Ronald Whitaker, one of the founding members of the New Lenox Chamber of Commerce in 1959, was honored at the Chamber's Annual Dinner celebration Tuesday at the American Legion.
A life-long resident of New Lenox and member of the Chamber for 53 years, he stood humbly at the podium. He didn't lead with a lengthy history of accomplishment or accolades. Instead, he talked about his wife, Mary. She wasn't able to attend the dinner, he said. She's been hospitalized since December.
With Mary by his side for more than 50 years, Ron said she was his support system. "Everything I did, she was part of it too," he said later.
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The former owner of Whitaker Insurance, which he sold in 2002, Ron, 77, shared a bit about his lengthy list of interests on behalf of the broader community. While he ran his insurance company, he was also instrumental in establishing the existing Joliet Junior College campus on Houbolt Road in the late '60s. He served on the New Lenox Police and Fire Commission, and today serves on the New Lenox Historical Society Board. His favorite project there is the preservation of Schmuhl School, which opened its doors in 1933 for 12 students. The building is now a Will County landmark.
As for the Lifetime Achievement Award, he said he was surprised to have received it. "It's really quite an honor."
Whitaker's contributions to the chamber have been many. He's been a leader in the eyes of the business community, said Debbera Hypke, Chamber CEO.
“Quite literally, the Chamber of Commerce may not exist today without his contributions and leadership 53 years ago,” she noted.
At the dinner, the New Lenox Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year recipients, Gina and Tom Waters were honored as well. The couple's restaurant, Chicago Dough Company, was named New Lenox Business of the Year 2012.
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