Retiring parks directors leave behind a legacy

Retiring parks directors leave their marks for the public to enjoy

  • The footbridge at Island Park in Geneva is named after longtime superintendent of parks and properties Larry Gabriel, who is retiring this month after 38 years.

      The footbridge at Island Park in Geneva is named after longtime superintendent of parks and properties Larry Gabriel, who is retiring this month after 38 years. Rick West | Staff Photographer

Posted5/31/2018 9:56 AM

Most people would like to leave something behind for people to remember when they retire or go on to meet their maker.

Those who work to make our parks enjoyable certainly fall into that category.


So it is important to share the information that Larry Gabriel, superintendent of parks and properties, will retire from the Geneva Park District on June 22 after 38 years of service.

These types of employees leave a "behind-the-scenes legacy" of community enjoyment. We have fun at parks in our communities, but don't always think about the work that goes into making these places attractive.

Gabriel has his vision all over so many projects that people enjoy -- from playgrounds, pavilions, tennis courts and skate parks to disc golf courses and the creation of new natural areas.

Sure, he's probably not unlike many other longtime and dedicated parks or forest preserve employees through the years. Many of them have their names on parks or near walking trails in the region.

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Gabriel actually joined that list a few years ago when the rebuilt footbridge in Island Park was named in his honor. It was a big surprise for Gabriel at that time, but certainly a worthy gesture by the park district, considering he oversaw the work on that heavily used bridge.

We honor many others who have devoted their lives to the parks or forest preserves. Longtime parks director Stephen Persinger has a recreation center named after him, and Stan Esping, the guy who created the Geneva Park District, has his name on an east side park in Geneva.

Former parks director James Breen has a park in his name on the far west side of St. Charles, and county ecologist Jon Duerr has a forest preserve named after him in South Elgin.

Of course, we don't forget historic figures or first settlers. That's the case with Payne Woods Park in Batavia, named for the city's first settler.


It all supports my point even more. The parks employees who have made these parks what they are deserve this type of recognition. They leave their mark for all of us to enjoy.

Marching yet again:

For those with fond memories of marching band during their prep years, the "Second Time Around Band" provides a second chance to have that sort of fun.

Best of all, this band always has its place in Geneva's Swedish Days parade.

So, the call is out again from band organizers that any experienced, or even "somewhat" experienced, band members who want to march in the parade and play music on Sunday, June 24, to come to a practice session.

The practice will be at noon Saturday, June 9 at the Stephen Persinger Recreation Center at 3507 Kaneville Road in Geneva. Those seeking more information can call the State Bank of Geneva at (630) 232-3200.

Those who become members of the band will receive the music to be played during the parade, as well as the yellow T-shirt that has become the band's uniform over the years.

The band has a new director in Michael Embrey, and he comes with some music chops. He was a musician and arranger in the U.S. Air Force Drum & Bugle Corps, and a faculty member of the NIU Department of Music and founder of the NIU Show Band.

If nothing else, hanging around this fellow for a short period of time is likely to result in some new knowledge about music.

If the shoe fits:

I've heard about late bloomers, but this is quite ridiculous for a guy who just turned 65.

For my entire adult life, I have worn a size 7½ shoe; maybe sometimes an 8. Yes, I don't have gunboats for feet. They are quite small.

When we visited Costco in St. Charles recently, my wife stopped at a display of shoes and mentioned that maybe I would like a certain pair. So I tried on my 8. Way too small.

The next biggest size was 9½, so my first thought when slipping them on was, "This should be funny."

It was. They fit perfectly.

So what does my lovely wife say? "You've finally grown into the men's sizes."

That wisecrack aside, I'm left with this mystery-of-life thing: What in the world am I doing with a 9½ size pair of shoes on my feet?

It was Carr's vision:

In sending me a thank-you note regarding my recent column that mentioned the veterans' memorial display on the grounds of the Kane County Government Center, Elizabeth and Guy Bellaver of St. Charles reminded me of a couple of key people that made that impressive display occur.

Of course, Bellaver, the sculptor and a veteran himself, was the artist who created the impressive art statues there. But Kane County Veterans Assistance Commissioner John Carr had the vision for the tribute to fallen heroes of Kane County.

Former Kane County Board chairman Mike McCoy wanted the Veterans Plaza to reflect Carr's vision and give it the educational feel that such a place in a community should offer.

Making animals comfortable:

One of the most charitable notions in this area occurs when the 100 Men Who Care or 100 Women Who Care organizations get together each quarter of the year to deliver $10,000 to a charity nominated and chosen for that period of time.

Kids may not be able to come up with that kind of money, but the 100 Kids Who Care Fox Valley group had a great idea for their final service project of the year in making blankets to donate to Anderson Animal Shelter.

They met at Batavia's City Hall to make the blankets and then delivered them to the shelter, which is always looking for towels and blankets.

The kids were right on target with their efforts for this project.

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