"Godfather of West Chicago Park District" honored

  • Longtime West Chicago resident Don Earley listens as the West Chicago Park District that he founded in the 1970s, renames the first park it ever opened in his honor Saturday morning. The former Easton Park, now Don Earley Park, is at 840 E. Washington St.

      Longtime West Chicago resident Don Earley listens as the West Chicago Park District that he founded in the 1970s, renames the first park it ever opened in his honor Saturday morning. The former Easton Park, now Don Earley Park, is at 840 E. Washington St. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Longtime resident Don Earley speaks to the crowd gathered in the pavilion Saturday morning as the West Chicago Park District renames the first park it ever opened in his honor.

      Longtime resident Don Earley speaks to the crowd gathered in the pavilion Saturday morning as the West Chicago Park District renames the first park it ever opened in his honor. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Don Earley stands for photos with a new sign that will mark a park named in his honor Saturday morning in West Chicago.

      Don Earley stands for photos with a new sign that will mark a park named in his honor Saturday morning in West Chicago. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • West Chicago Park District renames the first park it ever opened in honor longtime resident Don Earley Saturday morning.

      West Chicago Park District renames the first park it ever opened in honor longtime resident Don Earley Saturday morning. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 11/2/2019 6:22 PM

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.

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