Above / Pictured are American Legion Publicist Jim Vahle, Gloria Caruso and Joe Caruso (Citizens of the Year for Service to Veterans), Trish Krenick (Citizen of the Year for Service to Youth), Ray Kinney (Citizen of the Year for Service to Community) and Post Commander Lee Lindberg.

When folks gathered for the annual Citizens of the Year and Past Commanders’ Dinner hosted by the Naperville American Legion Post 43 on April 15, they received a brief  history of the veterans’ organization. Shortly after the Armistice was signed at 11AM on Nov. 11, 1918, to end The Great War also known as The War to End All Wars, World War I veterans founded the American Legion in 1919. The Naperville American Legion Post 43 was chartered in 1920.

Event organizer Jim Vahle also provided brief notes that the organization was founded on four pillars: Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation, National Security, Americanism, and Children and Youth. Each of these pillars encompasses a variety of programs that benefit our nation’s veterans, its service members, their families, the youth of America and ordinary citizens, he said.

And Vahle went on to recognize scholarship recipients—Sarah Wheeler of Waubonsie Valley High School (not pictured) and to Marina Pascual, also of Waubonsie Valley. Both girls attended American Legion Girls State in June 2017 and both were honored with $1,500 scholarships.

Since 1986, Vahle said, Post 43 has presented its annual Citizen of the Year Award for extraordinary service to the Naperville area community. Three years ago the special awards program was expanded to recognize winners in three categories: Service to Community, Service to Veterans and Service to Youth.

Ray Kinney was recognized in the category of 2017 Citizen of the Year for Service to Community; Gloria and Joe Caruso, 2017 Citizens of the Year for Service to Veterans; and Trish Krenick, 2017 Citizen of the Year for Service to Youth.

PHOTO GALLERY / Click any photo to enlarge.

Ray Kinney / 2017 Citizen of the Year for Community Service

Your Positively Naperville publisher nominated Ray Kinney, in part, for his inspiration to help launch this publication in 2001, giving PN the presence in the community to promote the freedom and patriotism that we cherish as well as to showcase Veterans’ organizations and their service along with other local events for good causes.

During Saturday’s festivities, Vahle read PN’s letter of nomination.

Few people in this city have provided service that distinguishes them to be eligible in all three categories for the Citizen of the Year Award: Service to the Community, Service to Youth, and Service to Veterans. 

Naperville resident and volunteer extraordinaire Ray Kinney is one of them. Somehow this husband and father of three finds time to share his many talents with family, friends, community and numerous boards, seeming to serve tirelessly. 

Whether serving as a volunteer emcee or auctioneer for a variety of nonprofit benefits or as the voice of Dine Naperville on cable TV, Ray has left his mark, always aiming to help others reach their success or unmet needs.

I could go on and on and on about the dedication of this fine individual, always finding ways to give to his community, young student athletes and their fundraisers as well as veterans’ causes. 

If you search Positively Naperville online for “Ray Kinney,” you’ll come up with dozens of stories about his involvement in this city, highlighting why he is deserving of your award. ( http://www.positivelynaperville.com/?s=Ray+Kinney)

Most noteworthy, however, Ray earned the distinction for his dedication and commitment to create a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, timed for display at the base of Rotary Hill during the 2015 Healing Field of Honor.   (http://www.positivelynaperville.com/2015/11/04/50-years-of-healing/50584)

I hope you will select the area of service you think is most appropriate. Most certainly, Ray Kinney fits the qualifications for Service to the Community.

—Stephanie Penick

Gloria and Joe Caruso / 2017 Citizens of the Year for Service to Veterans

Deb Rickert, nominated the Carusos for their dedication of Leap Of Faith, a program created by Rickert when she served as Executive Director of Operation Support Our Troops America. Leap of Faith, a three-day seminar and healing experience, is based on the idea that families of fallen service members could live life fully and in a way that honors the life of their service member, despite their ultimate sacrifice.

When unable to attend the evening event because her son Joe became engaged, Rickert sent her loving thoughts to the couple that have inspired her ever since their son, Sgt. David Mitchell Caruso, was killed in Iraq in 2004.

