At the end of the day and at the end of our lives the only thing that we have ownership of is love. And, the love of family was everywhere as John Edward Rednour Sr. was admitted into hospice care at 10 p.m. Thursday at Marshall Browning Hospital in Du Quoin.
From then until his passing at approximately 1:40 a.m. Sunday there was love and closure on a life well-lived.
For 24 years, Du Quoin's political and financial world revolved around the man most simply called "Rednour."
Rednour, 78--who would have been 79 on Dec. 20--died from congestive heart failure two months after a cutting edge procedure at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis to catheterize his heart and implant an innovative dobutamine pump that would deliver output-strengthening medicine directly to his heart. His cardiologist was Dr. Benjamin Geltman who believed the procedure held promise for Rednour, who had an on-again, off-again history of cardiac care.
Rednour was chairman of the board and his family remains the majority shareholder of the Du Quoin State Bank after a rescue during the collapse of the Saad Jabr family interests in Du Quoin in the 1980s.
His 24-year tenure as mayor was the second longest in the city's history.
Only one other mayor-Arthur Angel--served longer as Du Quoin's mayor. Angel served from 1909-1910, then 1917-1918, again in 1922 and from 1925-1949. Rednour is part of an historic southern Illinois mayoral triad that includes Marion mayor Bob Butler, who has been mayor there since 1963 (now in his 12th full term) and former longtime Sesser Mayor Ned Mitchell, who will speak at the funeral on Wednesday.
Visitation is Tuesday, Dec. 3 from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m. and again on Wednesday from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. at the Family Life Center at the First Baptist Church in Du Quoin with the funeral at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 4 in the Family Life Center. Interment will be in Sunset Memorial Park (Complete Obituary on Today's Page 2).
The Perry County Courthouse and the Perry County Government Building will be closed from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Wednesday for the funeral. The City of Du Quoin is flying the American flag at half-staff.
Illinois lawmakers are expected to work around a special Tuesday session of the Illinois General Assembly that hopefully will be dismissed by 3 p.m. to be in Du Quoin on Wednesday for the funeral.
Any overflow will be moved into the church's sanctuary and friends may view the funeral on large screen monitors.
Rednour was a member of the Illinois State Police Merit Board. Members of the Illinois State Police honor guard are expected to share that detail with Du Quoin police. Illinois and federal lawmakers as well as members of the Democrat National Committee, on which Rednour served, are expected in Du Quoin,
Rednour's son, Du Quoin State Fair manager John Rednour Jr., reflected Sunday on the family's closure. "Last Saturday was great," he said. "All of the family has been with him. One of his favorite movies was 'The Quiet Man' with John Wayne. We watched that and we watched 'Emperor of the North' with Lee Marvin," he said.
"We watched the Kennedy anniversary and dad remembered everything. He liked the late Sen. Hubert Humphrey and liked Kennedy's charisma," said Rednour Jr.
"He'd go to Springfield and everyone knew him. Speaker of the House Tip O'Neil and President Barack Obama, while a senator, have been at the Rednour house, once home to the late Don and Ruby Hayes.
"Mom and Dad living here has been great for Du Quoin and for the fair," he said. "Dad was always a supporter and an advocate for the fair, wanting it to do well because it was a big part of Du Quoin. He has instilled in all of us the same thing," he said. "All of us love Du Quoin."
"Everyone is always welcome at their home."
On Monday, Feb. 11, 2013, Du Quoin's seven-term mayor formally announced his mid-term retirement to the city council, his staff and to the people of Du Quoin.
Rednour first won election and was seated in May 1989 after the retirement of the late Mayor Robert Armstrong. Over time, his seven terms have withstood mayoral election challenges from Bill Brewner Michael Bandur, Jeff Robinson and a very close race last year against his former finance commissioner, Guy Alongi.
Rednour, who grew up on the county's west side worrying about payroll for his fledgling iron business, rose to the ranks of site superintendent for the United Ironworkers during construction of the Marion federal prison. Wife Wanda drove a truck for Rednour Steel Erectors.
"We got married when he was 17 and I was 15," Wanda said while at his bedside over the weekend. "They said it wouldn't last and we have been married 61 years," she smiled.
When he spoke of his planned retirement from city service in December 2012 the mayor said simply, "It's time."
The comment was soft-spoken.
"John really didn't want to run again," Wanda said. "He just cared about the town."
No hint of politics. No hint of "this is all that I've done." Just reflective that he is grateful to be part of that oft-times illusive American Dream.
Love him. Hate him. Be jealous of him. But, he always commanded your respect. And, for people who knew him well, there was love.
In recent months, Rednour admitted to a nagging emptiness since the loss of city administrator, friend and confidant Blaine Bastien. But, he fully believed in the ability of his successor Rex Duncan to lead the city.
Rex Duncan: "Mayor Rednour's impact on Du Quoin will endure for years and years. I'm so thankful that John and Wanda and their family chose Du Quoin as their home.
"I'm thankful that he was my friend and my mentor. I learned about inclusive governance from him, the kind that makes room for all citizens seeking an opportunity to serve their community in good faith. John was a master of that.
"He didn't try to do everything himself. He provided the platforms for good people to become involved in the various boards and commissions and he trusted them to make good decisions.
"Look at the numbers of citizens who serve today. That inclusiveness may be John's greatest legacy. Du Quoin today is a place where good ideas are generated, leadership encouraged, and things get done.
"One other quality about John that I greatly admire is his leadership. John breathed leadership. His service as mayor, and before that county board chairman and Cutler school board president, were in response to a calling he had to lead, a willingness to take charge and make things better.
"In one respect he didn't need to be mayor. He had plenty of other things to do in his private and business life. On the other hand, he had to be mayor because of the call of the gift of leadership that he was given at birth.
