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Why we miss Mark Rogovin

Opinion: Letters to the editor

October 22nd, 2019 3:59 PM

By Editorial

The Historical Society of Forest Park mourns the passing of our previous board member and self-described "seat-of-the-pants historian" Mark Rogovin. 

If you were lucky enough to be at the Haymarket Martyrs monument while Mark was driving down Desplaines he would have pulled into the cemetery to give you an impromptu tour. Mark co-authored both editions of The Day Will Come, a comprehensive booklet with biographies of everyone who is buried or had ashes scattered at Radical Row. Digging deep into the handwritten cemetery records, Mark found their sometimes forgotten stories. 

In 2010, working on Illinois Labor History, Mark launched a successful crowdsource campaign to replace the stolen bronze fronds and flowers from the front of the Haymarket monument. Mark found historic photos of the fronds and flowers and worked closely with the restoration company, Conservation of Sculptures & Objects Studio Inc., even driving a few hours to the bronze pouring to see them made. On the 125th anniversary of Haymarket, the restored bronze fronds and flowers were unveiled. 

Concerned that the intricate Altgeld pardon plaque from the rear of the monument could also face the same fate, Mark created another successful crowdfunding campaign to get a mold of the plaque made. The only remaining piece that needed restoration was the small rear plaque with the names of men who were given sentences other than hanging at the Haymarket trial. Mark, of course, worked to have this piece recreated. The Haymarket Martyrs Monument is restored for all the world to see, thanks to Mark Rogovin.  

But restoring the monument wasn't enough; Mark wanted to know what was under it. After learning of a time capsule buried at the cornerstone of the monument Mark and his co-researcher, Bleue Benton, worked to have the time capsule exhumed. In 2016 the excavation to find the capsule took place with a team of experts they assembled. Unfortunately, the dig was not successful.  

Working with the historical society, Mark used his vast knowledge of Forest Home Cemetery and their records to locate victims of the Eastland Disaster for the 110-year anniversary of the largest inland ship disaster in American history. Knowing that so many people came to Forest Home Cemetery to see the Haymarket monument, a National Historic Monument, Mark created a website, foresthomecemeteryoverview.weebly.com to give comprehensive background on this very unique cemetery as a whole. 

Mark never would shy away from asking for people to donate their historical items to the society, often convincing them of the value he saw in them — from pulling out pieces of railroad when the street was redone to lamb cake pans from Kay's Bakery to the stained glass window from Wolf Bros., Mark wanted to preserve it all. 

The monthly tour on the first Saturday of the month (May-October) at 11 a.m., which he started and led for many years, still continues. His booklet, The Day Will Come, is available at www.forestparkhistory.org/store1.html, at the cemetery office, and at Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore. We hope that you too can enjoy the history of the Haymarket the way Mark did.

Alexis Ellers

Executive director, Historical Society of Forest Park

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