Remembering the legacy of former Rockford Mayor John McNamara

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Former Rockford Mayor John McNamara died Wednesday at 81.

Local leaders say McNamara worked tirelessly to make Rockford a better place to live and describe him as a great man who leaves behind a legacy.

John Groh, President of the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said, “He continued to be passionate, and concerned, and dedicated to our community, throughout his life, until the very end.”

Groh says McNamara was instrumental in getting the RACVB up and running when he served as mayor, from 1981-1989.

“In the early 80s, when we were thinking about how to grow our economy, how to improve our community, John McNamara and others had the idea of marketing our community and bringing visitation to the region, by increasing awareness of the great attributes of our community,” Groh said.

Groh says the resulting economic growth was sorely needed.

“He was mayor at a very critical time for our community, very dark days in the early 1980s. Led us through that, led us out of that as a community,” Groh said.

Joe Bove is a longtime Rockford business owner, who currently serves as the president of Southwest Ideas for Today and Tomorrow (SWIFTT), a non-profit focused on promoting economic development on the city’s southwest side.

Bove worked closely with McNamara for years and says area businesses flourished during his time as mayor.

“If I ever picked up the phone or wanted anything, all I had to do was call him. And he talked to you. He wasn’t ever too busy to talk to you. And I think that’s a big thing as a mayor,” he said.

Bove says McNamara’s death is a big loss for Rockford.

“It’s hard to put words together when somebody like that passes. Just a good man,” he said.

Louis Malone is the pastor for St. Luke’s Missionary Church and a former president of the Rockford Ministers’ Fellowship.

He says McNamara went out of his way every year to attend the group’s annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr., even after he left office.

Malone says he was especially impressed by how McNamara made himself available to everyone.

“He said to me ‘Louis, my doors are always open for you if you need to talk to me about anything’. He said just come down and my secretary will get you in, you don’t need an appointment. That’s the kind of relationship he had with the Rockford Ministers Fellowship,” Malone said.

Starting today through October 8th, City Hall and the Morgan Street Bridge will be lit in multiple colors in commemoration of John McNamara and the city’s diversity.

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