Ed Marciniak (1918-2004)
A great community leader and treasure of Edgewater, Ed Marciniak, died May 27, 2004 at St. Joseph Hospital. Ed was married to Virginia Volini Marciniak who pre-deceased him. They had lived in Lakewood Balmoral for many years and raised their family of four daughters, Francesca, Kate, Christina and Claudia there. In later years they lived at the Edgewater Beach Apartments.
In Edgewater, Ed was most well known as the author of a book about Edgewater called Reversing Urban Decline: the Winthrop-Kenmore Corridor in the Edgewater and Uptown Communities of Chicago. In it he told the story of how our community worked together to improve the quality of life for everyone. It was second in a series of three books - Reviving the Inner City Community: the Drama of Urban Change in Chicago’s East Humboldt Park and the third book, Reclaiming the Inner City, Chicago’s Near North Revitalization Confronts Cabrini Green. Dr. Marciniak was Director of Loyola University’s Institute of Urban Life.
Dr. Marciniak was a leader in the City of Chicago from his early days of teaching about race relations to his labor activism, journalism and continuing civil rights activism as Executive director of the Chicago Commission on Human Rights. Ed has a broad knowledge of Chicago having boasted that he “attend a different school for each of the eight years of grammar school.” Ed knew Chicago and he knew how the city was changing when he wrote the book about Edgewater.
In 1980, through the efforts of LeRoy Blommaert and others, the Edgewater community was separated out from Uptown and designated Community Area #77, Edgewater. Part of that process was to define the special history of Edgewater. Blommaert remembers, “More than any other person he was responsible for getting the city to recognize Edgewater as a separate community area. Before that, Edgewater did not officially exist. It was considered part of Uptown.”
In his book Reversing Urban Decline, Ed outlined the steps to community improvement through grassroots activism. It was this activism that led to the election of his sister-in-law, Marion Kennedy Volini as Alderman in 1978. Marion’s son, Mike Volini, is now the Democratic Committeeman of the 48th Ward.
In 1993 the Edgewater Historical Society hosted a discussion about the future of Edgewater at the North Lakeside Cultural Center with Ed as one of a panel of speakers. At this event, Ed challenged us to think of what else we could do to make Edgewater better. Robert Remer, past President of ECC and member of the EHS Board of Directors remembers Ed was instrumental in Edgewater finally getting official community designation from the City of Chicago. He was the “nudging force” in our successful efforts in Operation Winthrop Kenmore to bring tens of millions of dollars of investment to preserve and rehab housing along those streets, which were Cochran’s original Edgewater development. It was in the mid 1980s at a casual get together at the Marciniaks’ home that we put together the invitation list for the first organizing meeting of the Edgewater Historical Society. He will be sorely missed as he continually pushed us to be the best we could for the Edgewater community.