MENDOTA – The Mendota Area Chamber of Commerce has selected Del Knowlton as Grand Marshal of the 2017 Sweet Corn Festival Parade.
“Del Knowlton was not born nor raised in Mendota, but he is one of our very special Mendotans just the same,” stated Chamber President Jan Phalen. “He has spent his life serving the people of Mendota and continues to do so.”
He is originally from Barron, Wis., and is the oldest of the 14 children of Duane and Ida Knowlton. He came to Mendota for the first time on Sunday, Sept. 24, 1950. He was 18. Knowlton came to visit his parents who had moved to Mendota the year before, for his dad to take a job at JB Inderrieden Canning Co., the forerunner to Del Monte Foods in Mendota.
He was out of work at the time. He was working for a farmer in Wisconsin, who had been struck by lightning and later died. This left him out of a job and looking for work. On Monday after his arrival in town, Knowlton applied to work at General Telephone Company. On Tuesday he was hired. This was the beginning of a career that lasted 42 years. He began working in Somonauk, and then became a member of a line crew, installing phones in Monticello, making 75 cents an hour, and traveling around the state. He rose through the ranks of the company, becoming a manager and living in both Wisconsin and Mendota through the years, retiring from GTE in 1991.
Knowlton was a member of the Rotary Club of Mendota, Mendota Moose Lodge, and Mendota Golf Club. He is still a member of the Mendota B.P.O.E. #1212, which he helped get started and eventually served as Exalted Ruler.
He served on the Mendota Fire Department and was a tornado spotter for the Civil Defense. He was a member of the Board of Directors that made the Mendota Civic Center a reality. He is presently serving on the Mendota Museum & Historical Society Board.
Knowlton is active in the First United Methodist Church, attends retreats, is a member of the choir, and is Past President of the Finance Committee.
Andrea Bryan, former Mendota Area Chamber Executive Director, first introduced Knowlton to the Mendota Chamber. He went on to serve the Mendota Area Chamber of Commerce as President in 1980-81, as well as serving as a Chamber Ambassador for several years. Former board members and executive directors agree that Knowlton was one of the “best” to serve as President, always available to help with every aspect of what the Chamber was involved in. He and Bryan went to Springfield with their spouses, representing Mendota and the Chamber, invited by the State of Illinois Department of Commerce & Community Affairs, to serve sweet corn and promote the Sweet Corn Festival to State officials and others at an Illinois Tourism event.
“In the early days of the Chamber’s ‘Mendota Toy-For-Tots’ Program, now called ‘Operation Elf Action,’ Del, as a Chamber Board Member, organized and helped deliver the Christmas packages to families in blowing snow on snowmobiles, because of closed roads,” said Chamber Administrative Assistant, Roberta Friedlein.
Knowlton has worked on many aspects of the Sweet Corn Festival in his years with the Chamber, seeing to details and making improvements.
You may know Knowlton best for his outstanding career as a civil servant in the community. He was appointed in 1981 to the Mendota City Council as Second Ward Alderman by former Mayor Ken Roling and that got the ball rolling for Knowlton. This was something that really interested him, was important to him, to see Mendota improve and grow. He was elected in 1983 as Second Ward Alderman and served until 1985. He joined former Mayor Jim Troupis on trips to Springfield to encourage State officials to bring I-39 our way. He returned then to Wisconsin for his job, but eventually came back to Mendota and ran for alderman, a post he held in the First Ward from 1997 to 2017.
During his time as an alderman, Knowlton was part of many changes in Mendota. The building of I-39, which he and fellow city officials had worked hard to secure, came to be. Then came the expansion of the city to I-39. The building of the motels, gas stations, restaurants and finally the Industrial Park and rail spur to the highway followed. He worked to get Advanced Drainage Systems here, as well as the ADM rail grain loop.
Knowlton was always very conscientious, always checking in at the City offices, poring over files and documents, always working to make Mendota a better place to live and work. “Del was always someone I could depend on to do things that were needed. I could count on him to help and give advice whenever I would call,” stated Mendota City Clerk Emily McConville.
When asked what he thought about the recent news of industries Starved Rock Wood Products and ADM Grain’s new flour milling facility, he said in a tone that made you understand the kind of work that goes into bringing facilities of this type into your community and how much it means to the people of Mendota, “now finally, they’re a reality.”
Knowlton is a little less busy these days. He is a resident of Stonecroft Village since the passing of his wife, Geneva. They were married for 64 years and have five children, 17 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
He has recently been appointed by Mayor David Boelk as Senior Community Liaison, working with the seniors of Mendota listening to their interests, helping them set up programs that will provide them with information and services to improve their situations and giving them a voice to address their concerns to the City Council.
Yes, Knowlton is still serving the people of this community, the community that he has dedicated much of his life to and he is commended for that.
The Mendota Chamber hopes that everyone will come out to the Sweet Corn Festival Grand Parade on Sunday, Aug. 13 and congratulate a very special Mendotan, Del Knowlton.