Board of Directors of the Starved Rock Country Community Foundation
Jay McCracken, President
Jay K. McCracken, a resident of Hennepin, Illinois, is the recently retired Superintendent of the Putnam County School District 535 and the former Mayor of Henry, Illinois. Jay graduated Suma Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education from NIU, continued his education at U of I and ISA and received a Master of Arts Degree in Educational Leadership from Aurora University. With more than twenty years of municipal and educational administrative leadership, Jay brings a wealth of talent to the SRCCF Board of Directors. Jay’s vast experience in service to our community ranges from serving on the Board of Directors for the Marshall-Putnam Youth Service Board, Henry Rotary Club, Granville Rotary Club, and Marshall County; to serving as the President of the Freedom House Board of Directors, the Chairman of the Legislative Scholarship Committee for former Senator Risinger, and President of the Henry Elementary Teachers Association. Jay has recently been elected to the IVCC Board of Directors and to that of Lighted Way. Jay and his wife Kim have a daughter, son-in-law and a grandchild living in the Bloomington area.
Tom Justice, Vice-President
Thomas L. Justice, Jr., a resident of Seneca, Illinois, is the President of The Justice Law Firm, P.C., a three-attorney firm with offices in Ottawa and Streator, Illinois. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Carthage College in 2002 and his J.D. from the Iowa College of Law in 2005. He was admitted to practice in Illinois in 2005 and Wisconsin in 2008. Tom’s primary areas of practice include residential and commercial real estate, property related disputes and estate planning. Tom is a title agent through Attorney’s Title Guaranty with experience in residential, commercial and construction title issues. Tom is a member of various civic and professional organizations and an active member of the Starved Rock Country community. His knowledge and experience has been invaluable in the creation and advancement of the Starved Rock Country Community Foundation. Tom and Tracy Justice have three children.
John McCormick, Treasurer
John McCormick is a lifelong resident of Starved Rock Country having grown up in Spring Valley and now living in Peru with his wife and 5 children. He has spent more than 20 years as a banker providing support to businesses and individuals in Starved Rock Country. He currently serves as Senior Vice President of Eureka Savings Bank with offices in LaSalle, Peru, Mendota, and Oglesby. He has held numerous community positions throughout Starved Rock Country including time with Horizon House (Past Campaign Chair), IVAC (Past President), Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce, Junior Achievement, and United Way. He currently serves on the finance committee and board of directors for St. Margaret’s Hospital, President of the Upper Illinois River Valley CDC, finance chair of Grace Untied Methodist Church in LaSalle, and as treasurer for the Starved Rock Country Community Foundation. “The SRCCF is a great organization that focuses on making our entire region stronger through it’s mission and I am honored to be a small part of this great group as we grow into an amazing resource for Starved Rock Country.”
Rev. Kris Zierke, Secretary
Rev. Kris Zierke is pastor of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Seneca, and resides in that community. She has a Bachelor of Music in Church Music from Westminster Choir College, Princeton, NJ., and a Master of Divinity from Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa. Rev. Zierke has served in Seneca since 2000, after having served as Pastor in Wisconsin and Deaconess in Iowa. She has served on the Advisory Board at Pleasant View, a Lutheran Life Community in Ottawa, and was involved in the I&M Canal CROP Walk and CASPER, a community after-school program in Seneca. Rev. Zierke serves as Conference Dean for the South Conference of the Northern Illinois Synod, ELCA, where she also serves as Chair of the Worship Team. We are honored to have Pastor Zierke serving as the Secretary of the SRCCF and representing the faith community throughout Starved Rock Country.
Chuck Beckett, an Ottawa resident, retired after a 30-year career in skilled trades with Caterpillar, Inc. in Peoria, Illinois. Chuck has served in volunteer and leadership capacities for Easter Seals, Pleasant View, the Peoria and Ottawa Elks Lodges, the Ottawa Lions Club, the American Legion, the VFW and the Vietnam Veterans Association in Washington, Illinois. Chuck received the Volunteer of the Year Award from the United Way of Eastern LaSalle County and is honored to serve on the Board of Directors for the SRCCF. Chuck is married to Pamela, loves to travel, dance, play golf and especially cook and cater small gatherings in the community. Chuck and Pamela’s children live in Illinois, Iowa, Colorado and Seattle, Washington, Although not originally from the SRC area, Chuck is proud to give back to the community he now calls home.
