Donald D. Peasley, 90, died Friday, May 3, 2013, at his Woodstock home. Peasley was born Dec. 5, 1922, on the family farm near Stronghurst, son of John and LaVerna Dixson Peasley.
A graduate of Terre Haute (Illinois) High School in 1940, he attended the University of Illinois from 1940-43 and began his career as a journalist on the editorial staff of The Daily Illini.
He enlisted in the U.S. Navy Reserves and began active duty July 1, 1943. He served in the Pacific Theater aboard the U.S.S. Blue Ridge, an amphibious force command ship, and the USS Lawrence C. Taylor, a destroyer escort that worked closely with an aircraft carrier to patrol the shipping lanes off the coasts of China and Japan.
Returning home during a leave, Don married Frances Keane, Feb. 14, 1946. With his bride, they returned to the University of Illinois. He continued his career as a journalist at The Daily Illini and graduated in June 1947. The couple moved to Woodstock in October 1947, where Peasley worked as managing editor of the Woodstock Journal, Hebron Times and Huntley Review, papers owned by John Strohm, nationally known editor and world traveler.
Peasley’s journalism career quickly expanded to include success as a photojournalist, editor, columnist and historian. He often mentioned his opportunity to comment on local accomplishments and local personalities throughout his career as an editor and columnist as one of his most satisfying experiences.
With his newspaper columns, he helped recognize achievements of many individuals. In 1954, he urged the Woodstock City Council to honor George Sullivan, Woodstock Sentinel editor for 40 years, by naming the Little League field at city park Sullivan Field.
Peasley was a founding member of the Woodstock Little League in 1954. He had served on its board ever since, including 45 years as secretary. In 1962, he established Play Ball! an annual yearbook featuring league history, highlights, team photos and individual recognition.
In 1955, he established Woodstock VFW News, a monthly publication to keep members informed of issues related to veterans. The publication earned 15 national VFW “Best Publication” awards.
Peasley founded a public relations firm in 1961. He worked in communications at Illinois Farm Bureau from 1950 until the organization moved from Chicago to Bloomington in 1961.
Throughout the years, Peasley had a close relationship with agriculture. Through stories and photos, he chronicled major changes affecting the agricultural community in McHenry County. He helped edit and produce the monthly Farm Bureau publication from 1947 until its close in 2002. He was involved in a host of community events, primarily as a volunteer, including Woodstock’s success in becoming an All-America City in National Municipal League competition in 1963-64.
Peasley was instrumental in promoting the McHenry County Fair and photographed every fair queen since 1946. Last year, the fair board recognized his contributions by designating the first day of the fair as “Don Peasley Day” and placed a nameplate on a bench.
Realizing the historic value of his photography collection, Peasley, in 1990, began making prints of his negatives, confirming identification and giving them to the McHenry County Historical Society for its archives.
He was presented the Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award by the Illinois Humanities Council following nomination for the recognition by Woodstock City Council in 2006. He was chosen Woodstock Citizen of the Year by the Woodstock Lions Club in 2006 and honored by the Illinois 4-H Foundation with induction into the 4-H Foundation Hall of Fame in 2007. His journalistic endeavors, including 60 years of covering high school activities, were recognized with his induction into the Woodstock High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006. The McHenry County Board similarly recognized 60 years of photographic and journalistic achievements with a proclamation in February 2006.
He is survived by his four children, Mary (Hobert Holloway) Peasley, Chicago, Mark (Laura) Peasley (Molly and Shane Brown, Woodstock, Charles (Debbie) Peasley, Yorba Linda, Calif., and Sarah Peasley, Denver; three grandchildren, Peter (Cristina) Beverwyk and Christopher (Kinny) Beverwyk of Chicago, and Victoria Sisk of Denver; two great-grandchildren, Veda and Daemon Beverwyk; many nieces and nephews; and close family friend Marybeth Vogrinc.
He was preceded in death by his wife; three brothers, John, Charles and Kenneth; and a sister, Mary Lou Murphy.
Peasley has donated his body to medical science. Visitation will be from 9 a.m. until the 11 a.m. funeral Mass Saturday, May 11, at St. Mary Catholic Church, Woodstock.
Donations may be made to the McHenry County Historical Society, Don Peasley Collection, 6422 Main St., Union, IL 601820.