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James Larkin Golby was born March 2, 1927 in Kewanee, Illinois to John Thomas and Elizabeth Larkin Golby. He married Alice Ann Simons on July 25, 1964 at St. Mary of the Woods Catholic Church in Princeville, Illinois. He passed away on November 12, 2023.
Jim and Alice are the parents of four children, Katherine (Eric) Stewart of Dwight, Illinois, Margaret (Craig) Gustafson of Kewanee, Illinois, Dr. Angela Golby of Morton, Illinois, and Lt. Col. (US Army, Ret.) Dr. Jim (Kristen) Golby of Austin, Texas. They were blessed with eleven grandchildren and one great-grandchild, Dr. Sarah (Jake) Burd and Sadie Burd (The Great), 2LT Ethan Stewart, Melissa Stewart, Matthew Gustafson, Dr. Alison (Connor) McDonald, Elizabeth (Thomas) Witty, Kat Golby, Maddie Golby, John Golby, Luke Golby, and Peter Golby.
Jim was the oldest of seven children. Sisters Catherine (Kate) Cromien, Elizabeth (Wink) Barry, and Sr. Eileen Golby, OSF survive as well as brother-in-law Maurice Yepsen. Also surviving are cousins Rose (Larry) Pratt, Tim (Jackie) Golby, and Doug (Dorothy) Miles as well as many nieces and nephews. His parents and his wife Alice Ann preceded him in death as did his brother John and wife Barbara Golby, his sister Regina and husband Roger Anderson, brothers-in-law Bernie Cromien and Jack Barry, and his sister Patricia Yepsen.
Jim grew up on the family farm in rural Bureau County, just west of Neponset, Illinois. He enjoyed being part of a big, extended Irish family. A lot of life lessons are learned on the farm, and from an early age Jim learned to work hard. It was always important to him to honor the legacy of his family. Jim was proud to be from Neponset and graduated as valedictorian from Neponset High School in May 1945 during World War II. That next Monday he left for basic training in the United States Army. When Jim returned home after serving in the Army, he joined the Neponset American Legion. He was very proud of the fact that he had been a member of the Neponset Legion for over 76 years.
As a WWII veteran, Jim felt fortunate to have the educational benefits of the G.I. Bill which covered college tuition. He was determined to graduate from a university by the age of twenty-two. He first attended Western Illinois University as they had a quarter system where he could catch up by attending in the summertime as well. After one and a half years at Western, he transferred to the University of Illinois in Champaign (U of I). While attending U of I, Jim cleaned and cooked at a fraternity house to afford the room he rented from a local family. He had a bicycle at school and would often hitchhike home to see his family. He graduated from U of I with highest honors in 1950. In 1952, he obtained his Master’s Degree from the U of I and continued to take additional coursework there, at Bradley University, and at the University of Chicago.
He taught Agriculture at Geneseo High School for one year before becoming the Ag teacher at Kewanee High School (KHS) in 1951. He held that position until 1962 when he became Principal of the high school. In 1967 Jim was named Superintendent of Kewanee School District #229 and the Superintendent Administrator of the Henry-Stark Special Education District Cooperative. He held these positions until his retirement in 1998 and is recognized as one of the longest tenured school administrators in the State of Illinois. He was honored to be the District’s Superintendent Emeritus after his retirement.
Jim touched many lives during his 48 year-long careers in education. He loved and appreciated the students, staff, and faculty he was privileged to work with. He brought people together and ensured that the district had what it needed to thrive. He was compassionate towards others while leading with vision and strength. Jim valued good communication and inclusion, which led him to start numerous committees and offer regular open forums so that stakeholders in the district could have a voice and provide input. Those groups included, the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Committee, the Staff Advisory Committee, the Curriculum Coordinating Committee, the Minority Voice Committee, an Administrative Committee, and Come ‘n Communication sessions for the people of each school in the district.
During their many years in Kewanee, Jim and Alice Ann served their community and always tried to help where they could. Jim was a leader, advocate, and pioneer. In 1952 while teaching agriculture and as the Advisor for the KHS Chapter of the Future Farmers of America, he and his students hosted a barrow show on the track in the KHS stadium. That show would later evolve into the community’s celebration of “Hog Days,” which commemorates the era when Henry County led the entire nation in pork production.
In the late 1960s the Kewanee community sought to offer college coursework locally. Jim worked diligently and quickly to develop the curriculum. Beginning in 1967, classes were offered through Black Hawk College at the Kewanee National Guard Armory and at KHS. As class offerings and enrollment grew, the college opened a site just south of Kewanee in 1971. Jim was the last living member of the five founders of Black Hawk College East.
Over the course of his professional career Jim was recognized for significant achievements and exceptional leadership. Some of those recognitions included, Honorary State Farmer by the Future Farmers of America (1956), Valley Forge Classroom Teachers Medal (1961), Outstanding Young Man by the Junior Chamber of Commerce in Kewanee (1963), Those Who Excel award for an outstanding administrator by the State of Illinois Superintendent’s office (1978), Citizen of the Year by the Kewanee Chamber of Commerce (1984), Grand Marshall of the Labor Day Parade (1984), and Who’s Who in Education. He was also a member of the Kappa Delta Pi Honor Society in Education.
Jim held numerous offices in professional and service organizations. He was a member of the American Association of School Administrators and the Illinois Association of School Administrators. Jim served as Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce of Kewanee, President of the Kewanee Teachers Association, a member of the Kewanee YMCA Board of Directors, President of the United Fund, and Chair of the Ambassadors Club of Kewanee.
Jim was proud to be a member of the Kiwanis Club of Kewanee for over 71 years and held the offices of Treasurer, Vice-President and President and especially enjoyed volunteering during the Club’s Peanut Days and Pancake Day fundraisers. He was awarded the Luis V. Amador award from Division 17 within the Illinois-Eastern Iowa District of Kiwanis International to extend special recognition and honor for outstanding service within the community.
Jim was also a lifetime member of the Saint John Paul II Parish in Kewanee.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10:00 a.m., Monday, November 20 at Saint John Paul II Parish in Kewanee. Celebrant will be Fr. Chris Haake. Visitation will be held from 2:00-6:00 p.m., Sunday, November 19 at Rux Funeral Home in Kewanee with recitation of the rosary at 1:30 p.m. Burial will take place at 2:00 p.m., Monday, November 20 at St. Mary of the Woods Cemetery in Princeville where military rites will be accorded by the Neponset American Legion.
Jim’s children would like to extend their gratitude and appreciation to their dad’s extended family, close friends, and former students who made his days bright and filled them with meaning. A special thanks also to the staff at Courtyard Estates and Courtyard Village in Kewanee for their kindness and care over the last several years.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may go to the Kewanee Schools Foundation or to the Black Hawk East Foundation.