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updated: 2/4/2014 11:32 AM

Aurora honors city's history-keeper

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  • John Jaros, executive director of the Aurora Historical Society, celebrates 30 years of preserving the city's history in a reception Feb. 7.

      John Jaros, executive director of the Aurora Historical Society, celebrates 30 years of preserving the city's history in a reception Feb. 7.
    Courtesy of the Aurora Historical Society

 
Aurora Historical Society submission

Thirty years ago, John Jaros was a new college graduate from Chicago when he was hired as the first employee of the Aurora Historical Society. This month, the organization will honor him for his three decades of dedication to preserving and showcasing the city's history.

Jaros, executive director of the Aurora Historical Society, will be honored in a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7, at the historical society headquarters at the Pierce Art and History Center, 20 E. Downer Place, Aurora. Admission is free, although donations are appreciated. For information, visit aurorahistory.net.

The first professional employee to be hired at the venerable 107-year-old society, Jaros, a Chicagoan, arrived in Aurora in 1984 with a newly-minted masters degree in history from DePaul University.

His first four years he actually lived in the 1857 Tanner House Museum, performing caretaker duties there as well as overseeing the acquisition of artifacts, giving tours and creating programs for the public. With time he built up a staff that included four full-time museum professionals, returned the house to its Victorian appearance and developed the downtown history gallery and museum store at the city-owned David L. Pierce Art and History Center.

Along the way he became the ultimate expert on local matters whose top-of-the-head recall of even the most arcane dates and details has made him legendary in a city that can boast 177 years of history. Susan Palmer, professor emerita of history at Aurora University, served four stints on the board of directors and has been president twice.

"John is a great treasure in this town," Palmer said. "He not only knows facts, he has perspective and wisdom, and the charm to convey it all with generosity and warmth. Not every community is that fortunate."

The reception for Jaros will include the presentation of the 2014 Heart for Aurora award, given by the Aurora Historical Society to individuals who have made extraordinary contributions in honoring Aurora's history. The 2013 award went to Bradley Keven Green for his pair of original albums about the city, "Songs for Aurora" and "Blues for Aurora."

The John R. Jaros Fund for the Aurora Historical Society has been established within the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley, and gifts to honor John's service may be directed there by visiting communityfoundationfrv.org/jaros.asp or 111 West Downer Place, Suite 312, Aurora, 60506.

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