Peoria Heights community mourns loss of independent bookstore owner, arts advocate
The Village of Peoria Heights community is mourning the loss of Mary Beth Nebel, an independent bookstore owner and committed patron of the arts.
Nebel, a former attorney, owned and operated I Know You Like A Book on North Prospect Road for more than 15 years. According to a Facebook post on the business’ page, she passed away on July 6 in Chicago.
“Mary Beth was a huge asset to our community,” said Peoria Heights Chamber of Commerce President Barb Milaccio. “She was such an advocate for all types of art, whether it be visual arts or literature.”
Milaccio said Nebel was prolific in hosting book clubs, promoting poetry to children and assisting in community events and art fairs. In the comments on the Facebook page post, some authors remember Nebel as the first person to give them an opportunity to host a book signing or meet-and-greet event.
“She was fantastic,” said Stacy Hardin, owner of the Peoria Book Rack. “She was really knowledgeable about books. And she just, you know, had a lot of events at her store and really tried to get the books out there to the community.”
Hardin said Nebel also was extremely supportive of her fellow bookstore proprietors and her loss will be profoundly felt.
“I just think that it's really important to make sure that everybody, everybody knows that that legacy stays alive,” Hardin said.
Of the many events Nebel hosted and participated in, Milaccio remembers one having special importance.
“Every year, Mary Beth was the first person to jump up and say Santa has to read at the bookstore,” said Milaccio. “And it’s just beautiful memories that we have. Those little kids always left with a little book as a souvenir.”
A visitation for Nebel is planned for 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, July 19 at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Peoria. A funeral Mass follows at 10 a.m.