Above / Visit the Farmers Plaza at the Eagle Street entrance to the Naperville Riverwalk where the story of Cliff Preston’s can-do community spirit is sure to make a lasting impression. Pictured here after the dedication of the tribute garden on July 15, 2017, are Preston’s wife Eleanor, their son Tom and their daughter Marcia with their families.
Today many lasting impressions were created when family, friends and neighbors of Cliff and Eleanor Preston as well as dozens of friends of the Riverwalk gathered at the Farmers’ Plaza to dedicate a lovely garden in tribute to Cliff Preston for his devotion to the Riverwalk, can-do community spirit and love for family.
PHOTO GALLERY, July 15, 2017 / Click any photo to enlarge.
[shareprints gallery_id=”76166″ gallery_type=”squares” gallery_position=”pos_center” gallery_width=”width_100″ image_size=”small” image_padding=”0″ theme=”dark” image_hover=”false” lightbox_type=”slide” titles=”true” captions=”true” descriptions=”true” comments=”true” sharing=”true”]The gathering included familiar faces of folks such as Hal Dickson, Rick Hitchcock and Mary Lou Wehrli who were there when the Riverwalk was first dedicated in 1981 to commemorate the city’s 150th birthday. Their initial support helped create a spectacular walk of memories for local volunteers and visitors to appreciate for “generations to come.”
Early in the development and extension of the winding brick path, Wilbert Hageman had helped organize the Farmers Monument with names of farm families to celebrate the city’s rural roots. A longtime friend of Preston, Hageman attended with well wishes and fond memories of making sure all the names were included in the Farmers Plaza.
Then there was the story of the gift of the Cock Robin property from Rita Harvard and the Fredenhagen family to create Fredenhagen Park at the gateway to North Central College. John Harvard remembers it well.
Organized by the Riverwalk Foundation, the tribute included brief remarks by Riverwalk Commission Chairman Geoff Roehll and Past Riverwalk Commission Chairman Hitchcock. Hitchcock, who also has given his energies to the Riverwalk since its inception, chronicled Preston’s unwavering determination to extend the Riverwalk beyond the Grand Pavilion. The first extension under Preston’s watch ran through Sindt Woods to the Jefferson Avenue Bridge. The next stage extended the Riverwalk from the Washington Street Bridge to Hillside Road Bridge which was followed by acquiring the Cock Robin Property for Fredenhagen Park.
Near the end of the event, Naperville resident Kathy Benson, mentioned she had a photo of Cliff Preston she’d like to share. Within a couple hours, we found an email with an attached photo that speaks volumes.
“Here’s the picture of Cliff that I mentioned,” wrote Benson.
Another tribute to can-do spirit
Early in July, Benson sent an email to members of the Westside Homeowners Association (WHOA) who live on the west side of downtown Naperville with news about the planned dedication. Her comments that accompanied the photo below help tell the story of the man who shared his time and talents with many projects, especially the Riverwalk.
“Cliff (Preston), a WHOA resident who lived on Petterson Court with his wife, Eleanor, died in June 2016 at age 90,” wrote Benson.
“In addition to being a valuable member of our own neighborhood, Cliff was a Riverwalk Commissioner for 17 years and was instrumental in the building of over two-thirds of the Riverwalk. In his honor, the Riverwalk Commission is dedicating a memorial to him on Saturday, July 15, at 10AM on the west side of Eagle St., just south of the bridge. Above / For more than 20 years, Riverwalk devotee Cliff Preston was known to care for the antique plow atop the Farmers Monument, keeping it cleaned and varnished to help tell the story of Naperville’s rural beginnings. (Photo courtesy Kathy Benson)
“It is probably right near this picture of Cliff maintaining the plow by the quarry that honors Naperville’s farming families (on a day when it was about 90 degrees!).
“In addition to his work on the Riverwalk, Cliff was a well-respected carpenter contractor in Naperville doing business as Preston Builders after he moved here from Mendota, Illinois, many years ago.
“One of the stories Cliff told was how many years ago he found out a property owner in our neighborhood was going to develop the property that is now known as West Greens Park with multi-family properties. Needless to say, Cliff was successful in ensuring that it didn’t happen. This is just one of the things Cliff did that our neighborhood is thankful for,” she continued.
“…Cliff’s wife, Eleanor, recently sold their home and is living in a senior center in Naperville. It would mean a lot to see some neighbors at the event.”
Thanks to the Riverwalk Foundation, Riverwalk Commission, City of Naperville and Naperville Park District, Kathy Benson and everyone who contributed to this special occasion to recognize one of Naperville’s many “one-of-a-kind” residents who chose to live, work and unselfishly volunteer here.
For full disclosure, Penick was a founding member of the Riverwalk Foundation in 1998 and she loved working on this project with fellow foundation members Jeff Havel (who served as project manager), Karen Solomon, Jo Lundeen, John Cuff, Arleen Bankemper, Mike VanPoucke, Riverwalk Administrator Jan Erickson and Naperville Park Operations Manager Chuck Papanos.
The garden was designed by Monica Goshorn-Maroney of Gary R. Weber Associates, Inc., for the Riverwalk Commission. Commissioners are Judy Brodhead, Councilwoman; Marie Todd, Park Board Representative; Bill Novack, City Representative; Chuck Papanos, Naperville Park District Rep; Stephanie Penick, Riverwalk Foundation Rep; John C. Joseph; Bob Ross; Debra Lellbach; Patrick Kennedy; Geoffrey Roehll and Jeanne Buddingh.
Many thanks to all—what a gloriously sunny day!