Several past and present Belvidere Park District commissioners attended the official opening of Centennial Plaza. The new plaza was developed as a tribute to all the park commissioners who volunteered their time and efforts to improving the park for the community.

By Anne Eickstadt


Belvidere Park District is honoring all of its board commissioners–covering over 100 years–with the new Centennial Plaza in Belvidere Park. The plaza was developed as a tribute to the collective spirit of the 57 commissioners, who all served in a voluntary role, from three years to 45 years, to establish, grow and maintain the Belvidere Park District.

At 4 p.m. on Tuesday, May 11, John Beachum, marketing supervisor for the Belvidere Park District, took the role of MC for the event and welcomed everyone to the official opening of the new Centennial Plaza.

“A life well lived,” he said, “is not measured by what you get, but what you give. Every one of the park’s commissioners has been a volunteer. Many hands and hearts and minds generally contribute to anyone’s notable achievements, said Walt Disney. And this park is a testimony to their donated time and hard work.”

Mark Pentecost, executive director, said, “Look around and everywhere you see a picture postcard view. We staff and community can appreciate the results of all the contributions by our volunteers commissioners.”

Beachum then opened the mike to any past or present commissioners who wished to say a few words.

Ross Wheeler stepped up and said, “We took a good look at the budgeting while I was a commissioner and proved that we could get a lot of distance of the money if you pay attention. We put in the roads and paths and parking areas. It made me proud that people can use the park and it is not just a pretty place to see.”

“Jean Twyning said, “ I grew up in this park. I worked in the park–lifeguard for 11 years. And I decided to come back and give back for everything I did here. Belvidere Park is like a post card. The park welcomes people here. This spot washed out a lot, so we had an idea to put a pipe under it and the wall (1990) held. It has been a long time coming but I hope a lot of people use this spot.”

Superintendent of Parks, Todd Bex, said, “This was a project that Mark (Pentecost) and I wanted to have ready for the centennial next year. We wanted a shelter members of the community can use. We put up wind sculptures for each of the five commissioners who have served for more than 20 years. The wind sculptures were designed by Lyman Whitaker who has been crafting wind sculptures since 1987. Two commissioners have served more than 30 years and theirs are the two medium sized sculptures. The tallest wind sculpture is for Commissioner Jay Wesley Dixon who has served for 45 years.

“The Belvidere Township Park District is a visual and living testament to, and hallmark of, the great collaborative spirit of the 57 individuals who have given their time, energy and dedication as Board Commissioners over the past 100-plus years to making the Belvidere Park District what it is today. We honor them all at our New Centennial Plaza: John Ackman, Sam An, Dr. R.B. Andrews, Thomas Beckington, William Bowley, Jr., Robert Bruyn, Kathy Christopherson (Holz),  Eric Dahl,  Jay Wesley Dixon, John Eldredge, Jan E. Fish, Bob Freeman, Norma J. Gesell, Mike Glass, Lucrecio Gonzalez, James Gough, William M. Grady, Ed Hasse, Gary W. Hyser, Foster Johnson, Mike Kasper, John W. Kreutziger, Warren Lambert, W.P. Leitzell, Mark Luthin, Robert S. Mabry, Ronald S. Manley, Dan Manning, Fred Marean, Dr. A. J. Markley, Mary Marquardt, Paul McCaffrey, Ned McDonald, Chuck Merritt, Mark Muccianti, Patrick Murphy, Maxwell Newport, Joan Ollmann, Harold Peterson, Jennifer Riley, Barbara Robertson, Kimberly Rosenberger, Warren C. Rowan, Roy Ruehl, Dick Sandsmark, Bob Sanford, Robert J. Sanford, Ron Schmidt, David Sliktas, John Spencer, Ken Strate, R. Emmett Sullivan, Pete Switzer, Don Thoms, Melissa Tobin (Dulgar), Jean Twyning, Ross G. Wheeler and Sam Yovef.

“Our thanks for your collective spirit of collaboration and unfailing sense of commitment to our community for over 100 years. Your legacy lives from one generation to the next.”

Today, the Belvidere Park District includes 12 parks covering 320.7 acres with numerous courts, fields and shelters, as well as the William Grady Pool, Rivers Edge Recreation Center, Doty Park Sprayground, and the Riverside Ice Arena.

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