Bellevue Place on the Gold Coast has a beautiful tall building with a lobby with a colorful mural filled with flora and fauna. Two of the building’s elevators are decorated similarly, and if you look closely enough, you can see a name for each: Jill and Ellen.
They are the youngest children of Richard Barancik, who designed and developed this building. They lived there for many years with their father and mother, Suzanne Hammerman; His much older siblings Robert, Michael and Cathy grew up in the suburbs with their mother, Rema Stone, who was Barancık’s first wife.
“It was something special for us, a little easter egg,” said Jill Barancik, former television producer for Oprah Winfrey and Bill Kurtis.
His father died on July 14 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Most of the obituaries are Richard Barancik’s World War II. A group that helps recover artworks looted by the Nazis.
“She’d be shocked by all the attention and, as much as it bothered her, I think she’d understand why it was important,” Jill told me.
But the monuments left by an architect are the buildings he designed, and the buildings of Barancık dot the skyline and color the country. These include the aforementioned 100 E. Bellevue, 990 and 1212 N. Lake Shore Drive, 1310 N. Ritchie Court, office buildings, and the 44-story Eugenie Terrace development in Old Town.
His work included office complexes such as East-West Tech Park in Naperville and Woodfield Lakes in the northwest suburb of Schaumburg and Willa Cather Elementary School on the West Side. His work is also in Philadelphia, New York, Indianapolis and New Jersey.
“She’s never been assertive at her job,” Jill said. “He had ideas about everything and prided himself on being an opponent, but he was never poetic about the meaning of art or architecture. He just loved her, but he didn’t feel the need to pontificate about it.
He was born on October 19, 1924, and was born to Carrie Grawoig, a housewife and gifted pianist, and family physician Dr. He grew up in the South Side as one of Henry Barancik’s four children. Jackson Park hospitals. He attended both Hyde Park and South Shore high schools, where he began drawing cartoons for school newspapers. After graduating, she began studying architecture before going to war.
He was a front-line infantryman, but was sent to Salzburg, Austria, at the end of the war, where he volunteered to help move stolen artifacts to a warehouse under the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives programme. Thus, he became one of the “Memorial Men” of 350 people.
After a short time in this group, Barancık studied architecture at Cambridge University in England and École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Returning to the United States, he attended the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in architecture.
After working for the Chicago Housing Authority for several years, he and Richard Conte founded the architectural firm Barancik Conte & Associates. Capitalizing on the post-war economic boom, they soon became preoccupied with a 1953 article in Parade stating that Barancık, then 28, had already completed more than $10 million in construction projects.
These projects ranged from department stores to massive bowling centers like the Orchard Twin Bowl and All Star Lanes, to high-rises and private homes, both located in Skokie.
He would go on to design and develop properties here and across the country. Like many WWII veterans, he never bragged about his experiences, but loved to tell his family about his many adventures during and after the war.
She was retired and living part-time in Pebble Beach, California when she was interviewed for Robert Edsel and Bret Witter’s 2009 book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History. It is the basis for the 2014 movie directed by George Clooney and starring Matt Damon, Bill Murray and Cate Blanchett.
He was one of four Monuments Men to receive a Congressional Gold Medal in 2015.
As Jill says, “I know you’re embarrassed of all the attention. He used to say to me, ‘I was just a kid. I was there for only three months.’ But I explained to him that although he is one of the youngest of the group and has not done the ‘heavy work’, he must represent all the people who could not be there. I think he finally figured it out. I know you are proud of this honor.”
He would soon be living in Chicago full-time and began to suffer the inevitable loss of his third wife, Claire Holland, as well as contemporaries and friends. He was the last living member of the Monuments Men.
She continued to voraciously read more than three newspapers a day and says her daughter has “too many magazines and books.” She became particularly close to her during these last years of her life, visiting almost daily, often with her husband, artist Michael O’Briant, and often with their dog, Noodles.
“The pandemic meant we were a bubble, so we were together most of the time, we ate most of our meals together, and I became his confidant, chef, secretary, and bodyguard. He was still a great walker, almost every day. He kept up his gymnastic moves since the Army.
“It was really as sharp as a nail until the end. He always remained inquisitive, had a playful and irreverent sense of humor, the sharpest memory, but living to 98 is not easy. He often referred to himself as ‘the last man standing’, but until this year he had not been hospitalized for having surgery for appendicitis when he was 7 years old. And that was in 1931.”
In later years, he returned to the editorial caricature he enjoyed in his youth, making striking illustrations and emailing the last one to about 50 friends, three days before his death.
One of the buyers was TV producer and writer Sharon Barrett, who said, “I’ve been looking forward to Dick’s cartoons, especially during a big news week.” They were always very intelligent and understanding. He was an artist with a keen satirical eye, and I had some of my favorites framed on my walls.”
Despite all his achievements, Barancık remained a smug man. If you accompany him on one of his fast-paced walks and come across one of the buildings he designed and built, you can hear him say quietly, “Not bad, not bad at all.”