Longtime Crystal Lake Mayor Aaron Shepley dies overnight
Crystal Lake's longest serving mayor, Aaron Shepley, has died.
Shepley, 56, was pronounced dead at his Crystal Lake home Monday morning, McHenry County Interim Coroner John Miller said.
A cause of death has not yet been determined, although the situation did not appear suspicious, Miller said. An autopsy will be performed at a later date.
Shepley is survived by his wife, Regan Shepley, and his daughters Madison and Chase, a family whom colleagues agree Shepley loved to no end.
The city of Crystal Lake announced the news in an official statement Monday.
"Mayor Shepley loved Crystal Lake and was a strong advocate for our community," the release stated. "We celebrate his life and trust that his legacy will inspire all residents and businesses to serve their community. The City of Crystal Lake extends our deepest condolences to his family during this difficult time."
Shepley served as the mayor for more than 21 years and was elected in April 2019 to another four-year term. His plans for Crystal Lake included drawing in businesses to fill the city's vacant storefront, particularly along Route 14.
Before being elected mayor, Shepley spent two years as a city council member from 1997 to 1999.
"As the city's longest serving mayor, he impacted the community with a positive and empowering message," the city's release stated. "Mayor Shepley championed a united City Council, working together for one purpose and vision: to make Crystal Lake a great place to live."
He worked as vice president and senior associate general counsel at Northwestern Medicine. He had served on the Pace board of directors since 1999.
In his spare time, Shepley enjoyed sports and action photography, and drumming. He eventually transformed his hobby into Strikers, a well-known drum line that has marched hundreds of miles in local parades, performed on TV and donated about $50,000 in college scholarships.
Strikers also has spun off into five educational programs involving more than 100 students.
"Crystal Lake, and McHenry County, have lost a true champion for the people with the sudden passing of Mayor Aaron Shepley," McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks said in an official statement.
Franks described Shepley as a "tireless public servant who cared deeply about the Crystal Lake community," and lauded the mayor for his involvement with the MCRide paratransit service and the Pingree Road Metra station.
"Most importantly, Aaron was a humble man who told anyone who would listen that behind every good elected leader was an army of dedicated and talented civil servants," Franks said. "Mayor Shepley's death has ripped a huge hole in the Crystal Lake community. "
Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bill Eichs said Shepley worked hard to create an "inviting and collaborative" business environment for the city.
"On behalf of the Board of Directors and Staff at the Chamber of Commerce, our heartfelt condolences go out to Mayor Aaron Shepley's family," Eich wrote. "His accomplishments and dedication to making Crystal Lake a great place to live and work will remain with us for a long time to come."
McHenry Mayor Wayne Jett took to Facebook Monday morning to express his condolences.
"While I have only been able to work with Mayor Shepley on municipal matters for a few years, I am in awe of his personal and professional accomplishments, which include having served as the Mayor of Crystal Lake for more than 20 years," Jett wrote.
The McHenry mayor went on to say he would personally miss Shepley's experience and insight, which helped transform the City of Crystal Lake, "even in difficult times."