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Local Legends

Local Legends

Local Legends is the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society's annual signature event. Through a unique "fireside chat" format, with intimate interviews before live audiences, the event is is the perfect setting to celebrate our community's superstars. This one-on-one conversation encourages the sharing of little-known stories and behind-the-scenes anecdotes, insights not readily available in standard biographies.

Local Legends debuted in 2010 with a standing-room-only program honoring astronaut James Lovell that transported the audience to worlds afar. In 2011 our event honoring architect Adrian Smith took the packed auditorium to new heights. In 2012, over 300 guests were taken behind-the-scenes at Millennium Park and Crab Tree Farm with cultural visionary and business leader John H. Bryan. In 2013, renowned musician Richard Marx shared his inspirations with a rapt audience at Lake Forest High School. In 2014, we turned the tables on veteran broadcast journalist Bill Kurtis, who was interviewed by his partner in life and work, Donna La Pietra. In 2015, we heard the inside stories of pivotal historical moments told from the perspective of the artist as we honored artist-reporters Franklin and Mark McMahon. In 2016, entrepreneur Ellen Stirling told tales of three generations of women bringing style and business acumen to the community through the Lake Forest Shop.

As the Historical Society's chief fundraiser, Local Legends supports our programs and exhibits, as well as the preservation of the museum archives and our one-of-a-kind collection.

Roll Call of Legends


2016 | Ellen Stirling

Entrepreneur Ellen Stirling's heritage in Lake Forest runs deep. In 1922, her grandmother, Margaret Baxter Foster, started the Sports Shop in Market Square. Now called the Lake Forest Shop, the business has remained in Ellen’s family for almost a century and she is the third generation of women to bring style and business acumen to the community.

Ellen Stirling and her interviewer, TV journalist Mary Ann Childers, discussed how her business has evolved to remain competitive and current as well as share personal anecdotes interweaving history and community.


2015 | Mark and Franklin McMahon

Franklin McMahon, who passed away in 2012, was an artist-reporter whose work took him worldwide. A ‘day in the office’ could find Franklin in the courtroom of the Emmet Till trial or in the television studio at the Kennedy-Nixon debate or in Rome at Vatican II or at NASA mission control in Houston during Apollo XI.  He said, "An artist has a different way of seeing" and can "draw the corners." These drawings gave the world a unique perspective on historically significant events of which Franklin, remarkably, was present with paper and pen in hand.

The family business continues with Mark McMahon whose distinctive drawing style closely mirrors that of his father.  Over the years, Mark has been commissioned to record everything from the Columbia space shuttle launch for NASA to covering the Indianapolis 500 for Sports Illustrated. Prominent displays of Mark’s large public art commissions are in Chicago and many corporate headquarters across the country. Lake Forest is honored to have some of his commissions in our schools and public spaces. Art as a business remains strong due to Mark and the legacy of his father, Franklin. We are fortunate to see history through the eyes of the very talented McMahons.

Photo Gallery of the 2015 Local Legends Event


2014 | Bill Kurtis and Donna La Pietra

Bill Kurtis and Donna La Pietra have loved working together from the day they first met in the Channel 2 Newsroom nearly 35 years ago. Bill was the anchorman and Donna, the executive news producer. Their collaboration created one of the most exciting and honored newscasts in the history of local television. 

While studying for a journalism and law degree at KU and Washburn, Bill Kurtis filled in as weekend weatherman on WIBW, when a deadly tornado hit Topeka and his broadcasts reached across the nation and a job offer from Chicago’s WBBM came out of the dust. At Carnegie Mellon University, Donna LaPietra shifted her interest from theatre arts to urban and public affairs, running a campaign to win a spot as a delegate at the Democratic Convention. She gained enough attention to land her first job as a radio reporter for WWSW in her home city, the first woman to sit in the press box and cover the Steelers pigskin action. With her sights set on a bigger market, she landed in Chicago, and a job opening at WBBM-TV.

