Attending Chicago’s Old Town Art Fair is a June ritual for residents and out-of-town visitors. The Fair and its art center have played an essential role

Lucille Hecht (IWPA archives)

in defining that Near North Side neighborhood. It is uniquely Chicago. Years ago, when forces were coming together to create the first art fair, community activist Lucille Hecht became one of the founders involved to run it. Years later she would go on to serve as president of the Old Town Triangle Association during the 1960s. Old Town and the Fair are but a part of Lucille’s long and colorful Chicago legacy.

Lucille began her career in Chicago with radio station WIBO, which had been owned by the Nelson Brothers Bond and Mortgage Company, and became known throughout the country as “the Swedish station.” It wasn’t long before she was involved in numerous assignments working in the Public Relations Department for the Century of Progress International Exposition (1933-34) and writing commercials for local television station NBC. Lucille would work as an editor for Real American Magazine and spent three decades as the editor of the Altrusa International’s official magazine, published by the service organization for executive and professional women in fellowship, literacy and community service projects around the world.

As a long-time member of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association (IWPA), Lucille first joined the Association in 1931. She served on numerous committees for the Association including the editor of Pen Points, the official organ of IWPA from 1945 to 1946 and again, in 1948 until 1949. She earned over sixty writing awards from IWPA and the National Federation of Press Women (NFPW). In 1973, IWPA honored her with its highest honor, Woman of Achievement. Lucille was elected its president from 1973 – 1975.

In 1977, Lucille represented Altrusa International as a delegate for the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations to the United Nations (NGO).

She was affiliated with Chicago Press Club and Women in Communications as well as Altrusa Club of Chicago where she was chairwoman of the language bank organizing interpreters to help non-speaking English people in emergency situations in the city primarily assisting hospitals, police and fire departments solve problems and save lives. The “free” bank of nearly 300 volunteers was Chicago’s first free translation service representing almost 70 languages and dialects.

Lucille may have been a 1937 graduate of the University of Wisconsin with degrees in Journalism and Psychology, but she never gave up her desire to learn. She continued her studies learning Spanish at Loop College in the 1980s and attended and became a part of the Advisory Council for a program of study groups aimed at seniors continuing their education at Northwestern University’s Institute for Learning in Retirement in the 1990’s. She remained an active participant in the classes throughout the early part of 2000’s.

The National Federation of Press Women recognized Lucille for her 50th, 55th and 60th years of service and membership to the Federation.

A real jewel of Chicago, Lucille was inducted into the prestigious Senior Citizens Hall of Fame in 1987, and Mayor Daley had twice proclaimed “Lucille Hecht Day” in Chicago. Interviewed by the Chicago Tribune on the occasion of her 95th birthday, Lucille told the reporter, “I’ve never really thought about aging, but I do believe in the idea of “use it” or “lose it.”

Lucille lived a full life to the age of 104.