In Memory of Jon J. Duerr, Local Conservation Legend

The Illinois conservation community has lost a dear friend and irreplaceable resource with the passing last week of Jon Duerr, a long-time member of The Conservation Foundation and volunteer on our Advisory Council.  When you get a forest preserve named after you, that’s pretty darn impressive! I knew and worked with Jon for more than 35 years. He understood how to work authentically within a political environment, and that always impressed me.  Jon’s beautiful obituary describes his life and legacy better than I ever could, so I am sharing that below.  I personally and The Conservation Foundation as an organization will miss Jon deeply.  He is a legend and his impact will continue to be felt by everyone in Kane County.  Our hearts are with his wife Joy, and all who cared for him, as we did.
~Brook McDonald, President/CEO

Jon J. Duerr

November 13, 1942 – February 13, 2024

Jon J. Duerr, 81, of St. Charles, Illinois died peacefully on Tuesday, February 13, 2024, at his home. Jon was a lifelong resident of St. Charles where he lived life to the fullest with his beloved wife, Joy Arima Duerr. The two met in college and were married in 1966.

Jon was born in 1942 in St. Charles to Leslie and Martha Duerr. Following the deaths of his parents, Jon joined the family of his uncle and aunt, Earl and Vera Mann, and their sons, Robert (Bob) and Doug, of St. Charles. Jon graduated from St. Charles High School and earned a master’s degree in biology with emphasis in ecology from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb and a bachelor’s degree in biology from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

His career began as an original member of the teaching staff at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, where he taught biology from 1967 to 1972.  Jon operated a garden center and green house in Oswego from 1972 to 1985.  In 1985, Jon took a position with the Kane County Forest Preserve District and served for nearly 20 years, as assistant superintendent, superintendent, director of field services, and executive director, before retiring in 2004. Under his leadership, the district more than doubled the amount of open space under its protection, from approx. 4,500 acres to more than 10,000 acres. Jon often could be found trekking the beautiful trails, woods and preserves of Kane County which he worked tirelessly to preserve and safeguard. His favorite forest preserve in South Elgin stands as a testament to his work, bearing his name as a reminder of his contributions.

Jon was a former St. Charles City Alderman, a founding member of the St. Charles Library Foundation, served on the board of the Natural Land Institute in Rockford, and participated in the Illinois Native Plant Society, Wild Ones, Golden K. Kiwanis Club and was a revered leader in Kane County Audubon.

Jon was a dedicated amateur ornithologist who traveled the world alongside his wife Joy to expand their catalog of observed avian species. His ABA life list totaled 639 and his Illinois list was 360. His green thumb and botanical expertise were unmatched. He enjoyed cultivating bountiful gardens and generously shared his harvest with family and friends.

Jon was unmistakable in his well-worn St. Charles High School letter jacket, a symbol of his lasting friendships with his fellow STC. 1961 classmates. Thanks to Jon’s efforts, they maintained a regular meeting schedule, ensuring their connections remained strong.

Jon’s genuine curiosity about people kept him engaged and moving. He effortlessly initiated conversations and was regarded as an approachable person who enjoyed creating new connections.

When you were around Jon, you knew you had a friend nearby. In times of need, Jon was a steadfast pillar of support, always ready with a solution, a comforting word, or a helping hand.  Jon was a friend of Bill W. for 43 years and served as a mentor to numerous people whose lives were forever changed because of his unwavering sponsorship within the program.

So much knowledge and passion in one picture!!! The late naturalist Dick Young on the far right next to Jon, our past Board Chairman Jim D’Ambrosio on the far left, and me, Brook McDonald

It is difficult to encapsulate Jon’s life within the constraints of this page. His journey was marked by numerous accomplishments, meaningful connections, well-deserved accolades, heartfelt acknowledgments, and deep appreciation. His reach extended far beyond the boundaries of his community, touching countless lives through education, mentorship, and public service. Jon’s legacy as a protector of nature’s creatures and landscapes will endure for generations to come. Jon’s only enemy was time. His absence leaves a void that will be felt deeply, but his spirit lives on in the people and places he enriched.

He is survived by the love of his life, Joy Arima Duerr, his sister Sandy (Duerr) Sims of Fort Wayne, Indiana, his mother-in-law Teruko Arima and sister-in-law June Arima Schumann, both of Portland OR, his cousin Robert Mann (Kathryn Voland) of Geneva, family members Pam Mann, Jeff Mann (Robin), Julie Mann Jaeger (Patrick), Alison Mann Nile (Steve), Judy Mann (the late Doug Mann), Sarah Mann (Ross Carlson) and Bob Mann (Connie) and their extended families.

He was preceded in death by his parents, uncles and aunts and cousin Douglas J. Mann who passed away in January.

A visitation will be held at Yurs Funeral Home of St Charles, 405 East Main Street, St Charles, IL from 9:00 am and remembrance service to celebrate Jon’s life will begin at 11:00 am on Saturday, March 2.  Later in May, a celebration of life event will be held at Jon Duerr Forest Preserve.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the following organizations:

St Charles Public Library Foundation 1 S. 6th Avenue St Charles, Il 60174

The Conservation Foundation 10 S. 404 Knoch Knolls Road Naperville, IL 60565

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