In Honor of the Life of Former Peoria Mayor Jim Maloofby Representative Aaron Schock
Posted on 2013-01-25
in the house of representatives
Friday, January 25, 2013
Mr. SCHOCK. Mr. Speaker, I rise to honor the memory of former mayor
of Peoria, Illinois, Jim Maloof, who passed away at the age of 93 on
January 19, 2013. There is no doubt that Peoria will sorely miss its
greatest champion, but his legacy lives on in the city he rebuilt and
in the hearts of all who were touched by his generosity. It is
difficult to capture a life that was as impactful as Jim Maloof's, but
many noteworthy tributes have been written. I want to share just some
of the high points in the life of this extraordinary man.
Born in the back of his parents' Peoria grocery store in 1919, Jim would live his life as a true son of the city. Even as a child, his warm spirit and merry character drew people to him, and his legendary penchant for singing began in childhood. As he grew up, Jim became a successful businessman in Peoria, operating a dry cleaner and then a real estate firm that continues to thrive today.
One of Jim's most enduring and powerful legacies is his contributions to St. Jude's Children's Hospital. In 1971, he met Danny Thomas, the founder of St. Jude, and agreed to help raise funds for an expansion of the hospital. Jim proved to be a prolific fundraiser, and one of my favorite stories about him from this time was his use of song and dance routines in his pitches. Just one year later, in 1972, he became the national Executive Vice-President of St. Jude's and opened the first affiliated clinic in the country right in Peoria, Illinois.
The impact of Jim's work with St. Jude is difficult to overstate. St. Jude has given thousands of children a chance at long and healthy lives after receiving a diagnosis that was once considered a death sentence. The research done by St. Jude has advanced treatments and cures for dozens of diseases. But beyond the material, as in all things, Jim's most important contribution to the children and families of St. Jude was hope. Jim's passion for healing manifested itself in a different way in 1984 when he decided to run for mayor of Peoria. At that time, Peoria was experiencing a period of economic downturn, with thousands of layoffs, a diminishing population, and a dying downtown area. ``Would the last one to leave Peoria turn out the lights?'' was a common saying in the area at the time.
As with all great figures in history, from Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King, Jim Maloof was uniquely suited to his time. When most people looked around Peoria in 1985, they saw a dying city and little reason for hope. Jim Maloof looked around the same city--his city--and saw something worth saving. His vision looked past the boarded up downtown and the vacant houses to the people who, with just a little inspiration, could turn it all around.
And that is exactly what happened. After being elected, Mayor Maloof threw open the doors of government to the citizens and businesses of Peoria and gave everyone a role in revitalizing their hometown. Committees of volunteers developed and implemented projects to revamp the downtown area, including the addition of the Peoria Civic Center, draw new businesses to Peoria, and grow existing ones. Jim's faith in the city was boundless and infectious. Another of my favorite stories about Jim is the mugs he had made listing the great cities of the world: New York, Paris, London, and Peoria, and he affectionately referred to Peoria as the ``Little Apple''. In 1989, only four years after Mayor Maloof took office, Peoria was named an All-American City.
But the real gift that Jim gave to Peoria was pride. He was an unabashed champion for the city, using his gift for song and his limitless energy to revive the spirits of a dejected town. After serving three terms as mayor, Jim reentered the private sector, but his presence as a Peoria landmark remained undiminished as he hosted telethons for St. Jude, Christmas carol singing every year in the downtown he rebuilt, and participated in community events.
Jim Maloof played in Peoria. He inspired us and challenged us to do more and reach higher, and to do everything with a cheerful heart and a song. His music will live on in the lives of the children saved by his work with St. Jude and in the city he loved.