Ex-Carol Stream library board president put family first, was 'straight talker'

Family comes first.

That was Jim Bailey's motto and explains why he left his home of almost 30 years in Carol Stream, a town that once named him its "Citizen of the Year."

"He felt like being close to family superseded everything," his daughter Amy Ackley said. "But it was hard. It was a hard move."

After Ackley was diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer, her parents decided to move to Alabama to be closer to her and their grandchildren. Bailey, who was battling his own health issues, was her "mentor" and supported her return to work, but he was frustrated by her diagnosis.

"It's not fair that you're in your 30s, and you're facing the same kind of questions I am," the father of four told his daughter.

Bailey died Jan. 20 in his sleep at his Alabama home after suffering from chronic lung disease, say friends and family who are organizing a memorial next month in Carol Stream for the former Rotary Club member. He was 74.

One of the main figures in a long-running dispute on the Carol Stream Library board, Bailey was a "straight-talker" who didn't shy away from political sparring.

"That's how he raised us. He was direct, and he didn't ever try to sugarcoat things," Ackley said.

Bailey tangled with a board majority led by an organizer of the Chicago West Patriots Tea Party. During its control of the board, the faction fired the library's director and considered selling land once eyed for a new library to nursing home developers.

"With all the controversy with the library and that, he took it all in stride," current board President Edward Jourdan said.

Bailey, Jourdan and the rest of a slate would eventually regain voting power on the board in April 2013. Bailey would be named board president and the panel would later take the Kuhn Road property off the market (the site is now leased to the park district as Horizon Park).

Bailey was a regular at board meetings and still counseled Jourdan even after he left Carol Stream last May.

"He stood up for things that needed to be, and he absolutely did the best that he could," Jourdan said.

But the Vietnam War veteran kept his time in the Air Force "close to the vest," his daughter said.

"He would never go more than skin deep with us," she said.

Ackley and her siblings grew up at the library, and her dad, an avid reader who worked in the computer industry, understood its offerings had to evolve.

"He wanted to maintain that for future generations," she said.

Ackley said she's grateful they spent the last eight months together before his death.

"It's all he ever wanted was to have everybody together," she said.

The Carol Stream memorial is set for 5 p.m. March 6 at Heritage Presbyterian Church, 965 Kuhn Road. Instead of flowers, donations may be made to the Carol Stream Library or the VFW Post 2214 in Cullman, Alabama.

The library, meanwhile, will be installing a brick in tribute of Bailey near its front entrance.

Jim Bailey
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