Breaking News Bar
updated: 3/14/2014 2:33 PM

'Whimsical' sculpture to honor Naperville Humane Society founders

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • Cleo Keller, volunteer at the Naperville Area Humane Society, visits with one of the cats in the organization's shelter on Diehl Road. Keller is one of the society's founding members and has been volunteering for its entire 35-year history.

       Cleo Keller, volunteer at the Naperville Area Humane Society, visits with one of the cats in the organization's shelter on Diehl Road. Keller is one of the society's founding members and has been volunteering for its entire 35-year history.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • The Naperville Area Humane Society is raising funds to install this sculpture of a dog and cat by artist Dale Rogers near the Naperville Park District administration building and Centennial Beach. The society hopes to dedicate the sculpture in the summer or fall to celebrate its 35th anniversary.

      The Naperville Area Humane Society is raising funds to install this sculpture of a dog and cat by artist Dale Rogers near the Naperville Park District administration building and Centennial Beach. The society hopes to dedicate the sculpture in the summer or fall to celebrate its 35th anniversary.
    Courtesy of Gail Diedrichsen

  • Cleo Keller has been volunteering at the Naperville Area Humane Society for 35 years and is one of its founding members. She and humane society founder Ardis McCallion will be honored on a plaque to be installed with a sculpture of a cat and dog the society is installing this summer or fall.

       Cleo Keller has been volunteering at the Naperville Area Humane Society for 35 years and is one of its founding members. She and humane society founder Ardis McCallion will be honored on a plaque to be installed with a sculpture of a cat and dog the society is installing this summer or fall.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Cleo Keller, volunteer greeter at the Naperville Area Humane Society, chats during a recent Friday afternoon shift with Brendan Sheehy of Glen Ellyn who had just adopted Lulu at the shelter. Keller is one of the humane society's founding members and will be honored when the society installs a sculpture this summer near Centennial Beach and the Naperville Riverwalk.

      Cleo Keller, volunteer greeter at the Naperville Area Humane Society, chats during a recent Friday afternoon shift with Brendan Sheehy of Glen Ellyn who had just adopted Lulu at the shelter. Keller is one of the humane society's founding members and will be honored when the society installs a sculpture this summer near Centennial Beach and the Naperville Riverwalk.
    Bev Horne/bhorne@dailyherald.co

  • Dogs in the Naperville Area Humane Society's shelter await their turn as longtime volunteer Cleo Keller feeds them small pieces of hot dogs for a treat.

       Dogs in the Naperville Area Humane Society's shelter await their turn as longtime volunteer Cleo Keller feeds them small pieces of hot dogs for a treat.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Cleo Keller feeds pieces of hot dog to pooches in the Naperville Area Humane Society's shelter as she volunteers on a recent afternoon.

       Cleo Keller feeds pieces of hot dog to pooches in the Naperville Area Humane Society's shelter as she volunteers on a recent afternoon.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • This rendering shows where a sculpture of a dog and cat commissioned to mark the 35th anniversary of the Naperville Area Humane Society will be installed this summer or fall between the Naperville Park District administration building and Centennial Beach.

      This rendering shows where a sculpture of a dog and cat commissioned to mark the 35th anniversary of the Naperville Area Humane Society will be installed this summer or fall between the Naperville Park District administration building and Centennial Beach.
    Courtesy of Gail Diedrichsen

  • Ardis McCallion, founder of the Naperville Area Humane Society, grew up on a farm in South Dakota and said she always felt a connection to animals, especially dogs, cats and horses. She will be honored on a plaque to be installed with a sculpture the society plans to unveil this summer or fall to mark its 35th anniversary.

      Ardis McCallion, founder of the Naperville Area Humane Society, grew up on a farm in South Dakota and said she always felt a connection to animals, especially dogs, cats and horses. She will be honored on a plaque to be installed with a sculpture the society plans to unveil this summer or fall to mark its 35th anniversary.
    Courtesy of Gail Diedrichsen

  • Video: Volunteering for animals

 
 

A "whimsical" sculpture of a dog and a cat will be installed this year near Centennial Beach in downtown Naperville to honor the efforts of two women who founded an organization to help animals 35 years ago.

Ardis McCallion and Cleo Keller will be recognized on a plaque when the Naperville Area Humane Society's sculpture is unveiled this summer or fall behind the Naperville Park District administration center on Jackson Avenue.

McCallion, the society's founder, and Keller, a founding member and longest consistent volunteer, are both 89 and not involved in plans for the artwork, which will be visible from the city's popular Riverwalk.

But those who are fundraising for the $10,000 sculpture say it will serve the dual purpose of thanking the public for support during the humane society's first 35 years and honoring the two people who were most instrumental in getting it started.

"We decided it's a good way to honor these ladies," said longtime humane society member Gail Diedrichsen. "We thought it was really important to honor people, recognize people and give them well-deserved accolades while they're still on the planet."

Naperville park board members agreed, approving the sculpture's location on park district property during a meeting Thursday night.

Now, humane society members can finish fundraising for the 7-foot-tall and 8-foot-long steel sculpture they have commissioned from artist Dale Rogers, hoping to install it by the society's official 35th anniversary in August or around its annual Black Cat Ball fundraiser in October.

"It's very whimsical because it has a cutout bone in the dog's body," Diedrichsen said about the work of art. "Kids just love to go up to that and peek through it and have their photo taken."

Early days

Before the Naperville Area Humane Society was formed, McCallion and Keller grew up in two South Dakota towns not far from each other. McCallion spent her youth on a farm, finding herself drawn to dogs, cats and horses.

"I just always related to animals and often felt sorry for them," McCallion said. "They're not always treated very well."

When she moved to Naperville in 1965, she noticed the community lacked an organized way to handle lost animals or pets that owners could no longer care for. As Keller puts it, "the town had absolutely no way to take care of strays."

The two women and other early volunteers began turning their houses into foster homes for stray cats and dogs. In the humane society's early years, members raised money for pet food and supplies with bake sales and garage sales and by taking turns making calls from a phone tree.

McCallion was a paralegal described by humane society member Dave Schlotterback as a determined woman who "wasn't going to take 'no' for an answer." And Keller was well-connected as advertising director for the Naperville Sun.

Together, they helped the budding organization register as a nonprofit and develop plans for a 3,500-square-foot animal shelter on Diehl Road that still serves as the humane society's headquarters.

"I didn't have any special skills, but there was a desperate need and I just felt that we had to do something," McCallion said.

Growth, celebration

Executive Director Angie Wood has seen much of the society's growth since being hired in 1988 as humane education manager -- 10 years after the organization moved into its Diehl Road shelter. Her favorite programs now include Paws for Tails, in which volunteers take therapy dogs into schools, a pet behavior help hotline and a safe pets program that provides temporary care for animals owned by victims of domestic abuse or the homeless.

Wood has seen the organization grow to 10 staff members and 650 volunteers, able to care for 60 total cats and dogs at a time. And she's seen longtime volunteers like McCallion and Keller maintain their connections to the organization they founded.

McCallion stopped volunteering when she moved to Maryland six years ago, but Keller still pitches in every Friday, working the front desk and bringing the shelter dogs a special treat of hot dog meat.

"The most rewarding thing for me is the acceptance the public has given us," Keller said.

Diedrichsen said Keller and McCallion deserve the recognition the sculpture will bring because they started the humane society from scratch.

"Back then, people actually kind of laughed at Ardis and thought she was making something important that wasn't important," Diedrichsen said. "They thought it was a waste of time to help animals."

Share this page
Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.