Dist. 204 remembers longtime superintendent Clifford Crone
Already memorialized for his accomplishments leading Indian Prairie Unit District 204 with a middle school bearing his name, former superintendent Clifford Crone has died.
He was 91.
Crone came to lead District 204 in 1975 when it was 3 years old, a unit district of less than 2,000 students forged from three smaller districts that merged before the Naperville and Aurora area truly began to grow.
He came from a small-town background in Illinois, growing up on a farm outside Rock Grove and graduating high school with 21 other students in Orangeville. He started teaching with 27 students in eight grades at a one-room school in Dakota and landed his first superintendent's job in Jacksonville, where he worked for eight years.
He came from a military background, having served two years in the Army during the Korean War. And he came with strong beliefs about the value of education.
"We always saw Cliff as really one of the more philosophical superintendents I've ever worked with," said Howie Crouse, District 204's superintendent from 2004 to 2007, who was hired by Crone in 1991. "All of us certainly talk about putting children first, but he had this deep-seated belief in the value of education and guiding a child's life. That was the foundation for everything Cliff did."
Crone served as superintendent from 1975 to 1986 and is credited with shepherding the district's early growth.
Officials praised him for retaining ownership of the architectural plans to two schools built during his tenure -- Clow Elementary and Thayer Hill Middle School. The plans later became the blueprints for all the district's new elementary and middle schools, including Crone Middle School at 4020 111th St., which opened in 1997.
Speaking in a David Letterman-style deadpan at the school's dedication, Crone ticked off 10 reasons he was honored to have his name attached to the building. He said the naming impressed his grandchildren and he took pride that students at the school would form a new reputation for his name.
Crone donated roughly 20 sugar maple trees from the forested 23-acre property where he grew up to the middle school. Relatives, in writing his obituary, said planting a tree would be a fitting way to remember him.
Crone was married for 58 years to his wife, Ireta, before her death in 2011. They had three children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
When he was not working, Crone enjoyed visiting his property on Lake Wisconsin with Ireta and cheering on the Wisconsin Badgers football team, as well as going apple-picking in the fall.
He was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he got his master's degree in education, after receiving a bachelor's degree from Carthage College. He later received a doctorate in educational administration from the University of Colorado.
Crone was buried during a private ceremony Thursday in Naperville. Relatives plan to celebrate his life at Lake Wisconsin in the fall.