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posted: 8/20/2011 5:00 AM

St. Charles parks stalwart Carol Glemza to retire after 69 years

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  • Carol Glemza, 87, will retire Sept. 1 after working for the St. Charles Park District for 69 years. Glemza was honored Friday with a retirement party at the Baker Community Center. Here she is overwhelmed by a standing ovation at the end of her retirement lunch.

       Carol Glemza, 87, will retire Sept. 1 after working for the St. Charles Park District for 69 years. Glemza was honored Friday with a retirement party at the Baker Community Center. Here she is overwhelmed by a standing ovation at the end of her retirement lunch.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Co-worker Candy Boulay pins a corsage on Carol Glemza, 87, who is retiring after working 69 years for the St. Charles Park District.

       Co-worker Candy Boulay pins a corsage on Carol Glemza, 87, who is retiring after working 69 years for the St. Charles Park District.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Video: Carol Glemza's retirement

 
 

When the curly-haired youngster who could barely see the pay counter reached as high as he could to plunk down 5 cents to enter Pottawatomie Pool, Carol Glemza always knew who it was.

"Fred Norris was a regular at the pool, I do remember that," Glemza said of the young lad who would one day be mayor of St. Charles.

Given plenty of time to reflect, it is likely the 87-year-old Glemza could remember hundreds of kids she came to know during her years as a part-time employee at the pool.

But she came to know many more kids and park district directors, board members and employees during a 69-year career with the St. Charles Park District that will come to an end Sept. 1.

Friday's retirement party at the Baker Community Center started the farewells for Glemza, whose family has had ties to the park district for more than 100 years.

It was Glemza's father, Algert Swanson, who was on the town's recreation board in the early 1930s and was instrumental in securing a federal Works Progress Administration grant to build Pottawatomie Pool, the Pottawatomie Park band shell, Pottawatomie Golf Course and the softball field.

"That was so exciting and everyone was so happy because they would be going back to work during The Depression," Glemza said. "It was one of the biggest grants given and it gave the city so much."

The pool was recently renamed Swanson Pool in honor of Glemza and her father. It was a fitting gesture by the park district, considering Glemza was the first person to step foot into the new pool in 1938, and began her park district career as a 15-year-old at the pool payment counter on Aug. 12, 1942.

She continued to work part-time until graduating from the University of Illinois in 1947 and coming back to work full-time for the park district. It became even more of a family affair when she met her future husband, Ernest Glemza, who worked in the golf course pro shop.

"Eventually, I moved over to the Baker Community Center office after the Baker board made an arrangement to work with the park district," Glemza said.

As a business manager and administrative assistant in that office, Glemza worked for a string of park district directors -- Dick Buerle, John Foens, Jim Ball, Ross Riecks, Jim Breen and current director Ray Ochromowicz.

Breen had a longer tenure than any, serving as director for 19 years -- and counting on Glemza every step along the way.

"Let's face it, Carol for all practical purposes is the park district historian and I relied on her so often to find out when certain things changed and who did what and when," Breen said. "She was so essential in so many functions that were integral to the park district and the Baker Community Center."

Jim Cook, who has served as a park board member or president for the past 29 years, also heaped praise on Glemza's role with the park district.

"Everyone calls her a historian, and there is no question she knows the answer or can find it in a heart beat," Cook said. "But when I think of Carol, I think of her commitment and loyalty to the park district and board, and it is unparalleled."

In addition to her park district jobs, Glemza has also been on the Baker Community Board for more than 50 years, along with fellow board member Melvin Peterson.

"I've known her for more than 60 years," the 90-year-old Peterson said. "Between the two of us, we know more about that (Baker) building than anyone because we handled all of the building maintenance and the budget to go with it."

As for that curly-haired kid showing up at the pool each day? Norris said he was at the pool so often it was almost like Glemza helped raise him.

"I don't even remember learning how to swim, I was doing it before I could walk, probably," Norris said. "And Carol was there already, and you could tell her commitment was deep, and it ended up spanning generations."

Norris calls Glemza "a walking encyclopedia" when it comes to knowing about the start of the park district foundation and the various land acquisitions that benefited the parks.

"She can give it all to you, chapter and verse," Norris said.

So what will Carol Glemza do in her retirement?

Norris wants her on the foundation board. Peterson wants her on the Baker Community Center board. And Breen thinks she may still work part-time.

"I may volunteer for some things, but I should be able to find some fun things to do," Glemza said. "I have enjoyed my work very much and it's a wonderful park district and it was so enjoyable to see it change and grow."

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