Georgene Kauth O’Dwyer Named 2018 Batavia Citizen of the Year
Nov 30, 2018 12:35PM
By Hannah Ott
Batavia, IL - A Batavian who “doesn’t strive to be noticed but chooses to help” was named the 2018 Batavia Citizen of the Year. The Batavia Chamber of Commerce will honor Georgene Kauth O’Dwyer on Thursday, January 24 at the Chamber’s Annual Inspire Awards: A Celebration of Those Who Inspire Us.
In his nomination letter, Batavia resident Tony Winter said, “Georgene impacts Batavia citizens through selflessly sharing her talents and encourages others to share theirs. Batavia is lucky that Georgene calls our city home.”
Mayor Jeffery D. Schielke echoes these sentiments, suggesting that her actions resulted in making “the world a kinder, gentler and more supportive place.”
Georgene, age 85, along with her first husband, Walter Kauth, moved to Batavia from Aurora in 1958. The couple raised three daughters and were married nearly 52 years, prior to his death. Later, she married Dr. John O’Dwyer, who passed away six years later.
As many young mothers do, Georgene’s first volunteer role in Batavia involved her children. She served on the Parent-Teacher Organization for McWayne Elementary and was a room mother. She was a Girl Scout leader and Sunday School teacher at Holy Cross Catholic Church as well.
Batavia Historical Society and Depot Museum
Volunteering is all about putting down roots and establishing a home, according to Georgene. Judging by the long list of organizations who’ve benefitted from her volunteering, her roots are extensive. Georgene and her late husband, Walter, were early members of the Batavia Historical Society and Georgene carries on this legacy serving as the group’s corresponding secretary.
For 40 years, Georgene opened and closed the Batavia Depot Museum on weekends. It’s no wonder, then, that she is an active member of the Depot Museum expansion committee. According to Dan Hoefler, chairman of the expansion committee, Georgene is a keen proponent of the project, helping many see what is possible, not simply what is necessary.
“She envisions opportunity and talks enthusiastically about it,” Hoefler commented. “We now have a great plan and are raising money. She doesn’t just look around and notice things that need attention. She takes action. Georgene is the person who does something.”
Batavia Chamber of Commerce Ambassador
Another group that greatly benefits from Georgene’s selflessness is the Batavia Chamber of Commerce. Georgene joined the Chamber as a community associate and is a Batavia Chamber Ambassador. Although she has earned Ambassador of the Month honors, she is more excited when fellow ambassadors are recognized, sending them a hand-written note of congratulations
“With her role as a Chamber ambassador, Georgene is one of the friendly faces welcoming businesses to our town,” Mayor Schielke mentioned. “She’s at all the ribbon cuttings and I can also count on her to fill me in on historical facts of a building. Georgene is not only an ambassador for the Chamber, but for the entire City of Batavia.”
The staff of the Batavia Chamber couldn’t be any happier with this year’s Citizen of the Year selection.
“Gramma George has touched the heart of all of us at the Chamber,” says Holly Deitchman, president of Batavia Chamber of Commerce. “We love her like family. She swings by our office sometimes on her way between service projects to share a hug with us. She is the first to step up to help at our events, and she always does it with a smile.”
Holy Cross Catholic Church
No commentary about Georgene would be complete without mention of her deep faith in God and commitment to serve him. She even consulted her priest at Holy Cross Catholic Church after she learned that she was named Batavia Citizen of the Year.
“I was so confused, and I just didn’t feel adequate for receiving such an award,” explained Georgene. “I told Father (James) Parker that I don’t feel worthy. I am involved in a lot, but I don’t do big things.”
He reassured her that she was, indeed, worthy of the honor and to accept it gracefully. As a longtime member of Holy Cross, her service to the parish is extensive. She previously served on the Parish Council and is an active member of several ministries. You’ll find Georgene sending cards and letters to shut-ins, as well as distributing prayer shawls. Once a month she cooks for Hesed House, a homeless shelter in Aurora, and is also active in the St. Vincent DePaul Ministry.
There are many other groups, currently and in the past, who benefit from Georgene Kauth O’Dwyer’s genuine love of people and desire to help. Along with this extensive volunteer career, Georgene was employed for 25 years at Batavia Bank, which eventually evolved into Chase Bank in Batavia. During her tenure at the bank, she chaired the fund raising for Batavia Community Chest, which is now Batavia United Way.