If you're wondering why flags at Geneva City Hall are at half staff this week, it's because Geneva lost a special man this week, Nils Erik Lennart Jönsson, owner of The Gift Box and Cole Travel Service in Geneva.
Jonsson, 88, was a resident of St. Charles whose Swedish heritage is deeply rooted in the Tri-Cities and particularly in Geneva. He was grand marshal of last year's Swedish Days parade, a wonderful testament to the man who was in many ways synonymous with the heritage and history of the granddaddy of Chicago-area summer festivals.
Jonsson died Sunday, Aug. 25, at Delnor Hospital, surrounded by family and friends.
According to the Gift Box's "About Us" web page, Jonsson was an employee of since he immigrated from southern Sweden in 1954. He took over the shop when another Geneva legend, Edythe Anderson, retired.
"Lennart's ability to connect with people and his passion for all things Scandinavian has helped the store in its success," the website says. "Customers often know him by name and stop by frequently with inquires about Scandinavia and to hear a good story. They appreciate his experience and expertise. It is also not uncommon for people to come in and enjoy being able to 'talar svenska' with Lennart."
Mayor Kevin Burns said at Tuesday's City Council meeting that Lennart was a Geneva legend who will be greatly missed, and the Gift Box will always have a place in the "long, storied history on State Street."
Burns said a memorial service is being planned, most likely for sometime in the next month.