Former McHenry Township Supervisor, county board member Donna Schaefer dies

Former McHenry Township supervisor and previous McHenry County Board member Donna Schaefer died Sunday at her vacation home in Florida.

Schaefer, 69, of McHenry, “understood government better than most. She knew how to make it work,” said Jack Franks, who formerly was McHenry County Board chairman and a state representative. “She was really good at it and very dedicated.”

Schaefer served on the county board from 1988 through 2000 and was the township supervisor from 1988 to December 2014. She also was a McHenry Township Fire District trustee from 2015 to 2019 and was chairwoman of the district’s fire commission at the time of her death.

As a Rotary of McHenry member, Schaefer chaired the organization’s annual Blues, Brews & BBQ festival, now known as Bands, Brews & BBQ.

During her time on the county board, Schaefer is credited with championing the MCRide dial-a-ride service and creating the township’s Senior Express Bus. That program offers rides to seniors and those with disabilities living in the township to locations within the township.

“She had a huge impact on the community,” said Debbie Macrito, administrator and case manager for McHenry Township’s general assistance program. Schaefer “tried to put the information out there that the township even existed” as an agency to help residents “She started the Day in the Park and a Winterfest to let them know there were facilities here for them to use.”

Schaefer also brought the township into the 20th century, Macrito said. “We were still using ledger books when she became supervisor. She brought computers here.”

Schaefer “advocated for seniors and those less fortunate and the community,” Macrito said.

The FISH of McHenry Food Pantry credits Schaefer for moving the agency to the McHenry Township campus on Johnsburg.

The pantry lost its previous location in 2012, said Pam Peters, co-director of the pantry. Schaefer offered the pantry space at the township and helped the organization receive a grant allowing for its 4,000-square-foot building. Last year, a 1,200-square-foot addition, paid for via a fundraising effort, increased its footprint.

“We never would have gotten our building if not for her,” Peters said.

Craig Adams took over as township supervisor after Schaefer’s 2014 retirement, working with her as a trustee before that.

“She was very pragmatic, always looking down the road and helped the township advance during her tenure,” Adams said. “She was instrumental for a lot of programs at the township.”

Although known as a leader in local politics, Schaefer was also a friend, Macrito said.

“I was lucky enough to work with her for 15 years, and I learned so much,” Macrito said. “She’s a big part of who I am today. … This community and friends have lost a lot. She has left a huge hole to fill. She put McHenry Township on the map.”

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