Tara is a resident of Streator, Illinois, where she has been heavily involved in a multitude of community service programs and activities. Tara holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago with two minors, Math and Physics, completed at Eastern Illinois University, Pre-Engineering Program. Tara is employed by Caterpillar, Inc., in Aurora. She is a 6 Sigma Black Belt, Manufacturing Engineer, and Systems Subject Matter Expert in Assembly, and serves as a member of the Women’s Initiative Network. Tara currently holds the position of Councilwoman, serving on the Streator City Council since 2013. She is a team member of START (Streator Action and Revitalization Team), served as the President of Streator Leading Ladies from 2014-2016, and holds leadership and committee member positions with Streator Tourism, the 4th of July Celebration Committee, the Streator Garden Club, the Streator Walldogs Committee, and the Streator Farmers Market. Tara is a recipient of the 40 under 40 Award, Class of 2014. She is married to Curt Bedei, the Executive Director of the Ottawa Visitor Center.
Keith has more than 50 years experience in the local business community, including owning his own trucking business serving Bureau County, and 28 years as the Manager of Redi Mix, Inc. A graduate of LaMoille High School and LPO Junior College, Keith served as a Princeton City Commissioner for three yeas and as the Mayor of Princeton for 16 years. During his terms as Mayor, Keith was committed to maintaining the excellence of Princeton. He has considerable experience in city government and believes strongly in the value of hard work, fairness, mature judgement and team building. Keith s also active in local community initiatives and supportive of many organizations, currently serving on the Bureau County Board, the North Central Economic Development Board, and now on the SRCCF Board of Directors. Keith lives in Princeton with his wife, Julia. His family includes three married sons, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, all living locally.
Inga has worked in the environmental chemistry industry for more than 30 years; she received her BA in Chemistry, and MBA in Finance and Marketing, both from the University of Chicago. Prior to joining Carus Corporation in 1992, Inga worked for Air Products and Chemicals (APCI) from 1987 until 1992, primarily serving in ex-patriot positions in Europe, where she had commercial responsibility for APCI’s specialty chemicals for the German speaking regions. Inga joined Carus in 1992 as European Sales Manager, and returned to the US in 1993 to become Director of Marketing. She was Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing from 2001 until August of 2005, when she became President and CEO. In 2013, she was made Chairman of Carus Group, and in 2015, the year Carus celebrated its centennial, she handed the CEO title to Dave Kuzy and continues in her role as Chairman. Inga is a member of the Executive Committee of the American Chemistry Council, the Society of the Chemical Industry, is Chair of the OmniArts Trust, and also serves on the boards of the Hegeler Carus Foundation, Canal Corridor Association, and Landmarks Illinois. Inga and her husband live in Ottawa, and have two girls, ages 14 and 16.
Robert “Bob” M. Eschbach is the current and long standing Mayor of Ottawa, Illinois. Mayor Eschbach has been elected Mayor of Ottawa for 5 consecutive terms, beginning in 1999, but that isn’t the beginning of Bob’s story in Starved Rock Country. Bob was born and raised in Ottawa and graduated from Illinois Valley Community College, Illinois State University and the University of Illinois College of Law. Mayor Eschbach began practicing law in Ottawa in 1978. Prior to being Mayor, Bob Eschbach served for many years on the Ottawa Plan Commission, Historic Preservation Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals and various other City committees. Always a purveyor of green initiatives in the town, Bob has been adamant about the beautification of Ottawa, but has also been extremely effective in his attempts to bring jobs and industry to the area. Eschbach was a founding member of Residents Against a Polluted Environment in the early 1980’s and fought the establishment of a hazardous waste landfill near Ottawa. He also served as Special Assistant LaSalle County State’s Attorney for land use and environmental matters for many years. He has served as a Commissioner of the I & M Canal National Heritage Corridor Commission, and in 2013 received the prestigious Boat Captain’s Award of the Canal Corridor Association. Eschbach believes in open and inclusive government and as Mayor has involved hundreds of citizens in advising the Council and making improvements across the City. He has been instrumental in shaping a shared vision for the future of Ottawa – placing special emphasis on economic development and the creation of new jobs. During his term thousands of jobs have been created and Ottawa’s downtown has undergone an exciting revitalization making it a destination for those seeking unique shopping and dining experiences.
Because of Bob’s extensive influence in and around Starved Rock Country and his continued support of the community for which he governs, he is an invaluable resource and highly respected board member to the Starved Rock Community Foundation. In recognition of the vision, dedication and accomplishments of Robert M. Eschbach, Mayor of the city of Ottawa, Illinois, the Robert M. Eschbach Legacy Endowment Fund was established with a $60,000 gift from Bob’s sister, Sharon Eschbach Coleman and her late husband, Ken Coleman, of Seattle, WA. Your contribution will assist in the growth of the Fund, which is specifically designated for the continued aesthetic, cultural and economic development of Ottawa.
