Longtime volunteer honored as Batavia Citizen of the Year

The Batavia Chamber of Commerce has named John Dillon its 2022 Citizen of the Year for his volunteer work across Batavia.

“I have known many of the past recipients over the years and many any of them have had an influence on my life,” Dillon told The Beacon-News.

The Batavia Chamber of Commerce every year recognizes those who make extraordinary contributions to the community.

Dillon will formally be recognized April 27 at the Chamber of Commerce’s annual “Inspire 2023: A Celebration of Those Who Inspire Us” awards night at Lincoln Inn Banquets in Batavia.

Dillon grew up in Batavia and is a 1978 Batavia High School graduate. He started his career working for the city of Batavia Water Department in 1979 and was promoted to foreman in 1987 and superintendent for the Water and Sewer Division in 1993, according to Chamber of Commerce officials.

He retired in 2016 but has continued to work part-time for the city.

“John Dillon has quietly and consistently helped Batavians and the city in immeasurable ways,” Batavia Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Margaret Perreault said in a Chamber of Commerce news release about its choice for Citizen of the Year.

Dillon’s local volunteer involvement has included serving as a board member for the Batavia United Way, where he became known as a “problem solver” and “ultimately a valued friend,” former Batavia United Way Executive Director Melinda Kintz said in the release.

“John’s passion for Batavia, its history and its people is reflected in his boundless energy to serve,” Kintz said.

Dillon has been married to his wife Marcy for 33 years and has two stepsons.

He remains active with Batavia’s Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). In the early months of the pandemic in 2020, Dillon coordinated efforts between RSVP, Batavia United Way and the city to deliver groceries and provide transportation to seniors when volunteers were not available, according to the release.

Dillon coordinated efforts to raise funds through his involvement in woodworking groups to benefit the Batavia Interfaith Food Pantry, Northern Illinois Food Bank and Fox Valley Food for Health as well, officials sakd.

“I enjoy whatever I am doing at the time,” Dillon told The Beacon-News. “Next week we are going to deliver holiday packages to families for United Way.”

Dillon is a longtime member of the Batavia Historical Society, according to the release.

Batavia Historical Society Board President and Batavia 2021 Citizen of the Year Dan Hoefler remarked about Dillon’s interests and contributions to the city’s history through the Batavia Depot Museum/Gustafson Research Center as well as the preservation of the city’s windmills.

Dillon is now one of the few windmill volunteers who worked with the late Bob Popeck in the preservation of the city’s collection of windmills, Hoefler said.

Dillon is “instrumental in the continued preservation of Batavia’s historic windmills,” Hoefler said, and serves as the city’s primary local windmill mechanic and liaison to the windmill preservation community.

One of Dillon’s most recent projects was the restoration of the U.S. Wind Engine and Pump Company Model E windmill at Batavia City Hall Plaza.

“Some of the steel windmills do not need as much maintenance as some of the wooden ones. The windmill at City Hall was a major project,” Dillon said.

“It’s challenging because there are not a lot of people around anymore who have the technical knowledge or skills to repair them. It’s becoming a lost craft,” he said. “There aren’t any manuals so you have to take them apart and put them back together. The challenge is to find the parts.”

Dillon has also received praise for his efforts to research Batavia’s water and sewer systems dating back to 1893.

Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke described the effort as “a priceless document” that will be instrumental for future generations.

Linda Girardi is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.

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