Patch Portrait: After Retirement, Volunteer Work Begins

Oak Parker Zeno Jacquat devotes time and talent to local literacy group.

Zeno Jacquat's tutoring sessions sometimes move outside of a library conference room and into supermarkets and taverns, where his students can pick up on dialect that may otherwise be impossible to teach. 

For about 12 years, the 77-year-old Jacquat has been teaching classes for Literacy Volunteers of Western Cook County, an Oak Park-based nonprofit which pairs tutors with students looking to improve their English.

Most of his students are foreigners, and, in many cases, working professionals whose chances of advancing their careers — an architect from Poland, a teacher from Mexico —are crippled by their lack of language skills. 

For Jacquat, the instruction comes naturally. Fluent in five languages, including his native Swiss, he spent his career as a service technician for big global machinery firms, explaining technical details to factory and machine shop workers across the world and translating operating manuals. 

Back at the Forest Park Public Library on a recent evening, he's greeted warmly by librarians with hugs and smiles before a session with a Korean laundromat owner. 


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