La Grange Park lost an integral member of our community this fall. Bill Yena, who served on the Community Park District Park Board of Commissioners from 1997-2003, passed away on September 15, 2016.
Bill grew up in South Bend Indiana, and graduated from Western Michigan University with a BS in Education, and later, a Master’s Degree in Administration. While in college, he was active in sports, wrote for the student newspaper, umpired, and worked for the Kalamazoo Park District.
Bill began his career in Michigan, but moved to La Grange Park in 1956 when he was hired to work as a Physical Education and Industrial Arts teacher for grades 6-8 at Forest Road School. He went on to serve as assistant principal, coach, and athletic director at both Forest Road and Park Junior High. He received many awards in recognition of his efforts working with students including: Illinois Association for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation Quarter Century Award, 1982-83 Outstanding Coach of the Year from the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association, and the “POPS” Award from the Nazareth Baseball Program. He was beloved by many, many students.
That’s only the beginning of Bill’s contribution to our Village. In addition to his career in education he:
*was the first manager of the Village Field Club
*umpired for La Grange Park Little League (Bill estimated that he had umpired at least
2,000 baseball games in his lifetime!)
*helped form the Citizens Committee for Recreation in La Grange Park (precursor to the Park District) in 1960
*was the first paid employee when he was named Director when the Recreation Department was created in 1971
*was an early proponent of girls sports and started the Girls’ Softball League in the early 1960’s
Bill retired from both the Park District and School District 102 in 1990, but continued to remain active in the community. In 1997 he was elected to the Park Board of Commissioners, serving as President from 2003 to 2007. He received a Resolution from the Illinois Association of Park Districts in 2008, to celebrate a lifetime of promoting recreational activities. In 1990, Northeast Park was re-named William G. Yena Park, in honor of Bill’s dedication to the Park District.
I used to see Bill at the ball parks during Little League Games, where we would talk about baseball and the Park District. He encouraged me and fellow Commissioner Lucy Stastny to run for Park Board Commissioner. We were invited to attend Board meetings prior to the election so that we could observe the workings of the Board. Bill was always gracious and accommodating in sharing his wealth of knowledge and experience. He was always prepared and supportive of his fellow Board members, as well as the mission of the CPD.
After he retired from the Board, Bill became unofficial photographer of various Park District events. His work is presently in the hallways of the Recreation Center. A talented wood worker, Bill gifted many staff and Board members with wooden trains he handcrafted to memorialize their work with the Park District.
Bill is survived by his wife, Jean, and his four children, Barb, Nancy, John and Larry. He was a loving Grandfather to five grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
Bill applied his energy and gifts toward making La Grange Park a better place to live. The many amenities and programs we enjoy within our Park District today are a result of Bill’s vision, determination, and commitment to promoting quality recreational activities for all. Like so many, I was lucky to know him. Thank you, Bill.