Since 2013, iBi has honored longtime community leaders through our Local Legends program, and it’s a true privilege to share their stories. Character, integrity and hard work have been the pillars of their success—no matter their station in life—and their consistent message is about giving back, an obligation instilled in them at a young age.
Struck with polio at the age of four, James Polk overcame health problems and racial discrimination on his way to a lifetime of service in Peoria. “I used to hear [my mother] praying that if God made me well, I had to give back to the community,” he recounts. “So that’s what I’ve always done.” He can be assured to know that his greatest hope—that he made his mother proud—has most certainly been achieved.
At 95 years young, Bob Gilmore’s energy is an inspiration. He started with Caterpillar at 32 cents an hour, flew missions over Germany during World War II, and worked his way up to become company president. Upon his retirement, he remained active in the community, and by donating his 70-acre farm to the Children’s Home, hundreds of youth have been able to experience nature up-close and personal.
I’ve admired Dave Ransburg’s quiet leadership for years. In the last four decades, there’s hardly a project in Peoria that hasn’t had his name attached to it in some way. He attributes his legacy of service to his days as a Boy Scout and Eagle Scout, following in the footsteps of his grandfather. “We’re not here very long,” he reminds us, and he’d like to be remembered for helping “to make the community a better place… and to help people become better people.”
Whether as police officer, county sheriff or state senator, George Shadid has prided himself on common sense and respect for others. He managed to transcend partisanship throughout his public career, and he’s always remained humble—a friend of people from all walks of life. “Family and friends are what’s important,” he proclaims, and George has truly earned the fruits of his labor.
I’ve witnessed the kindness, generosity and servant leadership of Wayne Baum on many occasions. The story of his father, Otto, and the business he built is legendary, and Wayne has never failed to pay the lesson forward, recognizing that no one achieves success on their own, without others beside them. “We’ve all been warmed by fires we haven’t built,” he declares, a principle that’s guided his own life’s work.
These are sentiments we take to heart: the responsibility to teach and mentor others, to recognize the gifts of others, to leave the world a better place. We thank these legendary figures for their past and continued service… to their families, to their country and to their community. iBi