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Naperville American Legion Post 43 began naming a Citizen of the Year in 1986.  We ask for community assistance to identify deserving candidates, and we especially like input from our own American Legion and VFW members.

 

Nominee’s service must be in support of the Naperville area or its bordering communities.  Members of the American Legion, Sons of the Legion, VFW, and Auxiliary are eligible, but it is not limited to.  The service must have been performed in a volunteer capacity, rather than as part of compensated employment.

 

Anyone may nominate a candidate by sending a letter or email that includes a comprehensive description of the services the nominee performed, the time frame, duration, and significance of the service to others, and the category they are being nominated for, along with the name and contact information for the nominee and the person offering the nomination.   Letters from others endorsing the nominee are encouraged.

 

Naperville is blessed with people who serve their fellow citizens.  Typically, the judges have a very difficult task.  Comprehensive information, attachments, and endorsements may be included, and are of great help to the committee in selecting the winner.  Nomination may be mailed to:
 

American Legion Post 43

Citizen of the Year

Post Office Box 4

Naperville, 60566

 

or emailed to:   r.yndestad@yahoo.com 

Nominations are to arrive no later than March 31,2024.

 

This year's 2024 winner will be announced in the local media and honored at The American Legion’s Awards and Recognition Banquet on April 24, 2024. 

 

Naperville

Citizen of the Year

Since 1986, Naperville American Legion Post 43 has annually
recognized a Naperville citizen for extraordinary service.

See a list of past
Citizens of the Year

Blue Smoke

2022
Citizen of the Year

STEVE STRICKLAND

Steve spends majority of his time helping others. Steve is a member of The American Legion Post 43 and has been The American Legion Riders Chapter 43 Director for the past several years. He has been instrumental in raising money to support Gold Star Families by selling R.E.D. T-shirts at various events, and taking the time to attend whatever venue will help support this cause. To date, The American Legion Riders have raised donations of over $12,000.00 to support the Gold Star Families foundation. Steve also supports, along with the Legion Riders, the Honor Flight Chicago programs; which help support sponsoring flights to Washington DC for Veterans who served from World War II up to Vietnam at this time. The Riders also greet the Veterans, when they return, at the airport with several other Legion members to let them know how much their service is appreciated. In addition to his work with The American Legion, Steve currently drives a bus with the Sunrise Transportation service; where he picks up students with special needs and brings them to school. Steve has a special personality, patience and commitment to helping anyone in need. Anyone who works in this environment would understand that it takes a special person to fulfill this position. Steve is that person. Steve is also a member of the PAWSitive Therapy Troupe, which is an all[1]volunteer, public charity, dedicated to sharing registered therapy dogs with individuals in a wide variety of health care and educational settings - bringing comfort, support and encouragement through the unique healing power of human-animal bonding. Spend some time with Steve and you will find out that he is a person that freely gives of his time to help others. The American Legion Post 43, as well as the American Legion Riders Chapter, are grateful for all he does and enjoy his comradery and dedication, whatever the cause might be. Steve is dedicated to helping others in so many ways, which is why he has been selected as the 2022 Citizen of the Year.

 

Rich Yndestad Committee Chairman

Blue Smoke

2023
Citizen of the Year

JIM  HOCH

It is my privilege to introduce this year’s Citizen of the Year Jim Hoch.

 

Jim has been our unofficial photographer for as long as I can remember and he freely volunteers his time and talent in this area.  No one asked him to do what he started so many years ago. He just saw a need and jumped in with both feet. He could easily make money for what he does for The American Legion and the VFW Posts, but he refuses to take a cent. Jim is the de facto photographer for many of the City of Naperville events, as well as all of the Veteran events including Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day.  Jim has been a constant in providing photographic archives of the events; including all of the dinners, parades, and even the Annual Judd-A-Thon races. He volunteers his time and talent, and never complains or takes credit. He helps out wherever and whenever volunteers are needed, and not just with his camera.

 

It is conservatively estimated that since 2009 Jim has documented over 250 dinner socials, 45 parades and 140 special events and fundraisers, taking over 10,000 photos. These photos are an important contribution, for the good of the Posts, and also for the enjoyment of his subjects. He graciously provides these photos for download, free of any charges or expectation of reimbursement.

 

I would also like to mention that Jim was the catalyst in initiating the “Remember Everyone Deployed” shirt sales with the Legion Riders, which has raised approximately $15,000 for the Gold Star Family Memorial in Veterans Park (which will be dedicated on Saturday May 27th.)  Jim assisted the Legion Riders in selling the shirts when he was available, whenever he wasn't photographing another event.

