'It's a loss for the city': Mr. Elgin Post 57 Don Sleeman dies

  • Don Sleeman looks down at a replica of the sign for the street renamed in his honor in February 2021. Sleeman died Tuesday at the age of 92. A portion of Chester Avenue, between Dundee Avenue and Liberty Street near American Legion Post 57, is now Donald J. Sleeman Avenue.

    Don Sleeman looks down at a replica of the sign for the street renamed in his honor in February 2021. Sleeman died Tuesday at the age of 92. A portion of Chester Avenue, between Dundee Avenue and Liberty Street near American Legion Post 57, is now Donald J. Sleeman Avenue. Rick West | Staff Photographer/February 2021

  • Don Sleeman, a Korean War veteran and constant presence at American Legion Post 57 in Elgin, says a few words of thanks during a ceremony renaming a portion of Chester Avenue, between Dundee Avenue and Liberty Street near, as Donald J. Sleeman Avenue in February of this year. Sleeman died Tuesday morning.

    Don Sleeman, a Korean War veteran and constant presence at American Legion Post 57 in Elgin, says a few words of thanks during a ceremony renaming a portion of Chester Avenue, between Dundee Avenue and Liberty Street near, as Donald J. Sleeman Avenue in February of this year. Sleeman died Tuesday morning. Rick West | Staff Photographer/February 2021

  • Don Sleeman of Elgin bows his head during the invocation during the Elgin Veterans Day ceremony in 2019. Sleeman died Tuesday.

    Don Sleeman of Elgin bows his head during the invocation during the Elgin Veterans Day ceremony in 2019. Sleeman died Tuesday. Rick West | Staff Photographer/2019

  • Don Sleeman of Elgin American Legion Post 57 plays taps on the bugle during Elgin's September 11th remembrance in 2017.

    Don Sleeman of Elgin American Legion Post 57 plays taps on the bugle during Elgin's September 11th remembrance in 2017. Rick West | Staff Photographer/2017

  • Korean War veteran Don Sleeman salutes the colors during the Armed Forces Day ceremony Wednesday at Elgin Community College. The college has named May as Armed Forces Appreciation Month as well. The annual recognition of Armed Forces Day on the third Saturday of May is a tradition meant to combine the separate days devoted to the 5 branches of the U.S. military; Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

    Korean War veteran Don Sleeman salutes the colors during the Armed Forces Day ceremony Wednesday at Elgin Community College. The college has named May as Armed Forces Appreciation Month as well. The annual recognition of Armed Forces Day on the third Saturday of May is a tradition meant to combine the separate days devoted to the 5 branches of the U.S. military; Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. DAILY HERALD FILE PHOTO/2010

  • A new American flag is raised by American Legion Post 57 members Don Sleeman, left, and Gordon Steinway (holding the flag at right) at Willow Lake in Elgin after retiring the old flag that had flown over the community for more than 20 years.

    A new American flag is raised by American Legion Post 57 members Don Sleeman, left, and Gordon Steinway (holding the flag at right) at Willow Lake in Elgin after retiring the old flag that had flown over the community for more than 20 years. RICK WEST | Staff Photographer/2010

 
 
Updated 12/7/2021 4:23 PM

Lifelong Elginite and American Legion Post 57 mainstay Don Sleeman died early Tuesday morning at the age of 92.

Often referred to as "Mr. Elgin Post 57," Sleeman had been a member for over 66 years and held nearly every post leadership position, including three stints as commander.

 

Elgin City Council member Rose Martinez said Sleeman was a mentor to her when she joined the Legion.

"He is Mr. American Legion," Martinez said. "He is somebody who was so loyal, so knowledgeable. I've never met anybody like that. He was such a good man, and it's a terrible loss for Elgin and the American Legion."

During the Korean War, Sleeman served as a supply sergeant stationed in Japan from February 1952 to June 1953.

In addition to his work with the American Legion, Sleeman was a member of the Elgin Patriotic Memorial Association for more than 60 years and served as president for more than a decade. He coordinated Memorial Day events and instituted the Avenue of Flags at the Bluff City Ceremony. He also worked closely with other civic and veterans organizations and city employees in coordinating Veterans Day, Flag Day, and New Citizens Recognition programs.

Mayor David Kaptain, a neighbor of Sleeman's, said his service went beyond the Legion, including his efforts to save the "Old Main" building, home of the Elgin Historical Society.

"It's a loss for the city," Kaptain said. "He did a lot of good things outside of his work with veterans throughout our community."

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In February, Elgin renamed a portion of Chester Avenue, between Dundee Avenue and Liberty Street near the American Legion post, to Donald J. Sleeman Avenue.

When asked to speak following the sign unveiling, Sleeman gave his take on service.

"When you see something that you can improve, you see someone who needs help, do it," he said. "Don't procrastinate. Just do it, and you'll have a better life.

"And I feel that I've had one hell of a good life."

Visitations will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday and 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at Symonds-Madison Funeral Home in Elgin. Funeral services will be held there at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.

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