Wednesday, May 16, 2018 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Featured image: Northica Stone during an event in Maywood several years ago. | File
Northica Hillery Stone, who as the longtime head of the nonprofit Operation Uplift and founder of the West Town Museum of Cultural History in Maywood served for decades as the chief archivist of local memories and legacies, died on May 16.
Stone’s death was confirmed by multiple relatives and members of her longtime place of worship, Second Baptist Church in Maywood. She had been hospitalized for some time due to an unspecified illness, they said. Stone, who lived in Bellwood, was 85 years old.
In 1968, Stone’s husband, George E. Stone, founded Operation Uplift — a nonprofit that offers job training, job counseling and pre-employment skills. In its heyday, the organization was a responsible for placing local minorities into jobs, and implementing some of the area’s first affirmative action programs, at companies such as Illinois Bell (now At&T), Jewel and Nicor.
When George Stone died in 1988, Operation Uplift’s board of directors sought a way to sustain his spirit and to perpetuate the organization that he founded. Northica realized that a museum was a two-tiered solution to both Uplift’s and Maywood’s problems.
“We saw that Maywood was under-served and the history that Maywood had was being lost,” Northica said in a 2013 interview with Village Free Press.
The West Town opened in 1995 as a division of Operation Uplift and has since been inundated with the relics of Proviso Township residents who hope to preserve something of their past.
“Once we put the word out, they started sending us items and they were glad we were doing this,” Jeri Stenson, the West Town’s volunteer curator, said five years ago.
In recent years, the West Town has been a gathering place for various community events and social functions. As she aged, Stone transferred leadership responsibilities to her son, George Stone III.
One of Northica’s last public appearances was at Operation Uplift’s 50th Anniversary gala, held at the Diplomat West Banquet Hall in Elmhurst in January. The event burnished the organization’s influence in Proviso Township and underscored what the West Town founder said during that interview in 2013.
“The museum still has a place in Maywood,” Northica said back then.
Funeral arrangements are still pending. More as this story develops. VFP
For more local news, ‘Like’ our Facebook page