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Naperville do-gooders deserve a salute

Naperville politicians (from left) Councilman Paul Hinterlong, Mayor A. George Pradel, and Councilman Bob Fieseler take part in the  Naperville Public Service St. Baldrick's fundraiser at Players Indoor Sports Center in Naperville, Ill., on Friday, March 23, 2012. 
| Corey R. Minkanic~For Sun-Times Media
Naperville politicians (from left) Councilman Paul Hinterlong, Mayor A. George Pradel, and Councilman Bob Fieseler take part in the Naperville Public Service St. Baldrick's fundraiser at Players Indoor Sports Center in Naperville, Ill., on Friday, March 23, 2012. | Corey R. Minkanic~For Sun-Times Media

Hello, residents and friends of Naperville! This past month was filled with reminiscing and reflecting as I said goodbye to my best friend, Bill Young.

Bill and I go way back to 1962 when he was a wrestling coach for my brother Jack. Upon first seeing Bill, I was impressed with this man who had gained the respect of Naperville Central High School wrestlers. Because Bill was only two years older than I, we struck up a friendship.

Oh, there was nothing my friend Bill wouldn’t do. A native of Harvey, Bill wasn’t afraid of anything. The more dangerous or scary something was, the more likely Bill was to partake in it. After high school, Bill worked at his dad’s stable and eventually earned the dubious distinction of being the guy who put the rings on the bulls’ noses. Bill ultimately decided this meant he could also ride the bulls, and one day during a rodeo he met up with Hoot Owl the bull. Hoot Owl threw him off so hard that he ended up in the stands and got a few scars on his forehead.

He might have taken quite a beating, but that didn’t stop him. That can-do attitude would serve him well in the future.

Bill was loved by thousands of Naperville children because he was tough, but fair. He taught good sportsmanship, and, during his time as a dean at Naperville Central, was known for his ability to listen when students needed someone in which to confide.

I really got to know Bill when he and I worked the dances held in the Barn on Martin Avenue on Friday and Saturday nights for area teenagers. Bill ran a tight ship, and no one went against the rules because they had respect for Bill.

I was on the police force at that time and worked security for these events. Bill had heard that while these dances were taking place, some kids were choosing to imbibe in area parks. Bill was concerned, and from that concern the Naperville Park District Police was formed. At first Bill used his own car to patrol the parks, with the authority and blessing of the Park District. Bill asked me to be his mentor, so I used to ride along with him to give him guidance on what the law allowed.

When Bill’s life hit a bump in the form of a divorce, we became very close. We would go out to patrol the parks and then sit and talk about what he was going through. I tried to help him work through his struggles, and I was also there to celebrate when he met a woman named Martha who lived on Webster Street. I kept encouraging him to put a ring on Martha’s finger, and he ultimately told her that he thought they needed to tie the knot because this guy with a gun (me) kept telling him to get married. I was honored to stand up in Bill and Martha’s wedding not long after.

Bill touched everyone’s life, be it student, teacher, athletes, police officers, the Park District, everyone. Bill also served as a liquor commissioner under five mayors, including myself. His sensible, problem-solving approach to the world helped greatly in this regard.

To look at Bill with his cauliflower ears and ruddy complexion, you may think he was a hardened man, but I know he had a soft spot. For 52 years we shared a wonderful friendship, and this icon in Naperville will be missed by all. Thanks, Bill. I’ll miss you.

I’m also mourning the loss of the son of my former Police Chief Jim Teal. Donald “Don” Teal died in mid-June and was well-loved by his peers in Naperville and his father. I admired Chief Teal quite a bit and his son just as much.

Saying goodbye to old friends has really reminded me how important it is to say thank you to the people you respect in the moment. As I have done for my last two columns, I want to thank another City Council member for his efforts on our City Council team.

This month, I want to thank Councilman Bob Fieseler for all of his efforts. Fieseler has served with me on the City Council since 2007. Bob has been a tireless advocate for Naperville’s early adoption of clean energy initiatives, including the smart grid upgrades for our city’s own electric system. He has also promoted housing options for seniors and empty-nesters, and has worked to make life easier for Naperville’s Chicago-bound commuters.

Bob’s guiding principle is what’s good for our kids is good for Naperville. In that spirit, Bob helped launch the Parents Matter Too initiative, which provides parents with tools to help their kids avoid the scourge of addiction to prescription drugs and heroin. Bob will be retiring with me next year to spend more time with his wife, Mary Ellen, and to expand his growing law practice.

Thank you, Naperville, for all you do to honor those who have gone before us and the work you do today to make this community so wonderful for future generations.

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