Jack Benny Tree to be planted in Waukegan

In March of 1939, Waukegan, Illinois honored its favorite son, comedian Jack Benny, by planting an elm tree in front of City Hall. Unfortunately, the tree was weakened by a disease and died several months later. This prompted Fred Allen, another comedian engaged in a long-running feud with Benny, to observe, "How can a tree live in Waukegan when the sap is in California?"

Jack Benny’s comedy endures today and continues to inspire new fans. The International Jack Benny Fan Club, active for over 25 years, has nearly 2,000 members in 19 countries. Benny fans as young as pre-teens and as far away as Malaysia, South Africa, and Iceland still check in to obtain information and material from Benny’s 60-year show business legacy.

To honor Jack Benny’s continuing popularity and timeless humor, a new Jack Benny tree will be planted at the Jack Benny Center for the Arts in Waukegan. This tree will be planted by Waukegan Mayor Richard Hyde and Laura Leff, President of the International Jack Benny Fan Club. Ken Erickson of Lionel & Aurelio Landscape is donating the Autumn Blaze Maple. Other sponsors are the City of Waukegan and the Waukegan Parks District.

"Jack Benny loved Waukegan," said Leff. "People say that he always carried a bit of Waukegan with him, keeping the humility and friendliness of the Midwestern town where he grew up. We are pleased to remember him by adding beauty to a place that bears Jack Benny’s name and contributes to the arts and culture of his beloved home town."

"Jack Benny put Waukegan on the map," said Mayor Hyde. "We are happy to pay tribute to this man who has given us so much laughter and enjoyment through the years."

The trees will be planted Tuesday, May 31, 2005 at 1:00 P.M. at the Jack Benny Center for the Arts, 39 Jack Benny Drive, in Waukegan, Illinois.

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