Diary of a 100-year-old man.

Previously published Slate articles made new.
May 7 2009 6:03 PM

Leon Despres, RIP

The author of Slate's "Diary of a 100-Year-Old Man" dies at 101.

Former Chicago Alderman Leon Despres died Wednesday of heart failure in his home at the age of 101. Despres was a longtime advocate for civil rights and government reform, frequently butting heads with Mayor Richard J. Daley. He represented the South Side of Chicago from 1955 to 1975.

Over the course of three days in September, Despres kept a diary as part of Slate's special issue on aging. He recounted enjoying an all-you-can-eat Indian buffet on Devon Avenue and listening to Radio Classique beamed into his apartment from Paris. He sang the praises of early bedtimes and frequent naps. Yet even at 100, Despres remained politically engaged. He correctly predicted an Obama victory in November but was disappointed he couldn't do more to help: "I wish I were mobile and could knock on doors for Obama, where needed in adjoining states." He also wrote about the joy a visit from his grandson brought him and, after a successful trip to the cardiologist, composed a poem of thanks to all of his doctors:

I owe them all so very much,
My life and fun and sense of ease
And welcome freedom from disease


The full diary entries can be read by clicking here.

Leon Despres represented Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood as an alderman for two decades. He is the author of Challenging the Daley Machine: A Chicago Alderman's Memoir.


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