SPRING GROVE – Spring Grove is what it is today because of John Toler, friends and community leaders said.
A native of St. Louis, the former Spring Grove village president died May 17 at the age of 70 in Littleton, Colo., where he was visiting his son.
A veteran of the Vietnam War – where he earned three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star – he will buried at Arlington National Cemetery this summer.
“He set the agenda for Spring Grove,” said Ron Erdmann, a friend of Toler’s and a former superintendent for Richmond-Burton Community High School District 157. “When he came to Spring Grove, there were no real ordinances, there was no central plan. He brought development. He attracted industry. He built parks. The guy never stopped. I don’t think he ever slept.”
Toler sat on the Spring Grove Village Board for two years before serving as village president from 1983 to 1993.
He was particularly proud of the emphasis on training for the police department and the decision to have 1-acre, single-family zoning, said his wife, Judy Toler.
Not everyone, including longtime friend and Richmond attorney Don Stinespring Sr., agreed with Toler on the zoning decision. Current village officials have talked about decreasing the required acreage per home.
“John wasn’t one to hide his feelings,” said Stinespring, who considered Toler his best friend. “He let you know what he thought. He’d listen to everyone, and he’d let you know what he thought.”
Stinespring and his wife, Susan, lived next door to the Tolers. Both families had two boys and one girl, and the kids were similar ages.
They would sit on their back patios talking about village politics and commiserating about being small-business owners. Toler and his brother, James, created a manufacturer representative business called Toler Marketing Group.
Toler and Stinespring also served together on the Northern Illinois Medical Center’s board of directors, Toler’s two years as chairman following Stinespring’s.
Toler also was part of the Teamwork Not Taxes group, which raised enough money to build an athletic field complete with bleachers, a press box and scoreboard before the new high school was built, Erdmann said.
“That was just John’s personality,” Judy Toler said. “He got involved in everything. He was involved in the hospital. He was active in the schools. He helped coach the kids’ little league teams.”
The Tolers left Spring Grove in 1994, eventually moving to Red Lodge, Mont.