Rumsfeld lore hits home in suburbs

  • Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld speaks at the dedication of the Pentagon Memorial on Sept. 11, 2008.

    Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld speaks at the dedication of the Pentagon Memorial on Sept. 11, 2008. Associated Press

  • Donald Rumsfeld's senior photo from the 1950 New Trier yearbook, "Echoes."

    Donald Rumsfeld's senior photo from the 1950 New Trier yearbook, "Echoes." Courtesy of New Trier High School

  • A 1959 holiday postcard created and sent to the Rumsfeld family by former Chicago Tribune cartoonist and fellow Winnetka resident Joe Parrish.

    A 1959 holiday postcard created and sent to the Rumsfeld family by former Chicago Tribune cartoonist and fellow Winnetka resident Joe Parrish. Courtesy of the Winnetka Historical Society

 
 
Updated 7/11/2021 5:10 PM

Charles "Chuck" Loebbaka, a former Glenview trustee and an old North Shore newspaper man, described Donald Rumsfeld the same way many perceived him.

"Very businesslike, very impressive, very smart, forceful," Loebbaka said.

 

"He's been that way his whole career."

A 1950 New Trier graduate and a Glenview resident in the 1960s, Rumsfeld, 88, died June 29 in Taos, New Mexico.

Loebbaka, an editor for the Glenview Announcements and for the Evanston Review in stints from 1963-68, entered the local political fray first as a journalist then as a spokesman in political campaigns.

He managed Evanston resident William Scott's successful campaign for Illinois attorney general in 1968. In 1972, Loebbaka was press secretary for Gov. Richard Ogilvie's unsuccessful reelection campaign, with the Northfield resident losing the election to Dan Walker.

A village of Glenview trustee from 1973-83, Loebbaka came of professional age at a time when the North Shore was a Republican bastion.

Rumsfeld, a three-term Illinois member of Congress from 1963-70, was part of that.

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As the Daily Herald does today during political races, Loebbaka and his colleagues conducted endorsement interviews with candidates running for political office.

That was his first exposure to the confident politician. Loebbaka met him later at an affair for Chicago-area Republicans, he said without irony.

"I met him going into the meeting," Loebbaka said. "He introduced me to his chief of staff. We didn't chat, we just shook hands."

That chief of staff was Dick Cheney, who would become George W. Bush's vice president.

As Loebbaka said, Rumsfeld was impressive, enough for Richard Nixon to tab him as part of his White House transition staff when Nixon won the presidency in 1968. Part of Rumsfeld's responsibilities after the inauguration in 1969, Loebbaka said, was to coordinate candidates and make hires for positions in the White House.

Loebbaka wrote Rumsfeld a letter: "I'd like to be considered for a position in the news office at the White House," it said in part.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I got a letter back. It said, 'I've passed this on to the appropriate people to consider.'

"I never heard back ... After the White House gambit, that was the last time I dealt with Rumsfeld," Loebbaka said.

Like Loebbaka, local institutions have bits and pieces of Rumsfeld lore in their shelves and archives.

Kimberly Schlarman, reference librarian and genealogy specialist with the Glenview Public Library, excavated a 1964 Chicago Tribune article written by Margaret Mohan that addressed Rumsfeld's dual existence in Glenview and Chevy Chase, Maryland, when Rumsfeld was a freshman representative.

"Here in Glenview, it's more at home," Mohan quoted Rumsfeld's wife, Joyce, his high school sweetheart.

The article identified the Rumsfeld home as a "small, early-American home on Hunter Road."

"I love this neighborhood, it's so quiet," said the former Joyce Pierson. "It's a fun neighborhood to relax in, and there are five acres of woods out back."

Also from 1964, Schlarman dug up an old Glenview Announcements article Loebbaka himself might have written, though there is no byline.

"Donald Rumsfeld to Address Library Association Meeting" was the topic. The clip stated that the emphasis of Rumsfeld's speech would be the closing days of the 88th Congress.

That contained a parallel to a more contemporary thought on national defense: "He is ... the sponsor of a bill to create a Select Committee of the House on a national space posture and goals. In addition, he is a member of the Task Force on Space."

Mary Trieschmann, executive director of the Winnetka Historical Society, found a 1959 postcard created by former Chicago Tribune cartoonist and Rumsfeld family friend Joe Parrish, who also was a Winnetka resident.

"Joe made a custom greeting card for the Rumsfelds every year," Trieschmann said.

Nicole Dizon, director of communications for New Trier's Northfield campus, sent a copy of Donald Rumsfeld's entry in the New Trier Alumni Hall of Honor.

Along with detailing political achievements such as being the only United States secretary of defense in nonconsecutive terms, and his 1977 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the article notes he was vice president of New Trier's Tri-Ship leadership and service club, one of the school's oldest clubs, and was a member of the Trevians' football and wrestling teams. (He was fourth in the state at 145 pounds for New Trier's 1950 state championship team, and went on to wrestle at Princeton.)

That fits with Loebbaka's description of Rumsfeld as "forceful."

"He was a Winnetka guy, a New Trier guy, well-liked by pretty much all the Republicans in the area," Loebbaka said.

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