PEORIA (AP) — A former three-term mayor of Peoria who led the central Illinois city through a difficult economic time has died at age 93.
Jim Maloof died Saturday at his home while surrounded by family in Peoria, his son Nick Maloof told The Associated Press.
The Peoria native and owner of a real estate agency was often called "the cheerleading mayor" while serving as the city's mayor from 1985 to 1997. He first ran for office when he was 65 years old, when unemployment was high, Caterpillar Inc. was laying off union workers and other businesses had closed.
"When he took the job of mayor, the most popular bumper sticker in Peoria was, 'The last person to leave please turn out the lights,'" Nick Maloof said.
Jim Maloof's optimistic "Forward Peoria!" platform, his belief in his city and even his dramatic tenor singing voice are often credited for sparking a period of economic development. Upon leaving office, he told a reporter: "We made lemonade out of lemons."
Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce President Roberta Parks recalled that Maloof was called "the cheerleading mayor" because of his efforts to boost Peoria's economy and bring back a sense of pride among its residents.
Maloof biographer Doug Love told the (Peoria) Journal-Star that meeting entertainer Danny Thomas was a pivotal moment in Maloof's life. Thomas, who founded St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, recruited Maloof and other Lebanese Americans to create the fundraising backbone for St. Jude's in Memphis, Tenn.
Maloof later played a key role in the opening of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Midwest Affiliate at Methodist Medical Center in Peoria.
He also served on numerous boards and sang at more than 600 weddings, his family said. He was preceded in death by his wife, Gertrude "Trudy" Burson Maloof.
Maloof had been in poor health for several months, and family members visited him the night before he died and held a sing along of the former mayor's favorites, Nick Maloof said.
"We surrounded him with music and laughter," the younger Maloof said. "We sang 'My Way,' 'Fly Me to the Moon' ... He was singing harmony with us."
The family has scheduled a memorial for Friday evening at Riverside Community Church in Peoria. The service will be preceded by a visitation. A Mass will be held Saturday afternoon at St. Mary's Cathedral, followed by a private burial.