Writing this column was not a part-time job for my father. Community journalism was his life. Before he died Friday, at age 90, he had already put in two hours at his desk, read several newspapers, and turned in a column well before deadline. I was blessed to have arrived from Denver the night before for a long-planned visit and to be holding his hand when he passed quietly, most likely from a heart attack.
My dad never had a den or a workbench in the garage, like other dads. He headquartered in front of a typewriter in his home office. That’s where you’d find him bright and early with his first of many cups of coffee, discussing with his assistant the ribbon-cutting he’d photograph at noon or interviewing a source on the phone. That’s where you’d find him late at night, when he’d crank out most of his stories.
For Dad, a trip to the store was an opportunity to run into an acquaintance and get a story idea. A drive to interview a businessman in Hebron would take him past a beautiful barn, which he’d return to photograph on a perfect sunny day. Looking back, it’s really astonishing that he could thrive for more than 50 years as a self-employed writer and photographer, ferreting out small-town news and feature stories and consistently, relentlessly turning out images and words.
Was it his jovial nature that made him such a prolific journalist or his countless connections with the people of Woodstock and McHenry County that made him so cheerful? Both, no doubt. He wanted to know more about every person he met, and I truly never heard him say an unkind word about anyone – he just wasn’t capable of it.
Dad had many wonderful assistants through the years whom he mentored; without them, there would be no Don Peasley legacy.
They did increasingly more work as he aged and made it possible for him to stay active. Since the ’50s, they also devotedly glued those newspaper clippings into old-fashioned, oversized scrapbooks, and boxed his photos and negatives. It is our community’s collective family album, highlights spanning decades, and it’s a pleasure to see.
Dad’s lifetime of work is in the capable care of the McHenry County Historical Society. Readers interested in preserving that history may make donations to its Don Peasley Photography Archive Collection, which maintains and digitizes this vast and valuable archive.
I’m honored to be asked to write something in place of Dad’s usual column this week.
But Dad would want you to know what he’d written: Marian’s Alumni Memorial Mass is at 2:45 p.m. May 15 in the school chapel. Woodstock High School senior Henry Gantner won Best in Show at the Fox Valley Conference Art Show. And North High School Senior Rebecca Einspahr won a $15,000 Golden Apple Scholars college scholarship.
• Sarah Peasley is the daughter of Don Peasley, who was an editor, columnist and historian in McHenry County since October 1947. He began his association with Shaw Publications in 1950. He was a frequent contributor of articles and photos.