Local legend L. Glenn O’Kray is a man of many hats. Officially, he serves his beloved Dearborn as the city’s charter commissioner and member of the historical commission. He volunteers countless hours for the Dearborn Historical Museum, literally writing his way into the history books. Then he spends many hours as a caring friend to all who are lucky enough to know him.
“Restless. Affable. Curious. All of these qualities keep Glenn going through life’s many adventures,” local author Christopher Merlo recalls. you couldn’t pay to sit still.
Chris is the co-editor of Glenn’s latest book, Stories from the Sidewalk, which spent over two years alongside Glenn refining his masterpiece. Despite the constant changes in the editing process, Glenn has no problem keeping up. “He is plugged into the dynamism of life and he inspires those around him who are standing still to get going. He is irrefutable proof of the adage, if you want something done, ask a busy person.
Glenn’s energy is one of the reasons he has made so many friends in town. Over the years he has interviewed hundreds of residents. His gift for gossip has filled a trilogy of books titled Best Dearborn Stories and countless contributions to Press & Guide. His series of articles “Dearborn Homes and the People Who Lived There” became a crowd favorite.
He never tires of hearing new stories. “I don’t think Glenn has ever come across a story he didn’t like!” says Karen Milligan of the Riverbend Neighborhood Association. “He’s a wonderful listener. He asks you a question and before you know it, you’ve told him about the time you were arrested! Glenn is an ‘old soul’ with a young heart – a rare bird indeed!”
Glenn’s “old soul” led him to passionately serve the Dearborn Historical Museum. He regularly lectures here on his favorite subjects – local history, old houses and close friends – with flying colors. “He can fit an audience in the palm of his hand,” says Karen. Viewers often lean over the edge of their seats and always share a few laughs.
Perhaps it was Glenn’s love of local history that allowed him to meet so many people. “He’s always curious about the people and places in Dearborn,” says Sharon Morton, a Long Boulevard neighbor. “He turns that curiosity and his learnings into action, writing books, serving on committees, and sharing his lifelong learnings with younger generations of Dearbornites.”
Glenn even inspires friends and neighbors without leaving home! “Glenn’s fence and yard are inspirational to me,” Sharon recalls. “He uses his fence as an extension of his open heart, offering a container for prayer requests, a small free library, inspirational plaques and signs promoting community activities.”
Indeed, the Wagner Court home he shares with his wife, Jane, has become a landmark. Mariya Fogarasi, president of Preservation Dearborn, credits Glenn’s open house with inspiring her activism. “A cherished part of Homecoming was the annual yard sale at the corner of Morley and Wagner Court. Little did I know the seller was a true pillar of Dearborn history and, more than that, a man who would play a huge part inspiring me to help promote, preserve and research local history.
Glenn always sets the stage for a good time. “There’s blueberry banana bread, there’s the occasional card or item dropped in the mailbox at 6 a.m., there’s the little free library, there’s a banner on the fence proclaiming always a valid cause, there is a white car with the license plate “DEARBRN” (which pretty much says it all!)”.
Such testimony is living proof that, even among his friends and admirers, Glenn wears many hats. “Glenn is a real neighbor, in the best sense of the word! Sharon said. “A fellow writer, historian and friend,” says Chris. “Someone who never gives up, who can move mountains, who makes an unforgettable impression on everyone who meets him,” says Mariya.
Truly, there is no one in the world quite like L. Glenn O’Kray. How lucky we are that he lives here in Dearborn.
Ian Tomashik is a member of the Dearborn Historical Commission.