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John Powers a 'once-in-a-universe happening'



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John Powers after reading some of his favorite stories about Geneva Lake. It was the kickoff event for Love Letters to the Lake, which was sponsored by the Geneva Lake Conservancy.

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Powers is reading to children during a December 2011 Christmas event. (click for larger version)
January 17, 2013 | 05:35 PM
"Each of us is a once-in-a-universe happening " John R. Powers

John R. Powers, 67, of Lake Geneva, an award-winning author, playwright and motivational speaker, died early Thursday morning.

"We lost a remarkable person and a Renaissance man," said Bob Klockars, president of the Geneva Lake Conservancy. "He was always a delight to be around."

Powers was one of the minds behind the conservancy's writing program called "Love Letters to the Lake," in which Geneva Lake residents penned their fondest memories of the lake and the communities that surround it.

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Those letters ran in the Regional News. And Powers appeared in a RealLifeTV.net video in which some of the letters were read aloud.

Good friend and nationally-syndicated cartoonist Joe Martin, also of Lake Geneva, said Powers had just completed a new one-man play and that a group in Chicago was interested in producing it.

"He was in a real up mood," Martin said in a telephone interview.

Powers was reportedly working out at his home either late Wednesday or early Thursday when he felt a pain in his chest.

Martin said he received a phone call at 3 a.m. Thursday in which he was told Powers had a heart attack.

Martin said Powers was "an avid exerciser."

"His father died of a heart attack and he didn't want to die that way," Martin said.

Powers is best remembered as the author of "Do Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?" The 1975 novel is a coming-of-age story in which Powers drew from his life growing up Catholic in southwest Chicago.

The novel was also adapted into a musical which was first performed in Chicago and went on to Broadway.

Power's other successful novels include "The Last Catholic in America" (1973), "The Unoriginal Sinner and the Ice Cream God" (1977), and "The Junk Drawer, Corner Store, Front Porch Blues" (1992). He also wrote the self-help book, "Odditude," in 2007.

Martin said Powers could often be seen toting his "portable office," a wheeled carrier that held his laptop and copious notes on his next project. He would sit at Caribou Coffee writing and drinking coffee, Martin said.

Powers and his wife, JaNelle, have been active in numerous Lake Geneva area charities and causes.

He most recently threw his considerable communication talents into the Friends of Geneva Theater, a nonprofit group working to preserve the Geneva Theater by turning it into a community arts center.

According to information from the web, Powers held a Ph.D. in Communications from Northwestern University and was a professor of speech and performing arts at Northeastern Illinois University.

He received an undergraduate degree in sociology from Loyola University and is a 1964 graduate of Brother Rice High School, Chicago.

He is survived by his wife and two grown daughters, Jacey Powers and Joy Victoria Powers.

UPDATE:

A service is set for Jan. 20 at 5 p.m. at The Chapel on the Hill Church in Linn Township. Visitation will be held from 2 p.m. until the time of church services.

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