A few weeks ago, I stopped into the restaurant I worked my way through nursing school at to say hello to some of my old co-workers. I discovered, talking to them, that one of my favorite regulars, reporter and author Anne Keegan, passed away last May.
For a long time, I waited on Ms. Keegan not knowing who she was; I'd read her articles in the Chicago Tribune since I was a kid, but I had no idea what she looked like. In reading her obit, I discovered that there was a reason for this: she refused to create a "personna" for herself, much to the frustration of the Tribune.
I originally ended up waiting on Ms. Keegan for the simple fact that I was the only one who wasn't afraid of her. She intimidated the other servers. Having worked as a teacher on the tough West Side of Chicago, I wasn't easily intimidated. I suspect this may have endeared me to Ms. Keegan. Once she lowered her guard, she was a fascinating, warm and charming person.
Ms. Keegan spent her career writing about the regular Joes and Janes of the world. In a blog post, an old Tribune co-worker captures her duality-- a lady who was very charming, but the next minute could outswear a trucker.
She also authored two books. These also showed her dichotomy. Her first was "On the Street Doing Life," about a tough-as-nails Chicago cop. The other, published just a few years ago, was a children's book about a cat that she wrote for her granddaughter.
I remember my last couple of encounters with Ms. Keegan, at the restaurant. She liked sitting in front of the restaurant so that she could pop outside to smoke a cigarette. She had her usual drink-- she loved that I remembered it-- and usually something light to eat. The last couple of times I saw her, it was late, so the restaurant wasn't very busy and I got a chance to chat with her. She was, as always, interesting and gracious. She was a Chicago original, and I'm glad I got the opportunity to know her. She will be missed.