Together in Chicago, they crafted a third place TV station into the number one evening news program, sending Bill all over the world, making in depth reporting their hallmark. Documentaries became their passion, and they formed their own company, Kurtis Productions, with the mission of turning out educational and informational programs for PBS and eventually A&E, CNBC, National Geographic, and the Discovery Channel. Their combined interest in conservation and land stewardship led them not only to create documentaries on the subject, but to acquire 65 acres in Mettawa, just west of Lake Forest for prairie and woodland restoration and to create formal gardens.

Photo gallery of the 2014 Local Legends Event 


2013 | Richard Marx

Meet Richard Marx, Lake Bluff resident and acclaimed musician. His nearly 30-year career as a performer, songwriter and producer is filled with highlights. To this day, he is the only male artist in history to have his first seven singles reach the Top 5 on the Billboard charts. As a songwriter, he has collaborated with the likes of Josh Groban, Barbra Streisand, Vince Gill, LeAnn Rimes, Natalie Cole, Travis Tritt, Keith Urban, Daughtry, NSYNC, Lifehouse and actor Hugh Jackman, among many others. Across all three formats, Richard Marx has sold more than 30 million albums, scored 14 chart-topping singles, and written a Grammy award-winning song, making him a truly multi-talented threat who continues to challenge himself. Roe Conn, renowned radio personality from WLS Radio, went behind the music with Richard Marx on at our Local Legends event on November 2, 2013.

Photo gallery of the 2013 Local Legends Event


2012 | John H. Bryan

From Millennium Park to Orchestra Hall to the Farnsworth House, John H. Bryan's dedication to culture and preservation is revealed throughout Chicago's landscape. As the former CEO of Sara Lee, Mr. Bryan's business acumen has propelled him to the world stage through the World Economic Forum and NATO. His prestigious Amercian and English Arts and Crafts collection, housed locally at Crab Tree Farm, attracts admirers from far and wide. Over 300 discovered the story of this modern-day Renaissance man at our Local Legends event on Saturday, October 27, 2012.

Photo gallery of the 2012 Local Legends Event


2011 | Adrian Smith

Architect Adrian Smith is one of the world's foremost experts on supertall towers. His extraordinary body of work includes the Burj Khalifa in the United Arab Emirates, the world's current tallest structure, and the world's first net-zero-energy skyscraper, the Pearl River Tower in China. In 2011, plans were announced for the Kingdom Tower, a building twice as tall as the Willis Tower. The Kingdom Tower will be built in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Locally, Mr. Smith designed the Trump Tower and created the master plan for Millennium Park. His firm, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, is based in Chicago.

Photo gallery of the 2011 Local Legends Event


2010 | Jim Lovell

As the commander of Apollo 13, Captain Jim Lovell led his crew through the life-or-death struggle to return to Earth. He was selected as an astronaut by NASA in 1962. Before retiring in 1973, he flew a total of four missions during the golden age of space exploration, logging over 700 hours in space. Captain Lovell has received some of the nation's most distinguished awards, including the Congressional Space Medal of Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Lake Forest residents since 1981, Captain Lovell and family opened the restaurant Lovell's of Lake Forest in 1999. In 2010, the Captain James A. Jovell Federal Health Care Center opened in North Chicago.

Photo gallery of the 2010 Local Legends Event



Our Interviewer | Bill Kurtis

Bill Kurtis's generous participation in our Local Legends event has generated wonderful, captivating interviews. Over the course of his distinguished career in journalism, Mr. Kurtis has hosted and produced acclaimed documentaries, anchored network and major market news broadcasts, and presided over a multimedia production company. He is a published author and the recipient of numerous broadcasting honors including Emmys and the Thurgood Marshall AwardHe hosts Cold Case Files and is back anchoring the WBBM-TV six o'clock news broadcast.


Our Interviewer | Roe Conn

Roe Conn is co-host of The Roe Conn Show with Richard Roeper on Chicago's WLS Radio and a contributor to ABC7's Windy City Live. A lifelong Chicagoan, Roe has been one of the city's top rated radio personalities for the last two decades. Roe has been recognized by Talkers Magazine as one of the "100 Most Influential Talk Show Hosts in America." and has received the prestigious Radio and Records Industry Achievement Award for Best Local Talk Host in America.