Staff at Caledonia Senior Living and Memory Care in North Riverside lowered the flags of Scotland and the Illinois St. Andrew Society to half-staff in memory of Queen Elizabeth II, whose 70-year reign as monarch of the United Kingdom ended upon her death Sept. 8.
The assisted living and skilled nursing facility has called North Riverside home since 1917 was founded in 1901 by Illinois St. Andrews Society, the oldest and longest-running nonprofit in the state.
While Caledonia Senior Living has long served the wider community, its ties to the UK are still cherished and celebrated, and its president, Gus Noble, was recognized in 2021 as an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II “for service to Scottish culture in the United States of America.”
“In one way, she clearly belonged to the United Kingdom, but in another way, she belonged to the world,” said Noble, who moved to Chicago in 1992 and took the reins of the then-Scottish Home in 2004. He became a U.S citizen in 2018. “She was one of the most familiar faces in the world. I’d say we’ve all lost something.”
As news of the queen’s ill health began circulating on the morning of Sept. 8, Noble said he received emails from residents and staff at Caledonia – Scots, Brits and Americans – all expressing concern and sympathy.
“It was quite reassuring, the concern for one another,” Noble said of the reaction to the news.
“It’s the passing of permanence, of someone who was an institution, a touchstone not just for the UK, but for the world. It’s a day where you think, ‘What of tomorrow?’”
Noble said the only comparable passing of a member of the royal family that he can remember is that of Lady Diana, the Princess of Wales, who was killed in a car crash in 1997.
At the time Noble was working at the British Consulate General in Chicago as was part of the team whose job it was to ensure the condolence books were made available to the general public.
For a week after Diana’s death, he made sure that those lined up outside the consulate’s offices in the Wrigley Building were able to safely endure the long wait – Noble said he was on duty into the wee hours of the morning each night – to write a message in the books, which were in the building’s lobby.
“I had a familiar feeling today,” said Noble during a phone interview on Sept. 8.
Noble told the Landmark that he wasn’t sure exactly how Caledonia Senior Living would mark Queen Elizabeth’s passing, though it likely would be in conjunction with her state funeral, which is expected to take place on Sept. 19 at Westminster Abbey. In June, the institution celebrated the queen’s platinum jubilee, with the British Consulate General providing residents with Union Jacks and goodie bags.
Noble has yet to be formally invested as an officer of the Order of the British Empire. When he does, likely in early 2023, it will be at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, the British monarch’s official residence in Scotland, where Queen Elizabeth’s coffin will be taken briefly during her journey from Balmoral Castle to Westminster.
This article originally appeared on the Riverside-Brookfield Landmark.