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Saturday, June 3, 2023

Naperville Riverwalk shares a brilliant story


While groups gathered along the Riverwalk for geocaching or to play Pokeman Go on their electronic devices, it’s likely the gamers received some important physical exercise while they chased a win.

At the same time, volunteer members of the Riverwalk Foundation exercised their “educational” mission under the leadership of President John Cuff as they organized the first phase of their project to restore bronze plaques and many bench markers. Cuff quipped that finding more than 30 plaques from Main Street to Rotary Hill seemed to be a scavenger hunt, of sorts, as some of the monuments and plaques were hidden among the landscape.

Before John Pennick, “Surgeon of Bronze”
After John Pennick, “Surgeon of Bronze”

For more than a year, members of the Riverwalk Foundation have been looking forward to the 40th Birthday Rededication Ceremony on Labor Day.

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“The Foundation has been working with the City of Naperville, Naperville Park District and Riverwalk Commission to highlight the story of the Riverwalk, one bronze plaque at a time, as a way to thank and recognize all the generous donors since 1981,” said Cuff. “The first phase is now complete, thanks to the ‘Surgeon of Bronze’ from Matthews International. The story of our ‘crown jewel’ is beginning to sparkle again as the names of generous donors ‘pop’ along the brick path.”

“This project was made possible by private donations and fundraising events such as the Riverwalk Duck Race,” added Riverwalk Foundation Treasurer Arleen Bankemper.
In fact, one generous donor contributed $4,000 to the 40th year project—“one hundred dollars per year.”

In addition, this summer all of the brick/stone walls from the Dandelion Fountain going east to Main Street have been power washed. Another plus is the City of Naperville has had a contractor sanding down and repainting the Eagle Street Bridge, Cuff said.

“We especially appreciated the park district’s help for two days, helping us ready locations for the fine craftsmen from Matthews International,” said Cuff.

“I think anyone who visits the Riverwalk will agree that it’s important to identify the commitment of hundreds of individuals and businesses that have made the Riverwalk a reality,” Cuff added. “Even that big plaque on the Centennial Park rock from 1931 is legible now. I’m feeling really good that we’ve recognized all those supporters who came together for this community’s sesquicentennial in 1981.”

On Aug. 22, Riverwalk Foundation President John Cuff examines the special touches by the “Surgeon of Bronze” at the “1831 Naperville Sesquicentennial Riverwalk 1981” commemorative plaque, located just east of Civic Plaza.

The community is welcome to attend the very brief celebration at 2PM Mon., Sept. 6. No speeches are planned. Just a group sing of “Happy Birthday, dear Riverwalk.”

That’s Labor Day and the Riverwalk Rededication event is included on the Jaycees Last Fling schedule. Over at the Pinot’s Palette booth along Jackson Street, certificates for ice cream will be available, good Labor Day through Sept. 8, thanks to the Downtown Naperville Alliance.


Update Labor Day 2021 / Happy 40th Birthday, dear Riverwalk!

A brief ceremony was promised. And that it was when Riverwalk Foundation Past President Mike Van Poucke welcomed folks to commemorate the monumental efforts, generous donors and can-do volunteer spirit that imagined the Naperville Riverwalk for the City’s sesquicentennial gift back in 1981.

Riverwalk architect Charles Vincent “Chuck” George admires the “restored” bronze plaque with the long list of generous donors to the Sesquicentennial commemorative gift in 1981.

After a few remarks, recognizing Riverwalk architect Charles Vincent “Chuck” George who attended the event and the “thousands of residents” who helped build the Riverwalk brick by brick back in 1981, Van Poucke introduced Hailey Korbel who led the well-wishers in “Happy Birthday, dear Riverwalk.”

Riverwalk Foundation Past President Mike Van Poucke stood in for RW Foundation President John Cuff, and Hailey Korbel stood on a wooden box during very brief festivities to sing “Happy Birthday, dear Riverwalk” on Labor Day 2021, as the City’s “crown jewel” begins its 40th year.

Cheers to the Riverwalk! Enjoy peaceful strolls, watching wildlife and all the wonderful seasonal changes of this natural treasure every day.

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PN Ombudsman
PN Ombudsman
An ombudsman is Scandinavian in origin dating back to Viking times; and refers to a community representative; usually acting independently on behalf of an organization, body of elected officials, or civic group. Thanks Scandinavia for inventing ombudsman.


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