By: Diane Turner-Hurns
Journal & Topics Reporter
The unique and changing six-decade history of Rosemont and the man considered the “Father of Rosemont” was celebrated in a special way on Father’s Day Sunday, when an 8-ft. tall bronze statue of the Village’s first Mayor, Donald E. Stephens, was unveiled.
The moving ceremony occurred in a small, newly-developed park on the east side of Village Hall on Devon Avenue where the late Mayor worked for many years. In the audience of approximately 125 were many of the late mayor’s children, grandchildren and other family members.
As the statue, which is perched atop an 8-ft. tall stone pedestal, was slowly being unveiled, members of the Rosemont Cavaliers Drum & Bugle Corps, which the late Mayor strongly supported, played “Over the Rainbow.”
The audience included Rosemont residents, state and city elected officials, and business representatives who gathered in the 90-degree heat to witness the unveiling of the 1,500-lb. bronze-cast statue.
Guests watched intensely as a giant white sheet covering the statue was slowly raised by a Rosemont aerial fire truck to unveil the work by sculptor Omni Amrany and Julie Rotblatt Amrany. They also created the iconic Michael Jordan statue that sits outside the United Center in Chicago.
The $300,000 bronze-cast statue depicts the kneeling late Mayor facing westward toward Village Hall with his hands cupped around Rosemont’s famed red and white rose water tower. Funds raised were donated by friends of Don Stephens.
Sunday, June 19, was declared to be “Rosemont Day” in Illinois by state officials in commemoration of the Village’s 60th anniversary.
“We want to welcome everyone on this beautiful and special day,” President and CEO of Northern Builders Tom Grusecki told the crowd while serving as master of ceremonies. Grusecki led the group of private donors that raised the funding for the statue. Northern Builders, Inc. was the general contractor for the project.
Officials note the unveiling of the statue is part of the Village’s 60th anniversary celebration throughout 2016. The Village was founded by Stephens and a group of local residents in 1956. Back then, the Village was a muddy, flood-ridden area with no real neighborhoods or businesses. Stephens, along with 84 other residents, built the Village from scratch, was able to obtain Lake Michigan water from the city of Chicago, and help businesses put down roots to see their little town grow from seed to a bustling, destination place.
Former Mayor Stephens served for 51 years and passed away while in office Apr. 18, 2007. He was serving his 13th term as Mayor, one of the longest-serving incumbents in U.S. history, officials said.
“This statue will serve as a special memorial to our founding Mayor,” current Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens said. He is the son of former Mayor Don Stephens and stepped into his father’s role as Mayor in 2007.
During Sunday’s unveiling, gatherers could view on each side of the statue the many landmarks Stephens was responsible for developing such as the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center. Under the first Mayor Stephens’ leadership, Rosemont developed the Allstate Arena, Rosemont Theater and Rosemont Health & Fitness Center. At the same time he and Village officials led the way for the construction of 15 hotels in the Village and attracted many top restaurants and other businesses.
“I started on this while he was still alive,” said Mayor Brad Stephens of the statue. He added that after his father died in 2007, he and a group of friends of the late Mayor began the process of choosing a location for the memorial.
“This is right outside Village Hall,” said Mayor Stephens. “He did a few things there while he was around here.”
After the first Mayor’s passing, Village growth continued including the development of the entertainment district at MB Financial Park, free concerts in the park, a fashion outlet mall, the dome and Ballpark at Rosemont, an extension of Balmoral Avenue through Rosemont to O’Hare Airport, free Pace bus service within the Village, and soon work will begin on the new, massive Pearl Street development to include a new hotel, restaurants and Koch Industries national headquarters. Koch produces chicken products distributed worldwide.
There are many new chapters waiting to be written as the Mayor Don Stephens’ statue watches over Village Hall, including development of a new minor league ballpark in the next year or two.
The redesigned iconic Rosemont gateway waterfall at Higgins and River roads opened May 8, Mother’s Day, also as part of the Village’s 60th anniversary.