Tom is the retired CEO and Chairman of Resource Information Management Systems, Inc. (RIMS), in Naperville, Illinois. RIMS, a national leader in the healthcare software and outsourcing services field, was sold and consolidated into Trizetto, a NASDAQ listed company, in 2002. Tom is currently managing Partner of Heritage Harbor Ottawa Resort Development, a partnership involved in resort real estate development in Ottawa. Tom has served on various charitable boards over the years, especially those involved in assistive technology for persons with special needs. Tom is married to Sandy (Pete), his wife of 44 years, and has 4 kids and 9 grandkids, a special dog, and a farm he and Pete love. Tom loves Starved Rock Country, and is proud to part of this expanding community. Tom led the creative team who developed the name “Starved Rock Country, and was instrumental in the growth of the name and many branding initiatives. We are honored to have Tom serve on the Board of Directors of the community foundation bearing that name.
Boyd Palmer, has served as the Executive Director of the Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce, since 2006. He resides in Ottawa, with his wife, Phyllis, and continued to serve the Ottawa and urr9unding community well. Boyd previously held the title of Director of the Small Business Development Center at IVCC for more than 20 years. His varied and impressive resume’ includes positions in the banking and restaurant industries, and Boyd has met with success as an entrepreneur and community advisor. He even held a position with the Boeing Corporation in Seattle as a Motion Picture Writer and Director. Boyd is a Certified Business Specialist, and received his Bachelor of Science Degree at the University of Wisconsin in 1957. He is a recipient of both the Leo Parkerson Award and the Ethyl Strong Ambassador of the Year Award from the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce. Boyd has served in officer positions with Ottawa Noon Rotary, Ottawa Chamber Economic Development Task Force, the IVCC Enrollment Task Force, the Center Point 504 Board, the YMCA and B’nai Brith. Boyd and his wife, Phyllis, are long time Ottawa residents, have three grown children and several grandchildren.
Larry and his wife, Karen, reside in Ottawa, although Larry was raised in Cuba, Illinois. After graduating from the University of Illinois, Larry taught school for three years in Rochelle, two years at West Aurora High School, and then relocated to Ottawa to teach at Ottawa High School for 27 years. Larry began a real estate career in 1979 with Century 21 Pilson-Wolfe. The firm became Century 21 Wolfe and Windsor Realty in 1981. Larry opened his own office in the North Ottawa Plaza in 1988 and Windsor Century 21 has existed there ever since. Larry is active in the Illini Valley Association of Realtors and was chosen Realtor of the Year in 1996. Larry has served in leadership capacities in a multitude of organizations throughout the Starved Rock Country area for many years. He recently received the Leo Parkerson Award from the Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce. Larry states that his love for Ottawa and the life it has provided for him, he remains so involved as his way of giving something back. We couldn’t be more proud that to have Larry choose the SRCCF as a beneficiary of his dedicated service.
Susan Thornton, a life long Starved Rock Country resident, moved to Ottawa 32 years ago from the LaSalle area. Passionate about giving back to her community, she serves on many volunteer and non-profit boards. She has spent 32 years on the LaSalle County 708 Mental Health Board, advocating for those with special needs and is currently serving as President. Susan’s interest in the past afforded her a seat on the board for the Center for American Archeology. She is active in Rotary and is a member of the LaSalle Noon Club, and sits on the Executive Board, and is currently the Foundation Chairman. Her love of baseball, brought her and her husband to help fund
the LaSalle Rotary Park which has an ADA certified playground, a soccer field, and soon a Senior League baseball field. She also serves a President of the Parks non-profit Foundation. In her free time Susan enjoys, gardening, spending time with her family which includes her husband, Edmund, four children, 5 grandchildren, and her beloved Pug, Rolex, her “watch” dog. She also loves old movies, theater, music, and tries to keep humor in her daily life.
Pamela A. Beckett, President
Pamela has spent the past 23 years in the non-profit business world. Joining the Easter Seals organization in Peoria, Illinois as an assistant in the Development Department in 1994, Pamela left the organization as the VP of Client Financial Services in 2002. Joining Easter Seals of LaSalle and Bureau Counties in Ottawa as the President/CEO in 2003, Pamela led the 33 member staff to a profitable position, expanding services to Seneca, Peru and Princeton. The Autism Resource Center as well as a mobile Autism Center were created and the annual Telethon grew considerably as support for the organization increased. In 2009, Pamela chose to accept the Regional Foundation Director’s position with Lutheran Life Communities, the parent organization to Pleasant View in Ottawa and Luther Oaks in Bloomington, to create a Foundation presence at each campus, and to launch a combined $4M campaign in those communities.
After retiring from LLC in 2015, Pamela founded the Starved Rock Country Community Foundation to serve the philanthropic ideals of residents and businesses through LaSalle, Bureau and Putnam Counties. “To create a community foundation for our area has been a goal of mine for many, many years. I first learned of the amazing work of the Peoria Community Foundation, and after researching how the other 33 CF’s in Illinois benefit their communities, I found the purpose and drive to move forward with the SRCCF. I feel so honored to have such a tremendous Board of Directors and so much support from the people throughout our community. What a wonderful opportunity to meet generous, caring, exciting and welcoming people who really care about our community.”