DeKALB – Dolores Graves knows all too well that life finds a way. After all, her dinosaur, Paris, laid an egg last summer.
Graves, 69, a retired banker, lives in the 200 block of Tilton Park Drive in DeKalb, along with two dogs, a Prius painted in red ombre and an 8-foot, 230-pound Parasauro-
lophus named Paris keeping watch over her yard.
“I guess you could say I’m the crazy lady on the corner,” Graves said.
Paris is made of resin. She is nearly 10 feet long and 3 feet wide. It’s a sight not easily missed by neighbors.
“I told my 5-year-old grandson who lives in Aurora that I had a surprise for him, and when he visited, he gasped and said, ‘Is that a real dinosaur?’ ”
“[Graves] is awesome,” said Christopher Byrant, Graves’ across-the-street neighbor, who said his kids love Paris. “I grew up actually right where she bought [the dinosaur], so I know all about that [store].”
During an outing with her ex-husband years ago in Bolingbrook, Graves drove past Boeger’s Landscape Supply, 8700 Lemont Road in Darien, and they had a number of off-beat garden statues on display – including dinosaurs.
“One day, I wandered in there, and they had an Allosaurus (similar to a T-Rex), and this one,” Graves said, gesturing out the window to where Paris stood among a grove of trees, nestled in the snow. “So I went with her. I’m calling it a ‘she’ because a month or so later, she laid an egg.”
Indeed, a picture from last summer – weeks after Graves paid $3,000 to buy Paris and have her transported to DeKalb in the bed of a pickup truck – shows a large, white, egg-looking mushroom cap growing underneath the statue.
Graves laughed about the memory as she sat in her cozy living room Tuesday. At her side, a plastic skeleton lounged in a rocking chair, clad in a blue T-shirt with a picture of a Belgian Tervuren shepherd.
Graves grew up in Downers Grove in a family of aspiring fossil hunters.
They made frequent trips to Thornton Quarry, a 11/2-mile diameter quarry south of Chicago that is one of the world’s largest, to hunt for dinosaur fossils.
“When I was a kid, my brother [Ed Tonry Jr.] was very interested in archaeology,” Graves said. “My dad [Ed Tonry Sr.] took us fossil hunting all the time because he drove a delivery truck for stone companies, so we always knew when they were going to be blasting the quarries and when stuff would be there.
“I used to tell my brother that if he ever discovered a dinosaur, he would have to name it after me – a ‘Dolores-saurus.’ He got out of the archaeology thing, and I decided, ‘Well, if I want a dinosaur, I’ll just get it on my own.’ ”
Graves has lived in her Tilton Park Drive home since September 2015. She frequents The Field Museum in Chicago, where she and her brother attend members-only nights. At the museum, her dad has 23 drawers full of donated fossils he found on family quarry trips.
Her uncle found three dinosaur footprints on an amateur dig in Massachusetts, which also were donated to the museum.
“One day, [my brother and I] were like, ‘I wonder what happened to Dad’s fossils?’ ”
Graves said, recalling a recent “royal tour” treatment the museum gave the siblings to unearth their dad’s old collection.
After her father passed away, she and her brother wanted to scatter their dad’s ashes in Thornton Quarry but couldn’t find a good spot, so his ashes were spread on Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska and on a Northwest Cruise Line private island in the Caribbean.
Graves only worries slightly about what Paris will bring to her reputation as the “neighborhood eccentric” – her words.
“But hey, if you can’t have fun in life, why live it?”