New Harvard parks chief looking for family of WWII vet to return documents

Stacy Heiliger began job June 3, aims to add more recreation to parks and rec

Stacy Heiliger, the new Harvard Parks and Recreation superintendent, at Harvard City Hall on Thursday, June 6, 2024.

If Alfred Collard, a WWII U.S. Navy veteran who died in 2001, still has family in the area, Stacy Heiliger is looking for them.

Heiliger, the new parks and recreation superintendent for the city of Harvard, has Collard’s Navy discharge papers, a 1944 commendation from the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, a uniform patch, and other documents found by chance in a filing cabinet she picked up off of Facebook Marketplace earlier this spring.

The seller left hanging files in the four-drawer, black cabinet, a nice addition to the $50 purchase.

“All of them were empty, but for this one,” Heiliger said. She was at the storage unit for the Woodstock Community Choir, where she was organizing the group’s sheet music, when she realized one of the files had documents in it.

Stacy Heiliger, the new Harvard Parks and Recreation superintendent, is looking for Alfred Collard's family to return his U.S. Navy documents to them, found in a filing cabinet she bought online.

She picked up the filing cabinet in McHenry, but does not believe the seller was from Collard’s family.

“They were running an estate sale at the house. I didn’t get the actual owner information,” she said, and other than the address where she picked up the cabinet, she knows nothing of where it came from. Neither, she said, does she have the Facebook messages with the seller, as she deleted the thread.

As her own family’s unofficial historian, “I would want it, and would want to know it is safe and get it back to the family,” Heiliger said of the military documents.

Heiliger, a Woodstock resident, Googled Alfred Collard and found what she believes is the correct obituary. But his surviving family was not listed, only that he was “grandfather of nine and great-grandfather of 15.” According to the obituary, he outlived two children. A wife, listed as Nikki Collard, died in 2010. Again, no names of the surviving grandchildren were listed.

“I would want it and would want to know it is safe and get it back to the family.”

—  Stacy Heiliger, Harvard parks and recreation superintendent

She’s posted about the find on a McHenry-based Facebook page. No one there has connected her with possible surviving family, but commenters have given her “ideas on where to look and resources,” Heiliger said.

She hasn’t has as much time as she would like to search for a member of the Collard family who would want the documents. She began her new job as the Harvard Parks and Recreation superintendent on June 3.

Although her undergraduate degree is in park management with a recreation focus, Heiliger hadn’t been working in the industry. Most recently, Heiliger was librarian at Harvard Community School District 50′s Crosby Elementary School.

At Harvard, her job is to add more recreation to the parks and recreation department. Enhancing the small department’s recreational offerings has been on Mayor Mike Kelly’s agenda since he was first elected to city council.

“I’ve taught in Harvard for five years, so I am familiar with the families and the kids, a variety of the businesses and people around town,” Heiliger said.

That familiarity has helped her set up her first new recreation program, a child’s summer fitness camp offered through Harvard’s Xtreme Fitness. Because Harvard does not have its own recreation center or gym, much of its new programming will be done via partnerships.

“My plan for now is to work with local businesses and studios to offer programs because we do not have a place to host,” Heiliger said.

She’s also reaching out to the community-based youth recreation programs that offer league sports.

“I am learning what is currently happening (with them) and what they need from me, how we can work collaboratively in the future in a more efficient and seamless way” to get information to families, Heiliger said.

Kelly said having Heiliger focus on programs helps to “establish and reaffirm that residents want an indoor (recreation) center. We have to demonstrate that we can have programs, but we need to walk before we run” with recreation center plans, he said in a April sit-down with the Northwest Herald.

The city did hold an informational session with residents last year to talk ideas for a recreation center, and the city has a Park and Recreation master plan that calls for a recreation facility. Residents polled then said they were in favor of a indoor recreation facility.

“I have million ideas, but we can’t do it without space. Seventy percent of residents would love to see a rec center. ... My job is to prove to the community that we need a rec center by creating classes, events and activities for people of all ages in Harvard,” Heiliger said.

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