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Auroran’s new book captures ‘Legendary Locals’

Jo Fredell Higgins has written book about legendary Aurorans.

Jo Fredell Higgins has written a book about legendary Aurorans.

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Updated: December 19, 2012 1:02PM

Local author and historian Jo Fredell Higgins’ new book, “Legendary Locals of Aurora,” is a celebration of Aurora’s 175th birthday year featuring 150 leaders from all walks of life.

“These are the cream of the cream,” Higgins said of trying to select and condense the accomplishments and contributions of the city’s notable citizens in just 128 pages. Of the 150 profiles, 45 individuals are deceased.

The tome was published by Arcadia Publishing, a leading national publisher of local history works, and is her sixth title with Arcadia.

Among those selected for “Legendary Locals” was Sister Dorothy Burns, longtime leader of Mercy Hospital, because of her “lifetime of giving to the community.”

Higgins said Burns’ parents emigrated from Ireland in the 1920s and raised three children in Chicago. After studies in financial management for hospital administrators at DePaul, St. Louis and Notre Dame, Burns took her vows as a Sister of Mercy and began working at the old St. Joseph’s Hospital in 1967 and eventually served as vice president and chief executive officer of Mercy Hospital from 1990 to 1996.

Burns currently resides at McAuley Convent in Aurora, Higgins said.

Higgins said people from “every corner” of Aurora suggested she speak with former Mayor Al McCoy. “Of course his credentials are truly amazing,” she said.

McCoy, a 1944 Marmion Academy alum, enlisted in the U.S. Navy and earned five battle stars. He married Mary Ann Malmborg in 1954 and together they raised two children. McCoy attended the University of Montana on a football scholarship and was elected mayor of Aurora in 1965 and served until 1977.

Higgins said during his tenure the city annexed 6,800 acres of land, the second-largest annexation in Illinois history. He reorganized the Aurora Police Department and saved the Paramount Theatre from demolition in 1978.

Higgins said she spoke with the former mayor at his kitchen table and asked if he realized that everywhere she went his name was brought up as a person she had to include in the book.

“He looked down, very humble, I could see he was very emotional and he thanked me for that,” Higgins said. “I find in so many cases, the more they have done, the less they think they have accomplished. It is the truly phenomenal leaders who have accomplished a great deal who don’t think they should be included in the book.”

Higgins will hold a signing for “Legendary Locals of Aurora” from 1 to 3 p.m. Dec. 8 at the David L. Pierce Art and History Center, 20 E. Downer Place.

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