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Arthur S. Golab, 88, overcame polio as a young man, was ‘quite the student of history’

Arthur S. Golab

Arthur S. Golab

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Updated: May 5, 2013 2:54PM

In 1955, Arthur S. Golab contracted polio and was told he would never walk again.

But after a year of difficult therapy, he did walk. And by 1960, assisted by a cane, he marched from Grant Park to the Chicago Stadium on West Madison Street in a torchlight parade for presidential candidate John F. Kennedy.

Several decades later, the effects of the disease returned, but Mr. Golab remained active. Riding a scooter, he was a common sight at cultural events and Scrabble tournaments around the city.

Mr. Golab, who earned a philosophy degree at the University of Chicago, worked as a truck dispatcher and was an extra in several movies, died of complications from a stroke March 26 at the Fairmont HealthCare and Rehabilitation Centre in Chicago. He was 88.

A 1942 graduate of Wells High School, he took classes at the U. of C., but was drafted in 1943 and served in a Combat Engineer battalion in the Pacific.

After the war, Mr. Golab returned to college, finished his degree and worked as a supervisor in the 1950 census. He later got involved with the Chicago Negro Art Theater, where he met actress Gwendolyn Davis, whom he married in 1955.

As an interracial couple, they had problems finding a place to live, but later he downplayed the difficulties they faced.

“It was post-war — four years prior it would have been unthinkable, but things were loosening up,” he told his daughter, Elizabeth Ter Haar, in an oral history interview.

He found work in the trucking industry because “a philosophy degree couldn’t get you anywhere, and I had a family to support.”

The couple wound up in Oak Park, where Mr. Golab spent a lot of his time with his kids and never complained about his own problems, his family said.

Mr. Golab retired at age 57 and moved to Hollywood for several years to support his wife’s acting career.

The couple returned to Oak Park, and pursuing an interest in history, Mr. Golab joined a history discussion group at Centuries & Sleuths, the history and mystery book store in Forest Park. On one occasion there, he moderated a “Meeting of the Minds” discussion between actors playing Frankin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Stalin.

“He was quite the student of history,” said bookstore proprietor Augie Aleksy. “He was a smart guy, but he also got along with people; he was a great addition to the group.”

After his wife’s death in 1999, Mr. Golab moved to a senior high rise on the Gold Coast, where he was a founding member of the building choir and drama group and helped write the script for a “Living Newspaper” performance critical of U.S. policies towards the poor.

“He was very passionate about the state of this nation,” said choir director Sheila Jones. “I had the impression he was channelling FDR. Without him we would not have been as courageous in challenging popular opinion.”

Other survivors include two daughters, Carolyn “Skippy” Golab and Angela Cochrane; two sons, Stanley Golab and Arthur J. Golab, who is a Sun-Times staff reporter, and three grandchildren.

A gathering of family and friends will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. April 6, followed by a Time of Remembrance, at Maple Pointe Apartments Community Room, 150 W. Maple, Chicago.

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