Former Kane Forest Preserve chief Jon Duerr dies

John Hoscheit: ‘Jon was integral in the success of the Forest Preserve’

The Blackhawk Forest Preserve in St. Charles Township near South Elgin was renamed to honor Jon J. Duerr in 2004 for his work on behalf of open space acquisition and preservation. Duerr died Tuesday while in hospice care at age 81.

ST. CHARLES – Jon J. Duerr, who led the Kane County Forest Preserve District to success in open space preservation, died Feb. 13 in hospice care for cancer at his home in St. Charles. He was 81.

Duerr served numerous roles in 19 years at the Forest Preserve District, first as assistant superintendent, then superintendent, director of field services and as its first executive director from October 2002 to June 2004, officials said.

The forest preserve in St. Charles Township near South Elgin was named in his honor in 2004.

Former Forest Preserve Commission President John Hoscheit said Duerr’s death is a big loss for the county.

“Jon was integral in the success of the Forest Preserve,” Hoscheit said. “He was really the leader in coordinating and promoting the importance of open space and preservation. ... He spearheaded the initial wave of referendums to preserve open space. And after his retirement from the district, he was an intergral part of community outreach to continue to market and promote [open space] referendums.”

Hoscheit said he and Duerr both were aldermen in St. Charles some 30 years ago.

When Hoscheit was elected to the Kane County Board, there were three departments – public safety, finance and operations.

Duerr was the operations director and ran everything in the field, Hoscheit said.

Duerr led a transition in the county’s organizational structure while serving as the Forest Preserve District’s first executive director, Hoscheit said.

Black bunting was placed on the sign for the Kane County Jon J. Duerr Forest Preserve. Duerr died Tuesday while in hospice care for cancer. He was 81.

“His legacy – Jon’s strength – at the district had always been [that] we’ve had a very professional and dedicated staff that has worked things out, got along great and was very public-oriented,” Hoscheit said. “That’s why we had the support we did when we went out to referendum ... acquiring, preserving land, restoring land – and it was all because of the groundwork done to create this team.”

The late Dick Young, a longtime naturalist, mentored Duerr and also was involved in promoting preservation and prairie restoration in the county, Hoscheit said.

Young, who died in 2011, had been environmental director and consultant to the county for 35 years.

“He was very close to Dick and it was their combined effort. Jon carried on Dick’s legacy and it was carried on in what we see in our preserves today,” Hoscheit said.

County board members also serve as the Forest Preserve Commission. Duerr mentored Hoscheit, encouraging his motivation to serve as president.

“Jon was not one who wanted the limelight,” Hoscheit said. “He wanted to get the work done. And he enjoyed the fruits of the work. While retired, he was out in the preserves daily, giving advice and input on how we could make better use of the preserves and make things better for the constituents.”