Mort and Shirley enjoy paradise in Skokie
Mort Paradise sings with his wife Shirley on a Mitzvah Day celebration in 2007. | File 2007
Updated: March 1, 2013 6:35AM
There are not many people who can remember a time when a Paradise didn’t make a difference in Skokie.
Nonagenarians Mort and Shirley Paradise have been part of the fabric of the village for decades through myriad volunteer activities and other endeavors.
When Mayor George Van Dusen last week declared Jan. 30 Morton and Shirley Paradise Day in the village, there were not many people baffled as to why. It seems like everyone knows Mort and Shirley.
The Paradises will celebrate 70 years of marriage on their designated day; they moved to Skokie in 1949, more than 65 years ago. “High agenda” things to do then included barn dances and hay rides, Mort Paradise said.
“I’m kind of overwhelmed right now,” he said. “It hardly seems like 70 years (of marriage).”
The Paradises have three sons, four grandchildren and one great grandchild.
For 40 years, Mort Paradise has served on the Skokie Plan Commission, one of the more demanding and important positions in the village. The Plan Commission makes recommendations to the Village Board on land use proposals and other matters.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, as the mayor’s proclamation last week made clear.
When Mort Paradise came to last week’s Village Board meeting with his wife, it was under the misguided belief that he would be delivering a Plan Commission report. But because of the insistence from certain people that he be in attendance Jan. 21, Paradise admits he was suspicious something might be up.
For many decades, the Paradises have been involved in their synagogues — Skokie Valley when it met at the old Skokie Valley High School (no longer in existence), B’nai Emunah and currently Temple Judea Mizpah, where they are members.
The couple walked the streets collecting for the Community Chest and the Red Feather organizations.
Mort Paradise was a Troop Leader of Pack 215 for the Boy Scouts. He was the vice president of the Lions Club and a former board member of Orchard School and current board member of the East Prairie School Foundation.
Shirley Paradise served as president of every parent teacher association her children attended — Lincoln Junior High School, Madison School and East Prairie School. She also was a den mother for her three sons in the Cub Scouts.
The now-defunct Volunteer Services of Skokie Valley, which matched up people with just the right volunteer opportunities, closed down in 2006 after more than 30 years in operation.
It was no surprise that Shirley Paradise played a big role in the organization and was treasurer when the group came to an end.
“We did good work,” said Shirley Paradise when the Review visited with her seven years ago upon the announcement of the group’s closing. “It’s sad that there’s been a drop-off in volunteering, but life is just different now. We’re in a different time.
Shirley Paradise was 84 at that time — a testament to her determination to give back to the community as long as she could.
“We didn’t do it for plaudits,” she said. “We did it because it was something that needed to be done.”
That pretty much sums up how the Paradises have lived their lives in Skokie. Always there to help, they received a standing ovation from fellow Skokieans who know the huge difference they have made in the village’s life.