 

Jim has researched, cataloged and led the installation of American Flags at the gravesites of hundreds of Veterans during the week prior to Memorial Day each year.  Additionally, he has recorded interviews of several of our older Veteran members which provided their families with an invaluable record of their personal military history. 

 

Jim travels to the Southwest every year and volunteers, along with his church, to work on housing rehab on the Navajo Reservation. The Navajo Mission is sponsored by the Diocese of Joliet, and it's like a "Habitat for Humanity, where we build, rehab, refurbish many projects during the 2 weeks the team is there” says Jim.

 

Jim is a true patriot. He has never served in uniform; but exhibits all the qualities of a man who loves his country and the people with whom he comes in contact. Jim Hoch is our 2023 Citizen of the Year

Dark Background

2020
Citizens of the Year

and their contributions

Since 1986, Naperville American Legion Post 43 has annually
recognized a Naperville citizen for extraordinary service.
The program was expanded in 2014 to include multiple categories.
This year it is recognizing people in three service categories.

Starry Sky

SERVICE TO COMMUNITY

WAYNE KLEIN

“Simply the most selfless person I have ever met” is the way one person described Wayne.  Another, whose family he stood by in a time of need, praises his compassion and service to others.  His service in the community is characterized by low key actions that don’t grab the spotlight.  He gives of that most precious commodity, his time. He coaches kid’s athletic teams, organizes a memorial golf outing, works as a Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, suggests Eagle Scout projects, consults on obtaining required city permits, teaches Junior Achievement, offers his construction company to build an outdoor classroom at a local elementary school, and uses his plane to fly medical missions. He is the kind of guy who, seeing the tree trunk in your back yard, not only offers the use of his log-splitter, but also spends a couple hours helping you to split the wood.  He is devoted to his family.  He reaches out to friends in need and is there to support them.  Mr. Klein is also involved in more formal service positions.  Starting on the facilities committee at All Saints Academy, he became president of the School Board and now serves on the Board of Trustees.   He has served on multiple committees and projects at his church, St. Elizabeth Seton.

SERVICE TO VETERANS

JAMES OFTEDAL

Jim is the Chaplain of Naperville VFW Post 3873 and Commander of the joint American Legion - Veterans of Foreign Wars, Honor Guard (HG).  He is a Viet Nam veteran who lost three high school friends in that war.  In early 2015, after attending his father-in-law’s funeral and military honors, he wondered why Naperville didn’t provide something similar to recognize the service and sacrifices made by the veteran, and to instill in the family and friends of the veteran, the appreciation of service and comradery of fellow veterans saluting him or her.  But he didn’t just think, he acted, soliciting volunteers from the two posts, starting the training, and then reaching out to the Army National Guard for assistance and expertise.  The Naperville Honor Guard received Department of Defense Certification, a significant achievement, in October 2015.  Since that time, they have performed two-hundred-thirty-five Military Funeral Services (MFS) and numerous community service events.  While a MFS usually requires about three hours commitment for the members of the HG, much more is required of the Commander.  Those tasks include coordination with the funeral home, notifying HG members and ensuring a sufficient number are available, coordinating with the military flag folding team (and to perform that task if a military unit is not available), arranging for a bugler if the internal HG bugler is not available,  picking up, maintaining security and returning rifles to the armory, notifying the police department when and where the rifle fire will occur, so as not to alarm the community, commanding the ceremony and  keeping the post commanders up-to-date on the units activities.  Each event requires a significant investment of his time.  Perhaps the most demanding aspect of the command is being always available and in the rare instance where he must be out of town, arranging for someone to stand in for him. 

SERVICE TO YOUTH

SHERRY WEINSTEIN

Over seventeen years ago Ms. Weinstein started a program for District 203 and 204 parents called “Keeping Kids Safe”.  It addressed bullying and other social situations.  Over time it evolved to emphasize protecting children form online abuse such as cyber-bullying, sexting, sextortion and stalking.  The program was presented by Naperville Police Department Internet Crimes Detective Rich Wistocki (now retired). The presentation was so popular that it was turned into a seminar so that parents who couldn’t attend, might access the information online. Detective Wistocki presented the seminar at the Exchange Club’s National Convention in 2017.  The program was deemed so timely and urgent that the National Exchange Club posted the hour-long, professionally produced video on its website for its nationwide audience.  To keep youth safe is the greatest service that can be performed, and Sherry has fulfilled that service to not only her own family’s children but also the children of parents everywhere.  She is a true unsung hero for the prevention of child abuse.

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