"It's said that to whom great things are given much is expected. John was given a great gift of leadership, and he lived his life rising to make the most of that gift, and Du Quoin is so much the better for it," Duncan said.
Duncan changed careers from education to city administration in 2000 when he left Rend Lake College to become city clerk. Three years later he accepted a position in SIU president Glenn Poshard's office as director of community development and outreach in the Office of Economic and Regional Development. Blaine Bastien became city clerk in 2003 and was later named city administrator.
Rednour retired from the Democrat National Committee to which he was appointed in 1972 earlier this year. He had also been Illinois Democrat party chairman. He was what's known as a Super Delegate and one of the three most tenured members of the committee. He was a past member of the Du Quoin Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and from the Mantra-Con workforce board in Marion. He served on the Illinois State Police Merit Board and the Perry County Housing Authority Board.
Early in his career, Rednour said he needed a paycheck, quit school and went to work at age 16 after his father suffered a heart attack and his mother became unable to work due to near blindness. He went to work at the Chester "shoe factory."
He went on to become an iron worker, first at the Joppa power plant, then around East St. Louis, then Chicago and eventually the Marion federal prison, where he served as site superintendent. He decided that he could hang iron as a business. He formed Rednour Steel Erectors. Wife Wanda--the love of his life and "best partner you could have" --drove a pickup truck and, on occasion, climbed into the cab of a City of Du Quoin street department truck to help landscape downtown Du Quoin.
Rednour served as a Cutler High School board member and president in his 20s while living in Percy. It's the same school he dropped out of in the middle of his sophomore year.
He served two terms as Perry county commissioner from 1967 until 1973 during turbulent times in Democrat politics.
He served as Perry County Democrat party chairman. He was one member of a five-member Illinois State Police merit board (since 1986) and was an advocate for promising downstate law enforcement officers.
And, he was mayor of the City of Du Quoin.
At the end of the day, Rednour always asked "Is it good for Du Quoin?" and he asks others to do the same.
You can't argue with his success:
When you grow up in impossible economic times in Percy and Cutler, you know that hard work and imagination are our future, not blind optimism and willful ignorance that things will change if we don't think about it.
As for imagination, imagine Du Quoin today without the Poplar Street overpass ($4.2 million), without the new Illinois District 13 state police command ($6 million) , without the Southern Illinois Center ($13 million), or the fire department's aerial ladder truck ($400,000) and new equipment since.
A new medical development was completed in the closing days of his watch.
"Zoning has been important," he told the newspaper last December. There were a lot of opponents. There were opponents to home rule, yet little opposition to a half-cent sales tax allowed by home rule that he carried into a referendum that would help finance the local share of the new high school bonding. That school was recently completed.
Du Quoin's committees set the standard for tourism and effective community service.
Rednour has twice been a guest at the White House and was invited by President Jimmy Carter to fly onboard Air Force One.
Rednour once said people may not understand how he feels about the city. There's something about it; maybe it was the welcome everyone gave his family when they moved here in 1970.
The Poplar Street overpass was first discussed in the 1960s and talked about throughout the 70s and 80s. It didn't happen until Rednour was in office and he was successful in getting a huge federal grant with the assistance of Congressman Glenn Poshard. "That happened about the time we changed from Poshard's district to Costello's.
"The overpass was around a four million dollar project and didn't cost the citizens of Du Quoin a penny," Rednour said during the same interview. "And it was one of my three campaign promises when I first ran for mayor in 1989.
The second was developing an industrial park and the third hiring a health officer.
Du Quoin's Business Association matched the city's $40,000 to get the industrial park project off the ground and a $700,000 federal grant, largely through the cooperation of Congressman Jerry Costello, completed it. Working with Ameren and the Main Street project he effected new downtown lighting and put downtown power lines underground. Nearly $3 million in new Washington Street and Main Street water lines and downtown sidewalks were approved on his watch. He made his case to Gov. Ryan for purchasing Arch of Illinois' acreage to add to Pyramid State Park. Illinois' governors have been his next door neighbors at the Du Quoin State Fair for many years.
He credited one of his first commissioners, Bill Daulby, with early successes, including acquiring the Duncan & Fry Furniture Co. building for use as a new city hall and library and a new water tower. They worked together on the city's $6 million wastewater treatment plant project. That's about the only major borrowing the city has had.
The biggest deal of his career: Wresting ownership of the Du Quoin State Bank from Iraqi national Saad Jabr in the early 1980s and turning it back into a community bank. He sealed the deal with a personal pledge of $300,000 to Boatman's Bank in St. Louis--deal or no deal. He and local shareholders made the deal. Today, the bank has assets of well over $100 million.
The bank is modern, well maintained, well capitalized and is one of the strongest banks in Southern Illinois. The Southtowne bank, its digital message board and the installation of new roof systems, emergency generator and security software updates has it poised for the future. "I believe in that," he said.
But, it was not without its miscues in the early going, Rednour says the biggest heartbreak of his career was the crash of Air Illinois flight 710 on October 11, 1983, which killed 10 near Tamaroa. Air Illinois was owned by the Sabr Group, Rednour proteges in the day. "I knew the pilot personally (Capt. Lester Smith, age 32, of Carbondale.)"
The airline was on track to make a million dollar profit that year before the FAA decided to make an example out of a crewman's fatal mistake to shut down the aircraft's working generator instead of the one that failed. The plane was southbound from Chicago to Carbondale with a stop at the Capitol Airport in Springfield. It developed problems over Hillsboro, but the pilot tried to limp it back to the Southern Illinois Airport and was within minutes of the airport's landing lights.
He never forgot the lives changed forever.