Sue MacDonald, who retired from the Riverside Township supervisor's office last week, has dedicated most of her life to serving her community. In addition to helping residents who visited or called the Township Hall, many will recognize her as a member of Riverside Township's Kiwanis Club, as a former president of the Cook County Board of Social Workers, and a former teacher at Hinsdale South High School.
For the township, MacDonald worked with organizations such as the Nurses Closet and the Riverside Township Food Pantry, and said she enjoyed publicizing the township itself as well as the revitalizing of the Township Hall under the late former Township Supervisor Gary Wilt. In fact, it was Wilt who tapped MacDonald to work for his administration on taking office in 1997.
"I never planned on doing anything like this," MacDonald said. "It sort of fell into my lap. Gary kept asking if I knew anybody, and I didn't," she said. "Then he asked, 'How about you?'" So began a nine-year stint as "the smile on the face to everybody who walked into that office," as described by Pat Pavlich, who succeeded Wilt after his death. "She threw herself into everything she did."
Pavlich said MacDonald is a "people person" who put residents at ease. " Everybody who stops in is not necessarily a client," Pavlich said. "Sue is as grass-roots as you can get." Her job brought her in direct contact with residents in many different situations.
"The best part is that it's given me an opportunity to meet people I otherwise wouldn't have met," MacDonald said, crediting Wilt with "a lot of the personalization" of the township over the last decade. "He wanted to reach out to the community and offer a lot of things which had not previously been available."
MacDonald said her job was ideal for her lifestyle. "It was close to home, and I was still able to be, first and foremost, a wife and a mother." She added that she had mixed feelings about retiring, but ultimately decided she wanted to have the freedom to spend more time with her family, and do some traveling with her husband, Les, while they both are still in good health and can enjoy themselves. "I don't want to communicate by postcards," MacDonald said. Also, she will have more time to volunteer at Loyola Hospital's Health and Fitness facility.
MacDonald said although she will not enjoy the same daily contact with residents, she will still be present, active and visible in the community. "I'm going to miss everybody I've met," she said. One of her favorite activities was organizing the weekly Thursday Afternoon At The Movies, a free film screening for seniors held in the township hall auditorium. On her last day, she said the group threw a going away party with a cake. MacDonald said she and the regular attendees have grown close over the years.
"I've bonded with them and they've bonded with each other," MacDonald said. "Leaving that behind is the hardest part of all." MacDonald said she will continue to attend the weekly meetings as a resident.
Pavlich said she has mixed feelings about seeing MacDonald leave, and the dynamics of the office definitely will change. "We want to say don't go, but when someone decides to move on, you have to wish them the best. She's a good friend and I'm happy for her."
"I was fortunate enough to be in a position to try to make somebody a little happier than they'd been before they'd walked into 27 Riverside Road," MacDonald said.