ST. CHARLES – A sea of red T-shirts with the words “Mr. Wredling 100 years strong” greeted a St. Charles school’s namesake Monday morning as students, staff and community members gathered to celebrate his milestone birthday.
Principal Steve Morrill even saved a shirt for the man of honor but noted it wasn’t quite identical to the rest. The back read, “I am Mr. Wredling.”
Described as a celebrity among Wredling Middle School students, John Wredling is a World War II veteran, former St. Charles School District 303 superintendent and Charlemagne Award recipient.
He turned 100 Sunday.
Celebrating his birthday at the middle school is a tradition for Wredling. This year, the 45-minute program included musical performances, the debut of the Wredling fight song and comments by St. Charles Mayor Ray Rogina, who read a resolution by the Illinois House of Representatives that honors Wredling.
“We congratulate John Hugo Wredling on his 100th birthday and wish him many more happy and healthy years to come,” Rogina read.
Wredling was accompanied by his three children, who said their father looks forward to this annual event, as he also does with the first day of school and graduation.
“It’s all about the children,” his son, Peter, said. “Look at how happy he is.”
In a video, students described Wredling as a great inspiration who made them feel welcome on their first day of sixth grade. Student council president Katie Swenson said they are honored to have him as their school’s namesake.
Although other St. Charles school are named after community members, teacher Vicki Robinson said Wredling is the only school that has enjoyed an ongoing relationship with its namesake. She said Wredling has been the constant in the school’s 19-year history.
“You are a role model for us all,” Robinson said.
Jonathon E. Monken, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, agreed. He said he hopes his 3-year-old son, Jack, looks to people like Wredling – a “true hero” whose influence “really cannot be measured” – when looking for a role model.
As people posed around Wredling for photos, his son, Peter, talked about how proud he is of his father.
“He’s done so much more than I could even hope to achieve,” he said.