Ed and Nancy Weiss named 2016 Batavia Citizens of the Year
Jan 04, 2017 09:39AM
● By Neighbors Magazines
Ed and Nancy Weiss
Two Batavians who’ve turned a multitude of
passions into decades of serving the community were named the 2016 Batavia
Citizens of the Year today. The Batavia Chamber of Commerce will honor Ed and
Nancy Weiss on Friday, Jan. 27 at the Chamber’s Inspire 2017: A Celebration of
Those Who Inspire Us! annual awards event.
Mayor Jeffery D. Schielke describes them as a “dynamic duo” who work very well together.
“Whatever her passion was, he jumped in and vice versa,” commented Schielke.
Ed, age 79, and Nancy, 80, downsized their residence in 1995, moving from Aurora to a duplex on north River Street in Batavia. Avid outdoors lovers, Nancy happened to find their new home while on a bike ride. Two years ago, the couple downsized further, moving into one of the Cottages at The Holmstad, A Covenant Retirement community in Batavia.
One of the most visible outcomes of Nancy’s passion is the Batavia Riverwalk Wildflower Sanctuary that surrounds the Riverrain Point senior apartments. Both Nancy and Ed take great pride in this natural area. Because of the determined efforts of Nancy and Ruth Johnson, an overgrown area of bramble became a living encyclopedia of plants and trees that are native to Batavia and Illinois.
Diana Sharp, president of the Plain Dirt Gardeners, said that the gardening club formed in the early 1990s to create the sanctuary. Because of her keen interest in nature, particularly of native plant species, Nancy joined the club in 1994. Although the sanctuary’s transformation was started, it needed fresh ideas, so Nancy dug into improving the sanctuary.
A teacher by profession, Nancy set about organizing tours of the gardens to teach second graders about nature and native plants. Nancy is quick to point out that by preserving native plants, native insects such as monarch butterflies and wildlife also benefit. Sharp called her the main “cheerleader” for the sanctuary.
“It takes a lot of effort working with the various taxing bodies and coordinating volunteers,” explained Sharp. “Nancy was pivotal in enlisting others to adopt plots and engage in hard work.
“She made it seem like a social gathering, she made it fun to be part of a group. She was especially excited to teach others about the native plant species.”
Ed was happy to be the “silent” partner, doing a lot of heavy lifting for the project. In fact, he still works to maintain three of the thirty plots. Besides the organization and physical work, Nancy started a website, thewildflowersanctuary.com, which she says needs updating now.
“This garden has caught the fancy of many visitors,” added Schielke. “The environmental plantings speak to the history of the river and heritage; it is a message other communities are emulating. Her ideas are contagious, they’ve done a wondrous job.”
Batavia Windmills – Plan Commission Volunteer
Although the sanctuary may be the most visible product of their passion, it is far from the only one. While they were volunteering for the Batavia Riverwalk construction, they learned that Bob Popeck was looking for help with windmills. Ed was keen to jump in on this project, too.
“One of the first windmills I worked on is the large wooden U.S. Wind Engine windmill by the Batavia City Hall,” Ed explained. “I’d go with Bob to bring back Batavia windmills, then work on repurposing some of the parts. This was another thing I started before we even moved to Batavia.”
In 1997, Ed was appointed to the Zoning Board of Appeals, a role which eventually led to his appointment to the Plan Commission. He remained on the Plan Commission until October, 2015 when health issues prompted his resignation.
During this lengthy stint, Batavia experienced a lot of development. Joel Strassman, City of Batavia Planning & Zoning Officer, said the Randall Road corridor changed tremendously during Ed’s tenure. Along with the addition of Sam’s Club, Walmart and the Fabyan-Randall Plaza, with Trader Joe’s and Walgreen’s were developed.
“The Plan Commission also did much of the work on our current zoning code and comprehensive plan during this time,” explained Strassman. “Ed was an integral part of this process.
“Personally, I thought he was very welcoming to new staff personnel and plan commissioners. It was a great pleasure working with him during the many years he tirelessly volunteered,” he added.
Since moving to The Holmstad, the pair have continued to volunteer. Nancy immediately planted 25 native plants around their cottage and still helps at the Wildflower Sanctuary. Last year they were especially excited when they launched five monarch butterflies they raised from caterpillars found on their whorled and swamp milkweed plants.
Ed has turned his attention to volunteering on the Resident Council and helping with the sound system for the auditorium. He also serves on the building and grounds committee and the life enrichment committee.
Kane County Board and East Aurora School District Stints
Prior to their moving to Batavia, the pair were equally active in other capacities. Nancy served as an elected Kane County Board member for District 3 for six years. It is during this tenure that she became acquainted with Dick Young, spurring her interest in native plant species. She was an advocate for Kane County to expand their forest preserve holdings, campaigning for adding as much open space that they could.
She left the County Board to run for the East Aurora School Board, where she served for four years. “At that time, our children were in school and many in the PTA were upset with a new program that took control out of the teacher’s hands,” explained Nancy. “I worked to get rid of it. It was a contentious time, and once my term was up, I decided this would be the end of my elected career.”
Ed and Nancy are equally pleased with what they’ve accomplished as founding members of both the Friends of Phillips Park and the Friends of Fabyan. After drumming up support to fix the Fabyan villa by rallying the County Board, Ed and Nancy made it a family affair when renovations commenced.
“We contributed many hours of manual labor,” said Nancy. “We even had the kids working on scraping floors.”
Speaking of children, Ed and Nancy are the parents of one daughter and two sons. Elizabeth lives in California, Ted in St. Louis and Peter lives in Aurora. They also have five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
In April, they will celebrate their 54th anniversary. Besides the commitment to service that they both share, Ed and Nancy were avid folk dancers. In fact, they first met at an international folk-dance class.
“We found out that we were both made for each other from the start,” laughed Nancy. “He’s such a good dancer, and I follow really well.”
For his part, Ed says “she was awesome. It took me a long time to ask her for a date.”
This couple are equally at home with an artistic paint brush in hand or perhaps a guitar; other interests the two share.
There is little doubt that Ed and Nancy Weiss are worthy of an award that is given for “extraordinary contributions to the community over the course of a lifetime.”
Mayor Schielke remarked that they are a “couple who work in tandem on a wide variety of public policies. Either one or the other would be the leader in the movement as an elected or appointed member and the other would be their trusted advisor.
“They enriched the world around them. Especially from an environmental standpoint, they’ve worked to spread the wealth of Mother Nature to all points of Kane County, if not beyond.”
A committee of previous recipients of the award selects the Batavia Citizen of the Year from nominations received from the community. Holly Deitchman, president of the Batavia Chamber of Commerce, said that once again the committee came through.
“As I learned about all the extraordinary accomplishments Ed and Nancy were involved in, I wondered how we’ll find another nominee that measures up to this year’s Citizens of the Year,” Deitchman stated. “Then I remembered that I thought the same last year. Batavia is home to many extraordinary volunteers; I am certain next year’s honoree will be equally amazing.”
Batavia’s Citizen of the Year is honored at the annual awards event for the Batavia Chamber of Commerce. This year’s event, Inspire 2017: A Celebration of Those Who Inspire Us! will be held on Friday, Jan. 27, 2017 at the Nagel Emporium at Marmion’s Abbey Farms, 2855 Hart Road in Aurora. For ticket information, register online at www.BataviaChamber.org or contact the Chamber at (630) 879-7134.