This year marks the 20th anniversary of 40 Leaders Under Forty, and we are currently at work on a special program for November’s event. Over the years, it’s been suggested time and again that we put together an issue focused on the lifetime achievements of Peoria’s legendary leaders, just as we recognize those who are up and coming. This year, we are acting on that suggestion, and so we bring you this special “Local Legends” issue.
A great deal of wisdom can be found in these pages, which include interviews with Glen Barton, Bob Michel, Art and Judy Oakford, Gerald Stephens, and of course, the beloved, late Pete Vonachen. Like the rest of this community, we were tremendously saddened to learn of Pete’s recent passing. Out of sensitivity, we briefly considered holding the story, but after rereading his poignant words and looking into his eyes in Kira Kwon’s beautiful portraits, we decided to carry on—that we had to share. Our managing editor was honored to spend some time with this gracious, remarkable and funny human being in one of his final interviews. Thank you, Pete, for everything.
Just two days after Pete’s funeral, a passionate group of young people were in Denver, bringing the All America City Award home to Peoria. Congratulations to the hard-working team who made it happen! This is Peoria’s fourth All America City designation—the last coming in 1989, just a few months before the very first issue of InterBusiness Issues hit the streets.
Which brings us to another local icon—who was featured in that inaugural issue and became one of this magazine’s biggest cheerleaders. Chris Shay wrote an insightful story about the lessons she learned under Jim Maloof’s tutelage, and we’ve included some excerpts from that first iBi interview (in which he discusses Peoria’s All America City status), as well as his 2011 “Take 10” feature for art & society. As Chris explains, Jim would clip articles from the paper and write notes of congratulations, praise or thanks on them. I have personally saved a dozen or so notes that he sent me over the years. Of course, his remarkable presence in the community is sorely missed as well.
In this issue, Congressman Bob Michel—another warm, wonderful human being—talks about his experience in World War II, his relationship with President Reagan, and the principled leadership he brought to Washington. We hear from Glen Barton and Gerald Stephens—two extraordinary businessmen who have not only had great success in their own lives, but continue to pay that success forward to others. And we offer a delightful give and take between Art and Judy Oakford, who’ve been serving this community for decades, and continue to do so.
What a great issue! We are humbled and excited to bring you these stories and words of wisdom from some of the finest leaders this region has ever seen. Enjoy. iBi