"Godfather of West Chicago Park District" honored
The children climbing on the playground obstacles probably didn't realize the man responsible for their Saturday morning fun, "The Godfather of the West Chicago Park District," was being honored only a few feet away.
In fact, as they swung from the colorful bars, the park itself, at 840 E. Washington St., was being renamed Don Earley Park in honor of the longtime West Chicago resident who started the park district in the early 1970s.
"My only goal is to be a good citizen and help those that are in need," Earley said in a prior interview.
Earley, an Army veteran, worked as a math teacher for 46 years, including 43 in St. Charles.
While teaching at St. Charles Junior High, he also worked at the St. Charles Park District as a director of summer recreation and saw a need in West Chicago.
In 1972, Earley headed a committee called "Better Recreation for West Chicago" that created a stand-alone park district. Voters elected him as the first president of the park district. The West Chicago Park District that he helped create now has 13 parks.
Earley's stepson, Don Voelz, served on the park district board for more than a decade and now his granddaughter, Courtney Voelz, is a commissioner.