(CBS) – Nelson Mandela holds a special place in the hearts of many Chicagoans.

CBS 2’s Pamela Jones talks with residents in Hyde Park.

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South African graduate student Renju Varghese was walking around the University of Chicago campus with a heavy heart Thursday, hours after Mandela’s death was announced.

“I think if you talk with any South African, we only have the utmost respect and love and admiration for Tata Madiba. When I heard the news, I was extremely saddened,” Varghese says.

“Tata Madiba” is a respectful term, referring to Mandela as the father of his klan.

When Mandela was voted in as president in his nation’s first multi-racial elections in 1994, Varghese was just 8 years old, living with the turbulence around her.

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“I remember being in school and my teacher actually telling us the importance of the role that President Mandela played in our lives,” Varghese said.

As others headed home in heart of Hyde Park, a racially diverse community on Chicago’s South Side, they heard about Mandela’s passing, too.

Among them was photographer Spencer Bibbs. He said he spent several minutes thinking about Mandela’s legacy.

People at the iconic Valois restaurant discussed the loss over dinner.

John Palla is from Cameroon.

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“He did not demand power in South Africa, he commanded it, just because of who he was,” Palla says.