Fox Valley Chapter Don Parrish's Farewell Remarks
Farewell Remarks Reviewing Five Years of Chapter History
Good evening. After 5 years as the longest-serving President of the Fox Valley chapter, I thought it would be useful to preserve some of our history by offering a farewell review. The overriding themes are teamwork and support coupled with thinking big that has led to incredible synergy and a renaissance of our chapter.
In February 2003, I got a call from chapter Secretary John Ruskamp, who had recruited me to be the VP, informing me that our President had resigned to help his elderly parents.
I had been an inactive member who had reluctantly agreed to be VP, now I was suddenly President. I took stock of our situation. The chapter was dying. We had dwindled down to about 20 members, no one knew for sure. We had not had any meetings in a year. Our sole activity was the Outstanding Citizenship program run by Bob Baird, our Treasurer, who was well assisted by Dorothy Morriss.
Chuck Sener, another officer, took me under his wing. We drove to Rockford for the 25th anniversary of the Kishwaukee chapter and he introduced me to people like Joe Smith, Ken Griswold and Win Williams, long-time editor of the SAR magazine.
I started attending the quarterly ILSSAR board meetings where Chuck introduced me to key people like Stephen Bradley, Duane Neet and Karl Reed. There I learned meeting by meeting what other chapters were doing. This was a rich, if chaotic, source of knowledge. I want to thank ILSSAR officers for their generous support of me and Fox Valley.
I realized that I had to rebuild the membership, restart our meetings, find volunteers to lead activities, etc. With so many discouraged members, first I had to somehow change the game and give people hope.
So I created a website with an easy-to-remember name: www.foxsar.org. Next I recruited a new VP. As a brand new member, Mike Johnston was surprised to be asked – and reluctantly agreed.
I got meetings re-started and soon learned something counter-intuitive: We had better attendance at paid dinner meetings than at free, informal meetings. The result was a new tradition for the chapter – 2 dinner meetings and 2 informal meetings a year.
I found in a box of chapter papers a stack of pension files for Revolutionary War soldiers. I was delighted to see that they were buried in the greater Chicago area. But where exactly?
In a very successful collaboration, Mike and I found 15 Patriot graves and preserved their memories on the Internet with biographies and photographs. We also launched and led 2 of the 3 ad hoc committees that planned and executed Patriot grave marking ceremonies. All 3 ceremonies involved a year of effort by a half a dozen organizations.
Two highlights were Mike recruiting Dennis Hastert, the Speaker of the House of Representatives to address the ceremony for Patriot Daniel Burroughs and my championing a bronze historical marker for Patriot Israel Warner.
Speaking of highlights, Chuck enlisted Judge White, the President General of the SAR, as our featured speaker for our 25th anniversary. Judge White was impressed with us and described us in the SAR magazine as an “outstanding chapter.”
Over the years, we have created a very strong Board. Each Board Member has made major contributions to the chapter and/or ILSSAR.
Bob Baird, a charter officer of Fox Valley, has re-engineered and expanded the Outstanding Citizenship program from 48 to 83 high schools.
Chuck Sener, a former ILSSAR President, runs our dinner programs. He remains an indispensable factor in ILSSAR leading several key committees including nominations.
Bruce Talbot was a brand new member when he initiated the Law Enforcement and ROTC awards. Dale Bottom was a brand new member when he took over ROTC. Now Bruce runs the entire ROTC program for ILSSAR. Bruce has also converted us to PowerPoint dinner meetings and pioneered allowing members to make donations when paying dues.
Ron Smith was a brand new member when he started our Veterans programs including the Stark award and restarted the Flag award. Ron is also the highly regarded Editor of the Patriot, the excellent ILSSAR newsletter.
When Dave Bailey, a former President of ILSSAR, re-joined the chapter and then volunteered to become our Treasurer I knew the chapter was back to its former heights.
Our newest Board Member is Secretary Michael McMeins. He looks very official in his new uniform, and is now our Color Guard Commander.
Mike Johnston is the well-respected ILSSAR Recording Secretary who transformed its operation from paper to electronic reporting. Locally, he is our Registrar, heads up the Eagle Scout program and publishes our newsletter & brochures for our dinner meetings.
Many of our Fox Valley Eagle Scout and Law Enforcement award winners have gone on to win at the ILSSAR level. For the last 2 years, Fox Valley has been first in the Stark award.
In conclusion, many compatriots in ILSSAR consider the Fox Valley chapter the best in the state, but to stay at this level means continuing to recruit volunteers to help with all manner of events and activities. Men who volunteer are the lifeblood of the chapter.
Although I bid you farewell as President, I remain – thanks to your vote this evening – on the Board of Fox Valley as your Webmaster.
Thanks for listening.
Video Tribute Prepared by Mike Johnston
The slideshow (55Mb) takes about 7 or 8 minutes to load. It has 51 photos of various dinners and other activities, and takes 4 minutes to play. Turn your speakers on to enjoy the haunting music entitled "Ashoka Farewell".
When the progress bar is at least half loaded, the slideshow is ready to start. Click on the small arrow on the bottom left side of the slideshow to play it. If desired, click to pause or resume.