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Local Editorials

SVM EDITORIAL: Recalling the legacies of two remarkable men

We join Sauk Valley residents in saluting the legacies of two longtime local figures, a builder-philanthropist and a choral teacher, who died during the Christmas holidays. Farewell to Richard Prescott and James Wiltz.

James Wiltz (left) and Richard Prescott.
James Wiltz (left) and Richard Prescott.

“Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?”

Of course not.

Newspaper obituaries help to ensure that a record of a recently deceased person’s life is published so that who they were and what they did in life is not forgotten.

Last week, more than 30 obituaries appeared in Sauk Valley Media. Those whose lives were recounted pursued a variety of careers.

There were farmers, registered nurses, a plumber and an accountant, along with a former restaurant hostess, a cemetery sexton, a warehouse worker and a claims examiner.

Other obituaries told of the lives of factory workers, a retired steel worker, a printer, a pastor and a municipal employee.

The lives of a real estate agent, retail sales clerk, social worker, and employees for telephone and electrical companies also were recounted.

We mean them absolutely no disrespect as we single out two men whose obituaries also were published last week and whose lives influenced perhaps more people than usual.

James A. Wiltz, who retired after serving as director of choral activities for 35 years at Dixon High School, died 2 days before Christmas. He was 83.

Richard J. Prescott, who was a Sterling construction company owner, entrepreneur and philanthropist, died Christmas Day, He was 86.

Wiltz and Prescott wielded influence over the residents of their communities in different ways  – Wiltz through his drive to encourage quality musical performances from his students over the years, and Prescott through the buildings his company built and a philanthropic legacy that supported education and health care.

Wiltz’s legacy was cemented earlier this year when the Dixon High School Auditorium was dedicated in his honor in ceremonies that, though ill, he courageously attended.

For Prescott’s legacy, you have only to seek out some of the major buildings his company constructed: the Whiteside County Courthouse and Law Enforcement Center in Morrison, YWCA of the Sauk Valley in Sterling, Sacred Heart Church, and additions to CGH Medical Center and Sterling High School.

Prescott and his wife, Juanita, provided the founding grant 20 years ago for a community dental clinic in Rock Falls, which serves low-income patients. They also built Parkway Center. Most recently, Prescott donated land for the new Rock River Hospice & Home in Sterling.

The classic 1946 Christmas movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” explores the impact that one man’s life can have on a community.

During the Christmas season of 2017, those left to mourn the passing of James Wiltz and Richard Prescott reflect on the positive legacies left behind by these two remarkable leaders.

We can be assured of one thing: these two old acquaintances of the Sauk Valley will not be forgotten and never brought to mind. Their legions of friends and admirers will certainly see to that.

We hope their examples of selfless, community-minded leadership will inspire others for many years to come.

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