Jody and Hugh Deery.

By Margaret Downing


A well-known rock of the community passed away on June 13 –  Jody Deery.

She and her husband, Hugh Deery, who had known each other since childhood in Darlington, Wis. took full ownership of Rockford Speedway in 1966 and made a success of the nationally recognized business.

The Speedway actually opened in 1948 as a midget car racing venue. Despite a death in the pits at the speedway several weeks after opening, on June 16, 1948, the track continued operation. The facility itself opened in 1959.

Hugh was a veteran of the Second World War having served in the Navy in the Pacific. He originally had an insurance agency in Rockford, Jody had been a nurse.

The couple also lived in Indianapolis for a time where an interest in racing developed according to Marty Gough who oversees much of the activity at the Speedway and who has been with the company since 1978, along with the adjacent Forest Hills Lodge located at Hwy. 173 and Forest Hills Road.

In speaking of the Deerys, Gough only has good things to say. “Hugh passed away in 1984 and Jody was very involved in the business right up to the end. She had a wonderful sense of humor and was totally committed to our customers.”

The couple was parents to seven boys and one girl who now carry the vision and dedication to the area.

Gough explained that Forest Hills Lodge was opened by the Deerys following the demise of the popular Kiddieland and also Sherwood Lodge, both along what was then Hwy. 73, later Forest Hills Road. An entertainment and event venue was much needed in the area and the Speedway continues to fill that need.

The couple always worked together and they made a great success out of their business.

When the Rockford Speedway opened in 1959, it was located “in the middle of nowhere” and had a pig farm located across from it. Gough noted how Speedway attendees complained about the smell of the pig farm, especially on a day when the wind was blowing toward the site.

City of Loves Park officials only have good things to say about Rockford Speedway. Former mayor, Darryl Lindberg stated, “The Speedway has been a top tourism and event draw to the area for decades,” he stressed, “and the Deery family has been a pillar of the community for years. They are just really nice people. Jody and her involvement with the community will certainly be missed. The Speedway has been a real benefit to Loves Park.”

According to Gough, Jody was very involved with the business and was always out there welcoming people with a motto of “Thou shalt entertain thy customers!” She would fill in different spots if needed, such as working the ticket window…always friendly and pleasant. Not only dedicated to the business, Jody was also a big supporter of her church, having received many accolades from local Catholic churches and other organizations.

Lindberg pointed out that the Deery’s son, David and his sister Susan and other siblings  continue to operate with the same ethics as their parents.

Current Loves Park Mayor, Greg Jury, echoes the same sentiments as Lindberg and noted, “Jody Deery was always enthusiastic about the business with lots of positive energy, and the Speedway is such a benefit to the community, a relentless community partner and tireless community advocate. She and her husband have left a tremendous legacy for our area.”

Loves Park City Clerk, Bob Burden, has many fond memories of the Rockford Speedway and also has only good things to say about the Deerys, reiterating how much Jody will be missed.

The facility currently has approximately 60 employees, and as Darryl Lindberg pointed out. “They have been a staple for local young people looking for a job!”

Marty Gough said, the longest serving employee, Ray Padron has been with the company for 55 years and mentioned a number of racing aficionados associated with the Rockford Speedway in the past, one being Al Shephard, with NASCAR Busch Services.

The Speedway venue hosts many different events throughout the year besides Raceway events, such as concerts, sales, wedding events and so on.

For more information call the Speedway at 815-633-1500. The company’s website is

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