Illinois," that symbolizes unity and invites prayer to God. Its quiet serenity reflects the spiritual beliefs of the Baha'i faith: the oneness of God, the oneness of humanity and the oneness of religion. Like the six other Baha'i Houses of Worship in the world -- one per continent -- the Wilmette temple is circular, has nine sides and is surrounded by exquisite gardens and fountains.

The temple and gardens welcome visitors of all faiths. Located at Sheridan Road and Linden Ave. in Wilmette, it's open for private prayer and meditation daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The lower-level Welcome Center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p. m. and admission is free.

For information, visit www.bahaitemple.org or call (847) 853-2300.

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