Val Camilletti was larger than life, and her store has been an Oak Park fixture for the last 46 years. Seeing the outpouring of personal stories, and the myriad ways in which Val has touched people’s lives has been comforting, but also deepens the loss the community feels today. She truly understood the importance of community and did so much to foster the connections we all share, even beyond the village of Oak Park and the Chicagoland area. She was the epicenter of so much of what makes the world great; from music to theater to food, books, stories. Through the store and her presence, she brought so much love and so many people closer together.
Val has been a part of my family for three generations. She worked at Capitol Records with my Great Uncle Bill and my Grandma has been a regular customer. My Uncle Chris’s high school band played her first anniversary sale, and in more recent years the group my Mom and I play in have graced the stage. The best man at my wedding has been helping Val keep shop for the last 17 years. I was never employed at the store, but was still given an employee discount, and I’ve volunteered for every event that they’ve needed an extra set of hands for ever since. This is my personal connection to the store, but the most astounding thing about today is that this isn’t an anomaly. So many people have similar stories about how Val was a part of their life, their family.
As things took a turn for the worse over the last few weeks, several of Val’s closest friends have done everything they could to try to take care of Val and make sure she was never alone. She’s had angels looking in on her throughout her end of life care, and through all of this the store has been open for regular business. A network of her closest friends, the family she chose, has stepped up to manage her affairs. While I’m not privy to all of the financial details, I do know that Val, like many small business owners, incurred some personal debt to keep the store open. This now leaves the feasibility of keeping the store running in question. Moreover, it leaves Shayne and Val's housemate, Michael, in limbo. Though Shayne has been working at the store throughout this ordeal, would like to keep the store open, and would love to continue working there to keep Val's dream alive, financially, he doesn't know if it will be possible. Michael, who's lived with Val for years, would not be able to maintain the cost of the house on his own.
I don’t want to imagine an Oak Park without the store. I want us all to be able to nurture this connection that Val gave us, and to have that continue to be a vibrant part of the community and to celebrate the things Val valued. If Val was also a part of your family, please help support her legacy.
All donations will go toward managing Val's estate, supporting the operating costs of Val's halla Records (including Shayne's salary if necessary) and helping Michael with mortgage costs. Even if you aren’t able to contribute, let’s all continue sharing our stories of what a special, amazing person Val was, and please spread the word. Thanks!