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Local

After taking detour, Geneva man finds right career track

Ron Singer at his home in Geneva, Ill. on Thursday, January 25, 2007. (Rebekah Raleigh photo)
Ron Singer at his home in Geneva, Ill. on Thursday, January 25, 2007. (Rebekah Raleigh photo)

GENEVA – Geneva resident Ron Singer grew up on Chicago’s West Side. “I was a very good, well-mannered child,” Singer said, “which I attribute to a long parochial education. From grammar school through college, I had the fear of God instilled in me. Also, my parents were loving, but very strict.” Always a good student, Singer was selected to give a speech at his eighth-grade graduation. “I thought it was because I had such a marvelous speaking voice,” he said. “I didn’t realize I was the valedictorian!” At DePaul Academy, Singer played football, ran track, and engaged in numerous intramural sports. “I tried boxing, but only for one year, because I was very small and got beat up pretty badly,” he said. He loved dancing and attended Catholic youth dances once or twice a week. There, he met Marilyn Peterson, who later would become his wife. After graduating high school in 1950, Singer entered Loyola University’s dental program, working summers as a firefighter on the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad. His college days were interrupted when he was drafted into the Army during the Korean War. Singer was sent to railway operating school at Fort Eustace, Va., and then onto Korea. He operated train from Pusan to Tajon that exclusively carried officers and diplomats. Returning home in 1954, Singer realized that being a teacher was his true calling. Abandoning dentistry, he enrolled at Illinois State University to study secondary education. He majored in social studies and minored in speech, continuing to work on the railroad during college breaks. One of those summers, while visiting Lake Geneva, Wis., Singer ran into Marilyn again. They married soon after he graduated from ISU. His first teaching job came shortly thereafter at Proviso East High School in Maywood, where he taught U.S. history. “I was delighted to see young people respond to the way I presented the material,” he said. “I felt I was successful in the field I had chosen.” When Proviso West opened two years later in Hillside, Singer was transferred to that high school where he spent the remainder of his 33-year teaching career. He was thrilled when asked to be the sponsor for the Class of ’71 at Proviso West. It turned out to be one of his most satisfying experiences. Singer helped with social activities like sock hops, proms and homecoming floats. Twenty-five to 30 students would descend on the Singers’ Hillside home to work on various projects. Even the Singer children became involved, with his wife serving lemonade. Before graduation, at Senior Night, the class of ’71 invited Singer onstage and presented him with a special plaque and sang a song composed in his honor. “I developed such a great relationship with those kids that it continues to this day,.” Singer said. “They’ve invited me to every class reunion including their recent 35th. Singer coached golf and wrestling, with a number of his athletes progressing to state competition. Singer decided to get his Master’s degree in teaching at the University of Illinois. U of I’s residency requirements forced him to live in Champaign for two summers. “To this day, I can’t thank my wonderful wife enough for taking care of our home and four children while I was gone,” he said. Always in need of additional income, Singer was never shy about seeking summer employment. He taught summer school, worked in a factory and served as caddy master at Riverside Country Club. “I only caddied for two years because it was very strenuous. You had to be there from sunup to sunset to accommodate the golfers’ hours.” Singer loved teaching the U.S. and Illinois constitutions. Even after his retirement from Proviso West in 1991, he taught continuing education classes at Triton Junior College for 14 years. During those summers working on the C&NW’s Chicago to Geneva run, he often had layover time and wandered about downtown Geneva. “I became enthralled by the city,” Singer recollected. “When Marilyn and I married, we spent a couple of days in St. Charles and Geneva before traveling to Colorado. Marilyn fell in love with the area, too.” Upon Singer’s retirement, the couple had their dream home built in Geneva where they still reside. At last he had time to engage in another interest – politics. “Coming from Chicago, I understood that running for office meant ringing doorbells and meeting people,” he said. He also became acquainted with many of his fellow Genevans through St. Peter Catholic Church where he was a lector, usher and served on the parking committee. Singer chaired the scholarship committee for the American Legion and serving as chaplain and vice president. When he decided to run for fourth ward Alderman in 1996, Singer focused on the needs of senior citizens. “No one knew who their alderpeople were,” Singer said. “They were astonished to see someone ringing their doorbells to ask for their votes.” Singer defeated the incumbent by only 24 votes. He continues to represent the fourth ward today. Singer became an advocate for seniors. He works with Triad, an organization that educates the elderly on issues like safety, fraud, preparing wills and asset management. He also chairs Geneva’s Transportation Committee and works with the Kane County Paratransit Coordinating Committee to provide transportation solutions for seniors, the disabled and low income individuals. Singer treasures contacts with his former students. He was thrilled when, in Disneyland in California, he heard his name called by a young person who remembered him from student days. – If you know someone who should be featured in Kane County Faces, send your story idea to Gail Jardine c/o Lifestyles, 1000 Randall Road, Geneva, IL 60134 or e-mail lifestyles @kcchronicle.com.

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