Mary E. Kies recognized for 30 years of Park Board service with dedication of Recreation Center

  • Mary E. Kies Recreation Center Dedication with Board Members
  • Mary E. Kies Recreation Center dedication with Senator Suzy Glowiak Hilton
  • Mary E. Kies Recreation Center dedication

Thirty years is a long time, but according to retiring Elmhurst Park Board Commissioner, Mary Kies, “It went so fast!” Perhaps that is because Kies always brought a sense of joy and enthusiasm to her role as Commissioner, a position she was first elected to in April 1993.

Indeed, her enthusiasm for parks and recreation was infectious and her passion for the field pushed those around her to strive for the best.

Her outsized impact on the community brought friends, family, Park Board staff and the community together last Saturday, April 28 to honor Kies and her contributions with the dedication and renaming of Centennial Recreation Center (155 E. St Charles Rd.) to the Mary E. Kies Recreation Center.

Mike Kies, the son of Mary, described the facility as being very special to their family. Prior to the facility becoming the home of Park District senior programming in 2022, it was a center of activity and recreation for Redeemer Lutheran Church. The gym was also a popular spot for basketball practices.

“During my brother and my early years growing up, our church would rent space there for basketball practice. We cut our teeth as players and coaches in that facility,” says Mike.

Basketball came to be a significant part of the Kies household, with Kies’ sons going on to play at the college level and hold positions as coaches at the high school, college and professional level.

“My mom and dad would take us everywhere to get the best competition as players. It is so appropriate that this facility be named in my mom’s honor, not only for the commitment to her community, but also her family.”

The recreation center was just one of the Park District projects with which Kies was passionate about during her tenure. She was an advocate for special recreation programming to provide recreational opportunities for individuals with special needs. Kies also took a keen interest in conservation efforts, including preserving open space and protecting natural grasses, particularly the Elmhurst Great Western Prairie.

Kies took on leadership roles during her time on the Board, serving as Board President from 1995-1997 and as Vice President from 2011-2013. Her fellow commissioners also emphasized her role as a teacher and mentor.

“Your service to the Elmhurst community and the Elmhurst Park District is legendary. You’ve always been a teacher and you taught me so much about the Park District,” said Park Board President, Kevin Graf at the Park Board’s April 24 meeting where Kies was also honored with a formal resolution noting her three decades of service to the community.

Many of the projects Kies helped guide to completion are some of Elmhurst’s most recognizable landmarks. These include the acquisition and renovation of Wilder Mansion, securing of donations to develop Diana Nicholas Garden, the development of Wilder Park Formal Gardens, construction of a new East End Pool, and the construction of Safety Town. 

In attendance at the dedication was State Senator Glowiak Hilton, who looked forward to the community visiting the Mary E. Kies Recreation Center. Senator Glowiak Hilton surprised Kies with a Senate Recognition, celebrating her 30 years of service.

“During her tenure, Commissioner Kies has overseen the acquisition, creation and redevelopment of Elmhurst's most popular green spaces, facilities, and programs,” said Senator Glowiak Hilton.

Recently, Kies has played a role in developing Centennial Park, acquiring parkland for the development of Pick Park and the expansion of Glos Park.

It seemed the Park District was always in the background of Kies’ life prior to joining the Board. From volunteering at Wilder Park Conservatory to playing tennis at Courts Plus, her desire to serve clearly came from a true interest in her community.

Said Kies, “It was an honor and a pleasure to serve all those years for people that wanted a better, wonderful Park District.”