A memorial service is planned for New Lenox historian Diane Batson, who at the age of 75, succumbed to cancer earlier this month.
The service is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Oct. 5 at United Methodist Church of New Lenox, 339 W. Haven Ave.
For decades, Batson had been a driving force for historical preservation in New Lenox Township. As a member of the New Lenox Area Historical Society, she was instrumental in preserving Schmuhl School, Schoolhouse Road and Route 30, and Marshall Cemetery, 12721 W. Regan Road, as landmarks.
Among her more current projects was the Victorian mansion at 220 E. Haven Ave. The project is tied to a recently approved planned unit development called Haven Commons, which calls for preservation of the Victorian-style home where Hazel Francis, who was among a prominent family that built a number of historic mansions in New Lenox Township.
The preservation project has not yet been finalized; however, the New Lenox Historical Society has targeted it for landmark status. In a July interview with Patch, Batson described the mansion's historical significance. Before the Francis family bought the home, it was owned by Dwight Haven, a former New Lenox Township supervisor and prosperous merchant in the community. Haven was instrumental in operating the Underground Railroad for "freedom seekers."
Batson was also instrumental with an initiative to place the Walker-Francis mansion, which is located on the north side of Francis Road, near Parker Road, on the Will County Historical Registry.
While her passion was lived out by working to preserve the historical legacy of this once rural community, she also helped seed the future look of the Route 30 corridor through New Lenox. A retired teacher, Batson attended an information-sharing meeting at New Lenox Village Hall to both review the process and gather information for the future outlook of the Route 30 Corridor. She was interested in gathering stakeholders to take up the cause of historic preservation and development of the Metra Train Station, Cedar Road and Route 30.
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