CLARENDON HILLS – No one year may stand out to John Steeves as much as 1983. That year wouldn’t just mark a new chapter in his life, but it would be the starting point for a 30-year journey with his family.
It was the year he would welcome his first daughter, Kelly, and also when he’d have a simple conversation with a neighbor that changed his involvement with the community.
While remodeling his home, a neighbor approached him and asked whether he would interview for a position on the Clarendon Hills Park District Board of Commissioners. He said, “Sure.”
“I never thought I’d be on a volunteer board for 25 years; that’s quite a stretch,” Steeves said.
At the time of Steeves’ involvement, the parks had outdated swings, slides were filled with dirt or stones, and mud puddles would accumulate in impact zones after rain. All of the duties needed for the parks – from recreation to mowing the grass – were performed by one employee.
“All the park equipment was about 30 years old at that point in time,” he said. “It was very outdated in comparison to the communities around us.”
Steeves started investing in capital projects and improved the parks over time with new equipment. His main problem, however, was operating within the space Clarendon Hills provides.
“We’re really landlocked because we’re only a square-mile community,” he said. “It was a challenge to find the best way to utilize our parks and how to create amenities within the park that were affordable for the community.”
Through his efforts, Steeves helped make the parks a hot spot for families.
Steeves has now spent 25 of the past 30 years as a member of the Clarendon Hills Park District Board of Commissioners – serving as board president for 20 of those years – but will retire this month. For his efforts in the community, Steeves Park also was named for him, near the intersection of Ann Street and Eastern Avenue.
“I’ve enjoyed it and it’ll be hard to not get ready to go to meetings and just let it all go, but it’s time for that now,” he said.
In 2013, Steeves welcomed a grandchild, and didn’t end his journey, but started a new one.
“As it goes full circle, I’m a grandfather as I depart the board,” said Steeves, who stepped down as president last year to make for a smooth transition for park board President Greg Johnson while continuing to serve as commissioner.
Steeves said heading into retirement he will enjoy some golf, relax and spend time with the new addition to his family. But it won’t stop him from helping the community he loves any way he can.
“I think I’ve told them that I’m here and am willing to do anything they would like me to do in the future, so I’m sure they’ll throw a project at me now and again just to keep me around for fun,” he said.