Lily Pagratis Venson, 86, a longtime community advocate, Chicago resident and SPJ member for over 40 years, died June 27. She was an award-winning journalist, a feature writer for Lerner newspapers and active member of the Chicago Headline Club, an SPJ chapter. She was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for more than 100 articles over eight years on a successful community crusade to preserve 100 acres of private golf land to establish Warren Park in West Rogers Park in Chicago.
Venson was awarded a plaque for excellence in reporting on this crusade from Governor Richard Ogilvie. Today, Warren Park is used by Chicagoans as a result of her perseverance.
As a dedicated journalist, and with the power of the pen, Venson fought land developers and city politicians who were intent on converting the golf course into a lucrative housing development.
Venson covered the Selma-to-Montgomery march for voting rights led by Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1965, she was assigned to join the last day of King’s march on Washington, D.C. and witness King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Her front-page article about the Civil Rights event was titled “The Dust of Alabama is on My Shoes.”
She later served as Public Information Officer for Cook County Hospital and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, during which time she received awards for journalism from the Illinois Press Women’s Association and the National Federation of Press Women. She was recently honored by the National Federation of Press Women as a 45-year member.
Venson met her late husband George while in the choir at St. Andrew Greek Orthodox Church, and the couple married in 1944.