Sweet: Park Ridge’s ‘Hill’ makes history

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Hillary Rodham poses in her 1965 senior class portrait from Maine South High School in Park Ridge. | AP file photo

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Born in Chicago, raised in Park Ridge, Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday became the first female presidential nominee of a major party. If elected, Clinton will be the second Illinois native in the Oval Office, the first former first lady to move to the West Wing and the second president in a row with close Chicago ties.

“Hello, fellow Democrats,” Clinton’s pal Betsy Ebeling said as her voice broke during the roll call, when she cast the Illinois delegate votes for the woman she met when they were sixth-graders at the Eugene Field School in the northwest suburb.

“On this historic, wonderful day, in honor of Dorothy and Hugh’s daughter and my sweet friend — I know you’re watching — this one’s for you, Hill,” Ebeling said.

Dorothy and Hugh Rodham’s daughter was born on Oct. 26, 1947, at the old Edgewater Hospital, 5700 N. Ashland Ave. They took their baby home to 5722 N. Winthrop Ave.


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In 1951, the Rodham family moved to 235 Wisner in Park Ridge, a house once recreated in perfect detail by a White House pastry chef to be on display for Christmas parties when President Bill Clinton was in his first term.

President Ronald Reagan holds the solo honor to date of being the only Illinois-born president. Three presidents were elected while living in Illinois: President Barack Obama, born in Hawaii; Ulysses Grant, an Ohio native; and Abraham Lincoln, whose earliest days were in Kentucky.

Clinton, a native North Sider by birth, will be the first female president if she beats Republican Donald Trump. She would be following Obama, the nation’s first African-American president, a South Sider by choice.

Once Clinton left Park Ridge for Wellesley and then Yale Law School, she never returned. She planted herself in Arkansas when she married Bill Clinton, and after two terms in the White House, adopted New York as her home, quickly winning election as a senator from the Empire State.

But if you listen carefully, you can hear when Clinton speaks the hard a’s of a Chicago North Side accent that travels with her.

Betsy Ebeling, Hillary Clinton’s friend since sixth grade at Eugene Field School in Park Ridge, at the Democratic National Convention.

Betsy Ebeling, Hillary Clinton’s friend since sixth grade at Eugene Field School in Park Ridge, at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday night. | Lynn Sweet/Sun-Times

Lynn Sweet/Sun-Times

Clinton has never left behind the friends she grew up with.

After Eugene Field, Clinton attended Emerson Jr. High and then three years at Maine East in Park Ridge. When Maine South opened, Clinton and Ebeling moved to the new school, graduating in 1965.

As kids, Ebeling and Clinton would take buses to the Foster Avenue beach. They went to Wilmette when they could drive. They would shop at Old Orchard in Skokie or dress up and go to the Loop, shopping at Marshall Field’s and eating at a Stouffers.

They went to concerts at Ravinia — they liked folksingers — and the old Arie Crown Theater at McCormick Place.

When Clinton was first lady, the Maine South Class of 1965 held its 30th reunion in Washington in 1995. Clinton opened the White House to her classmates for tours the next day.

A group of pals from high school and college has stayed together. Kevin O’Keefe, who Clinton met when they were on double date in college, helped run her 2016 Illinois Democratic primary campaign. Ebeling said nine Maine South classmates were at the convention on Tuesday.

The gang has been with Clinton in the good times, Bill Clinton inaugurations as Arkansas governor and president, and the bad, the Monica Lewinsky scandal and Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial in the Senate.

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Ebeling, a resident of Arlington Heights, and Clinton always stay in touch. They trade reading lists, and fiction writer Louise Penny is a current favorite.

Some of the chatty emails they exchanged — most about mutual friends — were made public as part of the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of State. Clinton calls Betsy Voda in the emails, using the given name of her chum.

Clinton titled her 2003 memoir “Living History,” and on Tuesday she added another chapter.

“So exciting that my mom’s lifelong best friend, Betsy Ebeling, got to cast votes for my mom on behalf of Illinois!” Chelsea Clinton said in a tweet.

Chelsea’s mother said in her own tweet, “This moment is for every little girl who dreams big. #WeMadeHistory”

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