Kane County paid a special tribute earlier this month to three former board members whose lives truly impacted the residents of Kane County: Rudolph “Rudy” Neuberger, Arlene Shoemaker and Mike Donahue.
At the Nov. 9 County Board meeting, and with families and friends in the audience, County Board members from each district represented by Neuberger, Shoemaker and Donahue made brief presentations in remembrance of their predecessors and in appreciation of their public service.
Rudolph “Rudy” M. Neuberger (District 8 – Michelle Gumz)
Rudolf “Rudy” Neuberger, 72, of Aurora, died May 19, 2021, at AMITA St. Joseph Hospital in Elgin.
He worked for Fox Metro Wastewater Reclamation District for 25 years and was a co-coordinator of the Southeast Neighbors Association. He was proudly elected to the Kane County Board, where he served for four terms.
According to his obituary posted on the Deleiden Mortuary website, Neuberger was a man of strong faith and a member of Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in Aurora. He was a loving husband, father, and grandfather.
District 8 County Board member Michelle Gumz said Neuberger was a four-term board member who entered politics because he was concerned about violence in his southeast side neighborhood and went on to represent the wider District 8 community with passion and courage.
“If he was on a mission, watch out,” Gumz said. “You couldn’t stop him. Mr. Neuberger wanted to help folks in the district, and did so of a pure heart and an honest concern.”
During his terms in office, Neuberger fought to fund air packs for local fire departments. He was an active member of the Forest Preserve Commission because he felt strongly about preserving the county’s open space and natural resources.
Gumz reached out to the Neuberger family to invite them to the Nov. 9 ceremony, and spoke first to Neuberger’s wife Debra.
“It was clear to me from the start what a wonderful, amazing woman and wife she is,” Gumz said. “She told me many stories about Rudy, and I am sad that I was not able to know him. I am pretty sure we would have gotten along very well. From everyone that I have spoken to, Rudy was in fact the best of men. He clearly cared so much about this county’s residents.”
Arlene H. Shoemaker (District 3 – Anita Lewis)
Arlene H. Shoemaker of Aurora died May 10, 2021, at the age of 89.
According to her Deleiden Mortuary obituary, she was a life-long resident of Aurora, and had attended St. Therese and Our Lady of Good Counsel grade schools. She graduated from Madonna High School in 1948.
Shoemaker was a mover and shaker in Kane County, serving on the Kane County Board, chairing the Kane County Democratic Party and serving as president of the Forest Preserve District of Kane County.
The Arlene Shoemaker Forest Preserve in Aurora is named after her on property that was originally settled by her family.
Shoemaker started her community service with Aurora Neighbors United working on resolving housing inequities in the Fox Valley. She attributed her social and environmental activism to her schooling by the School Sisters of St. Francis at Madonna High School. She was a member of the League of Women’s Voters.
Kane County Board member Anita Lewis, who represents District 3, spoke about Shoemaker’s legacy.
“If you live in Aurora or nearby, there are some iconic names that stand out,” she said. “Arlene Shoemaker was one of those. She was an amazing woman.”
Lewis said Shoemaker married her husband Jerome shortly after high school and raised 10 children — six girls and four boys.
“Now you might think raising 10 children back in those days was enough of an accomplishment, but it wasn’t,” Lewis said. “After her last child was done with school, she went back to Waubonsee Community College and got her own degree. She started her community service with Aurora Neighbors United working on resolving housing inequities in the Fox Valley, and she never stopped being an activist.
“Her legacy in Aurora is one of caring for people, fighting against injustice and being passionate about open space and preservation of our land.”
Mike Donahue (District 11 – John Martin)
Mike Donahue died Dec. 12, 2019, from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neurodegenerative disease sometimes known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He was 58 years old.
A longtime Geneva residents and former community development director for the city of Geneva, the city flag was lowered to half staff on the week that he died in honor of his contributions.
He had a great many business achievements as the founder of Midwest Wind Energy, LLC, a company that facilitated the use of wind turbines in rural areas, and in “retirement,” he was active in the efforts of the Freedom Waters Foundation, a nonprofit organization that enhances the lives of children, individuals with special needs, and veterans by providing therapeutic boat experiences.
But his work as a Kane County Board member will be among his lasting achievements.
District 11 County Board member John Martin said to Donahue’s wife Carol during the Nov. 9 County Board presentation that Donahue was the prime advocate for a higher end use for the Settler’s Hill Landfill site, which is now a nationally recognized championship level cross-country course.
“If Mike were here, he’d say, ‘Now, get to the point … and keep it simple,’ ” Martin said.
“I met Mike nearly 40 years ago when Jane and I became his next-door neighbors. He was in high school at the time. And about 20 years after I met him, we began what was at least a 20-year professional and personal association during which I learned of his intellect, his drive, his focus and his overwhelming generosity.
“Mike and his family’s efforts on behalf of the community have been extraordinary. Mike brought all of those talents and more to the six years that he served on this board.
“And most notably during that time, he woke up the dormant commitment the county had made in decades past to take the tipping fees (from) our sanitary landfill and use them for the final improvement of the landfill as it closed. He began that project — it was a huge task to both get the board to come along and to address the various issues that came up — and it stands today completed in principal part because of Mike’s efforts.”
Carol said she would add the Kane County plaque of recognition to many awards in Mike’s office.
“He did so much,” she said. “He always said, ‘You get involved to be somebody, or to do something,’ and Mike was a do-something kind of guy.”