Oak Park Record-Store Icon Val Camilletti Dies at 78

Bob Roberts
July 24, 2018 - 7:41 pm

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Legions of Chicago music lovers have lost a friend who was far more than an Oak Park record store owner. 

Hum a song's melody, or quote a line, and odds are Val Camilletti could identify it -- in any genre.

She made her record store, Val's Halla, a must stop for those seeking both the popular and the obscure.  One of the many who cut their teeth in music-related businesses working for Camilletti was WXRT's Terri Hemmert, who called Camilletti a "walking, talking music encyclopedia."

And those who knew her said she was as generous as she was knowledgeable. 

"She supported musicians, venues and kids that were crazy enough to want to work at a record store," Hemmert said.

It may be difficult to believe, but Hemmert was one of them.   

Hemmert was working part-time at WGLD-FM in Oak Park one holiday season in the early 1970s, could not afford Christmas presents and mentioned it to Camilletti, whom she had known for several years. She says Camilletti hired her part-time and gave her the employee discount, which enabled her to give all her family and loved ones records.  Several other times, Camilletti let Hemmert sleep on the floor so she could afford to attend the New Orleans Jazz Festival.

More recently, Hemmert says, she and Camilletti were their own "mutual support network," after both were diagnosed at roughly the same time with cancer.  She says Camilletti refused to undergo debilitating chemotherapy and radiation treatments, preferring to work as long as she could at the store she loved.

Camiletti worked as recently as last week despite the battle with cancer. She was 78.

Funeral arrangements are pending.