I want you to know how much you have meant to me and so many others these last eight years as we have built Leap of Faith. It is no exaggeration to say that without your dedication and commitment the program would not have taken hold and so many people would be without the life changing experience Leap has offered. 

Joe, your commitment to talking with each participant and making sure they are ready beforehand makes them fully aware of what they getting into… Gloria, the way you connect with even the most closed and wounded soul – and both of you – the way you drive back and forth each time lugging all of the ‘stuff’ we need to put on this seminar is simply amazing. 

You both have been a living example of what we teach in the seminar – that even amidst the worst pain and grief, life can have meaning. You have taken the most unimaginable pain and used it to make life better for others. I know without a doubt, with all of my heart, that David and Stephen (David’s brother who was killed in a car crash) are looking down on you with such love and pride – and that keeps your connection to them real and ongoing. I give thanks every day for your love, support, friendship and presence in my life and the lives of all that we serve.

—Deb Rickert

Trish Krenick / 2017 Citizen of the Year for Service to Youth

Trish Krenick was nominated by a teacher at Kennedy Junior High School, citing her mindset “And so my fellow Americans, ask not…”, Vahle said. Krenick was lauded for her attention to detail and perseverance in her activities, the Freedom Shrine at Kennedy to which she devoted 9 months, for being a child advocate for the Exchange Club of Naperville and a voice for many youth in the area as well as fundraising during the Corn Boil at the Last Fling.

Many members of the Exchange Club of Naperville also supported Krenick for her dedicated service to the organization that focuses on the prevention of child abuse and domestic violence. Further, for many years, Exchange Club of Naperville has sponsored an impressive selection of activities designed to benefit and encourage local youth to become engaged in meaningful service opportunities.


Honor Flight Chicago Fundraiser is 11AM to 2PM Sat., May 6, in the Calamos Investments Hangar at DuPage County Airport.

Did you know?

The Naperville American Legion Post 43 was chartered on August 1, 1920, by 126 World War I Veterans. Today the Veterans’ organization has more than 600 members with an important and prominent presence in the community as “Veterans serving Veterans” every day and more.

During the Citizens of the Year and Past Commanders’ Dinner, a moment was dedicated to all members of the American Legion Post 43 who have served as Commander since 1920.

Looking forward, May always is a big month to observe Veterans’ causes.

The annual Honor Flight Chicago Fundraiser is 11AM to 2PM Sat., May 6, 2017, in the Calamos Investments Hangar at the DuPage County Airport. Organizers welcome World War II and Korean era Veterans to attend free of charge.

To purchase advance tickets ($30 each), visit dupageveteransfoundation.org or request by mail at P.O. Box 299, Wheaton, Illinois 60187. Checks payable to: DuPage Veterans Foundation. (Please indicate how many adult / child tickets you wish to purchase, your address and your phone number.)

Buddy Poppy Sales the week prior to Memorial Day will benefit programs for disabled Veterans. Then the month wraps up with the Annual Naperville Memorial Day Parade, this year on May 29, a time to honor and show respect for men, women and their families that have given the ultimate sacrifice to protect freedom.

Thanks for remembering.


Editor’s Note / By the end of most events hosted at the Judd Kendall VFW Post 3873, the privileges of liberty as well as gratitude for every man and woman ever to help protect our nation’s freedom seem to follow me out the back door.

I depart knowing that my father, who served in World War II as a Navy Seabee, instilled in me to be a peace-loving individual who is protected by the U.S. Constitution and the law. Elections matter. The vote of every individual counts for one (and none for more than one), yielding to a government by consent and political equality for everyone where ordinary people can change the world.

As an independent community newspaper publisher and editor, I respect that there must be freedom of speech, freedom of the press, of assembly and of petition, protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Last fall, Positively Naperville received recognition from The American Legion – Department of Illinois for helping to tell stories about local veterans while heightening awareness about their programs of service. The award is among the most-prized honors received by Positively Naperville, a monthly publication made possible by the encouragement of Ray Kinney during the year 2000 until the first issue was introduced during Last Fling on September 1, 2001.

And, of course, PN appreciates all of its sponsoring advertisers and its readers. Thanks to everyone for supporting the community.

Let freedom ring for peace.

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