Kaneville remembers former village president

By on August 9, 2012

by Cheryl Borrowdale
KANEVILLE—Bob Rodney was known to many Kaneville residents as the meticulous village president who got things done, but to his grandchildren, he was simply “Mayor Bob-Bob.”

Though he lost a two-year battle with cancer on July 20, residents and family said that he would be remembered for his role in incorporating the village of Kaneville, for serving as Kaneville’s first village president and for his devotion to his family.

The nine years he lived in Kaneville were marked by efforts to improve the community, which began almost as soon as the Rodneys moved to the village from Bolingbrook in 2003.

“Bob wanted to make a difference in the small town we chose to call home,” his wife Georgia Rodney said.

The Rodneys had chosen Kaneville as their adopted town after Bob retired from GTE Automatic Electric, where he had worked as an electrical engineer and then in management. He wanted to retire in the country, and the couple enjoyed living in a small community where their home backed up to a farmer’s field and a neighbor had horses, Georgia said.

But retirement didn’t last long for Bob, who loved being active and involved. He briefly became a freelance technical writer for Lucent Technologies, Georgia said, but she convinced him to stay home and enjoy his retirement. That’s when he started becoming involved in Kaneville politics and policies, she said.

“I think it all started when Bob would go to the Purple Store—now Hill’s Country Store—on Main Street,” she said.

He’d get up early on Sunday and head to Hill’s after breakfast, saying that he was going to get the paper, Bob’s daughter Sharon Rodney said.

“What he really did was hang out with ‘his cronies,’ as my mom would say, and shoot the breeze for hours,” Sharon said.

For Bob, it was an informal community forum.

“He and many of the other residents would discuss issues, desires for the community, problems and pluses,” Georgia said. “The ins and outs of Kaneville politics and policies—that was Bob’s delight.”

By 2006, one of the pressing issues facing Kaneville was whether to incorporate the village as a municipality, said Ray Christiansen, director of the Kaneville Library.

“There were a lot of people really pushing for the incorporation of Kaneville, and early on Bob stepped up and said he’d be interested in helping,” Christiansen said. “He got involved because they had public meetings. His was a voice that people listened to.”

Though the village had been operating like a town for more than 100 years, residents never needed to officially incorporate until neighboring villages began expanding toward Kaneville, and the town needed to define its borders, Christiansen said. Alongside Township Supervisor Leon Gramley, Bob stepped into a leadership role, researching the issue, talking to residents, negotiating the town’s boundary lines and persuading a state senator to present the application in the Illinois legislature.

When the incorporation was successful in 2007, he ran to become the village’s first president. It was a challenging position, but he thrived on it.

“Being the first president of a new village would be a challenge for anybody,” Christiansen said. “He really rose to it. Being a public official is tough, whether it’s in Kaneville or in Chicago. He did his best for his town.”

Though not everyone agreed with the decisions the new Village Board made, Bob helped get the community to discuss issues.

“He was most proud of the fact that his efforts brought many of Kaneville’s residents together, to both agree and disagree on specific village issues,” Georgia said.

Those who worked with him remembered him as a detail-oriented person who made sure things got done well.

Christiansen remembers working with Bob during the first year of his presidency to help put together documents for the village. Their offices were just across the hall from each other in the Kaneville village center, Christiansen said, and so they worked together frequently.

“There were many occasions where he would come to me for help getting information and documents,” Christiansen said. “We worked together to build the kind of library and records that a Village Board should have.”

Pat Hill, a village trustee and the owner of Hill’s Country Store, described Bob as a meticulous man who cared about getting things right.

“Bob was very precise,” she said. “If there was something that needed to be done, he got it done. He investigated it, he researched it, and he brought it back to the board.”

Hill praised his willingness to thoroughly investigate an issue before making a decision.

“He was totally the most thorough person I ever knew in my life,” she said. “We’ll miss his knowledge and his input on things (on the board).”

Christiansen agreed that Bob’s thoroughness was one of his best traits.

“He was very well organized, and even if he didn’t personally do something, he would get people engaged and try to get them to work together,” Christiansen said. “He was a very thoughtful man. He wouldn’t shoot from the hip. If he was asked a question, he would always stop and think it through, and you knew whatever answer he gave had been thoroughly considered. You didn’t always agree with him, but you knew any opinion he gave had been carefully reasoned. He always made sure that the I’s were dotted and the T’s were crossed and that everything was as it should be.”

Among his many contributions to the village as president, Bob represented Kaneville at the Metro West Council of Government meetings, where representatives from municipalities in Kane, DeKalb and Kendall met monthly to share concerns; discuss pending state and federal legislation; and address regional issues, such as growth, transportation and water conservation.

Hill said that Bob’s involvement in the Metro West Council helped the village determine how to resolve many of its own issues.

“He would find out about something, and he’d be very informative,” Hill said. “It helped us as we were all enacting and creating our own ordinances for the village.”

Christiansen said that he appreciated Bob’s strong support of Kaneville’s library programs.

“He was truly an advocate of libraries and reading,” Christiansen said. “When the library’s 75th anniversary was coming up, I said to him, ‘You know what would be really nice, Bob? If the Village Board issued a proclamation about it.’ And he said to me, ‘You know, I don’t think we’ve ever issued a proclamation. Let me find out how to do that.’ Not only did he do it, but he came to the anniversary celebration and spoke about his love of libraries.”

That love of reading translated into action several times.

“He and Georgia would go out of their way to find materials for the library and donate it,” Christiansen said. “When budget cuts were causing us to shut down some of our programming, he persuaded the Village Board to help keep our children’s programming running here. He believed libraries were vital to communities, and he loved this village and would do anything he could to make it a better place.”

His close relationship with his wife, Georgia, his four daughters and his seven grandchildren gave him a reputation among his colleagues as a family man.

“His wife and his daughters, they are super people,” Hill said. “And I know he really loved his grandkids.”

Georgia’s habit of always calling for her husband twice led to his being nicknamed “Mayor Bob-Bob” among his family.

“(She would be) trying to get his attention to come to dinner, help her with something or whatever, (calling) ‘Bob! Boobbbb!,’” Sharon said. “So (my son) Rhett thought his name was Bob-Bob. My sisters and I called him Mayor Bob-Bob after that—President Bob-Bob seemed too formal.”

Despite his image in the village as a careful, detail-oriented man, Sharon remembers her father as a jokester.

“He was a pun kind of guy,” she said. “His grandkids would always ask what grandma was making for dinner, and he’d say, everytime, ‘Bugs and worms! Yum!’”

He loved taking his grandchildren on rides on his John Deere, and also enjoyed fishing, woodworking, photography and old cameras.

Daughter Carol Moore said that she hoped to follow in the example her parents set.

“He was the type of guy who, when I asked him for help with algebra, one problem took all night. He would never tell me the answer; he would ‘coach’ me through it,” she said. “Of course, being young, I would get totally frustrated and irritated. I thought he wasn’t being fair. (But now) I wouldn’t trade that parenting for all the money in the world; I feel 100 percent certain that, along with my mom, he provided me with the ability to have the confidence to do whatever I want to do in life.”

Though Bob wasn’t a sentimental man, he could be counted on, Sharon said.

“I remember my dad saying to me, when I needed help from my family, ‘That’s what family is for.’ And it was the best, most true thing ever,” she said.

His loss has been hard on the whole family, Sharon said.

“He was my best friend,” Georgia said. “We did everything together—golf, fishing, home projects. We miss him.”