Memorial to honor Kankakee governors

August 30, 2018

Kankakee County on Tuesday approved a memorial on the courthouse lawn for three former governors from Kankakee.

Sponsored by the Woman’s Club of Kankakee, the memorial would be for Govs. Len Small (1921 to 1929), Samuel Shapiro (1968 to 1969) and George Ryan (1999 to 2003).

At its monthly meeting, the county board’s executive committee addressed the memorial proposal. Board chairman Andy Wheeler, R-Kankakee, said the committee had the final say on the issue.

Member Michael LaGesse, D-Bradley, opposed allowing the memorial on courthouse grounds.

“Believe it or not, I’ve gotten a lot of calls on this. Not one person is for this. It looks like this is a done deal,” he said.

Member Jim Byrne, R-Bourbonnais, said he was for privately funded memorials, but they belong at museums, not government property such as courthouses.

Another member, Robert Ellington-Snipes, D-Kankakee, was for it.

“I’ve heard and gotten calls both ways,” Ellington-Snipes said. “What (the club is) trying to do is plausible and historical. We are unique in having had three governors from Kankakee.”

He noted some people “put a cloud over all the work Ryan has done” because of his conviction for government corruption after he left the governor’s office.

“I know the good George has done,” Ellington-Snipes said.

Member Todd Sirois, R-St. Anne, expressed support for honoring the governors, but wondered whether there already were too many memorials on the courthouse lawn.

“With so many memorials, it seems like a graveyard,” he said.

However, Sirois ended up joining the 10-2 majority in allowing the monument at the courthouse.

The dissenters were LaGesse and Byrne.

The Woman’s Club is selling bricks to help pay for the monument. With the plaques already done, the group hopes to finish the memorial by the end of October.


The Woman’s Club of Kankakee is selling bricks for the memorial to help pay for it. Each brick costs $200 and can be engraved

For more information, call Dondi Maricle at 815-715-8405.

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