Good News Sunday: Wheaton’s Cosley Zoo celebrates 50 years as director prepares to retire

This is Good News Sunday, a compilation of some of the more upbeat and inspiring stories recently published by the Daily Herald:

Wheaton’s Cosley Zoo celebrates 50 years as director prepares to retire

When Sue Wahlgren went to work for the Wheaton Park District, the corner of Gary Avenue and Jewell Road was home to a “real mishmash of things.”

The place at that time was called Cosley Animal Farm & Museum. Back then, you’d find a handful of farm animals, some pheasants, part of an old train station and only one other employee. Wahlgren, an ag major in college, hauled buckets of water.

“We were closed part of the year,” Wahlgren remembers. “We were essentially kind of the roadside little attraction.”

That little slice of donated farmland became a Wheaton institution. Wahlgren, who would never work anywhere else, is celebrating Cosley Zoo’s 50th anniversary this year as she prepares to retire as its director. She imagines the last day will be “bittersweet,” but Wahlgren can be certain of this: she made Cosley Zoo what it is today.

“Where else can you go and see a child’s face light up with a realization of how cool something is when they were afraid of it 10 minutes ago? We’re seeing families making memories together,” Wahlgren said.

For the full story, click here.

  Tom Klimmeck, left, talks with Megan Johnson in a Mount Prospect warehouse as volunteers prepare lumber to build 16 homes for needy families in Appalachia. Joe Lewnard/

Mount Prospect warehouse a ‘Taj Mahal’ for volunteer homebuilders

A recently vacant Mount Prospect warehouse is now the hub of an effort to build 16 homes for needy families in Appalachia, thanks to the generosity of a local business, the diligence of volunteer “desk jockeys” and a happy coincidence.

Mount Prospect-based construction firm Nicholas & Associates donated the space in the Kensington Business Center this month to the Chicago-based nonprofit Solid Rock Carpenters.

The group of self-described desk jockeys and weekend warriors has been busy ever since, cutting, marking and bundling lumber for shipment to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. About 400 volunteers will gather there at The Greenbrier resort on June 5, and over three hours they will assemble interior and exterior walls for the new homes.

Ultimately, the walls will depart on tractor trailers and become the basis for new single-family homes.

Volunteers said they’re thrilled with the Mount Prospect warehouse space, a vast upgrade over previous work sites.

“We have never had anything like this ever,” said Park Ridge resident Tom Klimmeck. “We have always been in miserable spots. Storing lumber outside. Covering it. Getting things stolen. This is the Taj Mahal for us.”

For the full story, click here.

Mark Koenen, left, 2024 Charlemagne Award winner, greets former St. Charles Mayor Ray Rogina during the 56th Annual Charlemagne Awards Dinner hosted by the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce at the Q Center in St. Charles. Sandy Bressner/Shaw Local News Network

Longtime city leader honored with St. Charles’ Charlemagne Award

Longtime resident and public official Mark Koenen served St. Charles for 39 years in multiple capacities, including as city administrator and director of public works.

Those years of service were recently honored when the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce presented Koenen with the city’s highest honor — the Charlemagne Award — at the 56th Annual Charlemagne Awards Dinner.

Established in 1968, the award is a lifetime achievement award given to one community member each year with a distinguished history of service to the city.

“(Koenen) has been an excellent example of servant leadership, with numerous acts of volunteerism,” said Josh Feagans, chair of the chamber’s board.

Koenen retired in 2021 after serving as city administrator for eight years. Before that he served as director of public works for 23 years and worked in the city’s engineering department for eight years.

During his tenure, Koenen played a pivotal role in the development of several award-winning city projects and commissions, including the Prairie Street Bridge, the Red Gate Bridge, the new police station, the First Street Plaza and the liquor commission.

For the full story, click here.

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