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The Paramus Post - Greater Paramus News and Lifestyle Webzine
Friday, July 23 2021 @ 02:25 PM EDT
The Paramus Post - Greater Paramus News and Lifestyle Webzine
Friday, July 23 2021 @ 02:25 PM EDT
The Paramus Post - Greater Paramus News and Lifestyle Webzine

Room fit for leader of free world

The room that LeGrand "Lee" Malany calls the Jefferson Room in his Springfield, Ill., home was supposed to be a study when it was first remodeled years ago.

But years of busyness that have included the hosting of houseguests as well as Malany's trips abroad put a hold on its intended use.

Still, the room gives tribute to a statelier time.It has a chandelier, blue carpeting and presidential-style blue and gold drapes with recessed lighting behind them. The walls have flocked gold wallpaper. There's a fireplace, although it's not used, and textiles from around the world.

The room also includes what Malany, an attorney and engineer, calls a "freedom wall," on which copies of significant historical documents are displayed. Included are copies of the Magna Carta, the Emancipation Proclamation and the Virginia Declaration of Rights (which Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, used for the opening paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence).

"I had to decide what to call (the room), so I called it the Jefferson Room. I like Jefferson," Malany said.

"The theory behind the room," he said, "was that I needed a place to put memorabilia about the freedom wall and that kind of stuff."

The room - originally a kitchen - was remodeled shortly after the home was purchased in the early '70s and Malany moved in with his wife, Barb, and their three children.

"Actually, there were four full kitchens in this house," said Malany, who said that the home's previous occupants might have broken the single-family home into self-contained units.

"When we bought it, we didn't need all that," he said. "We ripped out the kitchen and everything.

"I ripped the wood out of the ceiling ... used it to make these pillars and the other things around. I built the bookcases and the crown molding."

The couple intended to make the room a sitting room/library, but it is used primarily for sitting, watching TV and sleeping. Malany hopes that someday it will be used for its original purpose.

"Someday when I retire, if that happens," he said, "I'll come back and start working on (the house) again."

And the Malanys have been busy.

Through the years, they've housed several teenagers (in addition to their own), including foster children, interns with the Illinois Governmental Internship Program and foreign exchange students.

About four years ago, Malany embarked on a new endeavor that keeps him overseas, helping with rebuilding housing and infrastructure following major disasters.

Serving with such organizations as Shelter For Life and the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, the expeditionary arm of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Malany has traveled to several countries.

He's worked in Kosovo, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Darfur region of Sudan.

"Last year was one of the busiest times I've ever had. ... I was in the Sudan in Darfur for four months and came back," said Malany, a former board member and construction director for Habitat for Humanity-Sangamon County.

"I was in West Darfur, and I came back here just as Katrina hit. I went to Louisiana, Baton Rouge, for 23 days with the Red Cross, and then went over to Mississippi for 2 1/2 months."

In early December, Malany traveled to Pakistan to help after the destructive earthquake had left millions homeless there. "I just got back June 15," he said.

As of early August, Malany was scheduled to return to Pakistan for a four-month stay through a special USAID contract; he'll work specifically in the government office on reconstruction.

Malany has returned from his trips overseas with special items for the Jefferson Room. Among such treasures are a rug from Pakistan and a bedspread from Afghanistan.

His wife loves the room - now.

"It's been one of the most beautiful rooms in the house. When it started off, I thought it was a little elaborate for a home just because I've grown up in such a simplistic environment," said Barb Malany, whose parents were in the military and moved the family every three years. She recalled that their bedrooms had beds, chairs and "that's about it," she said.

She said she initially didn't grasp what her husband was trying to do with the Jefferson Room. Now she enjoys the room for what it represents. It's a conceptually interesting and thoughtful room, she said.

"When you go to a museum, you're thinking about yourself and the paintings and the world," said Barb Malany. "When you are in the Jefferson Room, you're thinking about your democracy and your place in the world, in a sense."

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