St. Charles chamber honors attorney, park board member with Charlemagne Award
The St. Charles Chamber of Commerce on Friday presented longtime local attorney Jim Cooke with its highest honor: the Charlemagne Award.
Cooke has been influential to the development and beautification of St. Charles for many years, both through his law office, James F. Cooke, Ltd., founded in 1980, and his work on the St. Charles Park District Board of Commissioners, where he's served since 1983.
The Charlemagne Award, established in 1968, recognizes the lifetime achievement of a St. Charles community member with a distinguished history of service to the community. It is awarded each year during the annual Charlemagne Dinner Gala, which was held this year at the Q Center in St. Charles.
Ron Onesti, owner of the Arcada Theatre and the Onesti Entertainment Corp., was the emcee for the gala, which was attended by about 350 community members, business owners and city officials.
Raised in St. Charles on Red Gate Farm, Cooke graduated from St. Charles High School in 1972. Since then, he has pledged countless hours volunteering and serving the community.
Cooke has led multiple nonprofit organizations, including serving as chairman of the Fox Valley American Red Cross and the Kane County Bar Association. He was president of the Mid-America Horse Show Association Board, and a member of the Tri-City Health Partnership Board and the Kane County Historic Preservation Commission.
St. Charles Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors Chair Laura Shaw presented Cooke with the 55th annual Charlemagne award.
"Through his countless hours of volunteer service, he has managed to make St. Charles a better place for his family and for all of us," Shaw said. "He truly honors the legend of Charlemagne and helps drive us forward with our dedicated vision and commitment to perpetuating the road to excellence."
Cooke shared credit for the award with his fellow park district commissioners and staff members.
"We have a great park district. We have had such excellent staff and excellent people that work for our district. It's amazing," he said. "I couldn't be prouder of our park district and the people that work there."
The Charlemagne Award comes from the Legend of Charlemagne, a short story written by the 16th mayor of St. Charles, CV Amenhoff. In the story, Charlemagne left his four sons as guardians of St. Charles, to guide the city in becoming "a community where men can live, can work, can be educated, can worship and can play."
The Charlemagne Award was the first of many recognitions during the gala, which marked the chamber's 101st anniversary.
The 28th annual L.E.A.P. award was presented to former Kane County Board Chair and former State Sen. Karen McConnaughay by Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Deborah Gurley. L.E.A.P. stands for Leadership, Excellence, Achievement and Professionalism.
This has been such a great town to live in and be a part of," McConnaughay said. "There are so many great people who have made this the best place in the world to live, here in St. Charles."
Other award winners included:
• Community Development Awards: Rookies, McGrath Honda, Whiskey Bend, Tractor Supply Co. and Wok N Fire.
• Community Image Awards: Hunt House, Encore Gallery, St. Charles Episcopal Church, Moonlight Theatre, Mio Modo, K. Hollis Jewelers Boutique and Wine Bar and Brown Butter Café and Bakery
• Civic Image Awards: St. Charles Park District (two awards), St. Charles Art Council, State Sen. Donald DeWitte, St. Charles Economic Development Director Derek Conley, St. Charles librarian Chris Flood and St. Charles East High School teacher Andrew Johnson.