The first time I met Ila Bauer I was at the high school and I was trying to get out of one of her classes. Ila was a fixture in the Business Department at Round Lake High School for decades and I didn’t want to take Home Economics so I decided to take the proficiency test to get out of it. I was a fool for taking that test and passing up my chance to learn then from her.
Fast forward to 2000 and I heard of a group of concerned citizens that Ila was fostering meeting over at the Round Lake Park Village Hall. She had always had an interest in the administration of our schools after she left and even tried to run under a slate of candidates that were kicked off the ballot for not numbering petitions. The District had just gotten the Financial Oversight Panel and there was no sign that anything was really changing. There were probably about 20 folks there or so and I quietly sat a few rows back because I didn’t know anyone.
About halfway through I stood up and I said “My name’s Guy Finley and I’ve heard you all talk about how frustrated you are and there’s only one way it’s going to change — electing a new school board in March and that’s what I’m here for.” A few heads nodded. “I intend to run and I don’t want to run alone, we need to run a slate of candidates if we’re going to make a difference.” From there the “Round Lake Community Group” would be born and “Clean Slate”, a name I coined, came not long after.
I came up with the name and a lot of the plans but the advice and counsel of Ila will never be forgotten by me. She was there to provide support and advice for dealing with those who would gore us ruthlessly in the community and do anything possible to keep us off the ballot. We devised a plan to gather so many signatures and be so meticulous with their collection that there would be no way we could be challenged. We turned in triple the signatures needed and we weren’t challenged.
Once I was on the board Ila was still there to offer support and advice. We didn’t always see eye to eye — in fact many times we disagreed. But there was an unspoken level of respect for each other. “You know Guy, you shouldn’t be so doom and gloom all he time” she said to me once after a Round Lake CUBE meeting going over the Downstate Finance Authority Act. I certainly would be “doom and gloom” to Ila because she is someone I will forever remember as positive. Her village had development plans at their southern boundary fall apart so many times but she was still adamant that she would push through a plan that would get that done. I hope the Village of Round Lake Park will be able to follow through on that dream.
After I resigned from the Board to move to Lindenhurst she put a good word in for me with Mayor Betustak there in a frank and colorful email (that I wish I still had three computer changes later). Thanks in part to her I was appointed to the Lindenhurst Sanitary District. When I resigned from my job with my previous employer and was looking for work I asked her to serve as one of my personal references and she immediately said yes and offered to help more if needed. Ila was always looking to help folks in any way she could.
This community has lost one of its greatest contributors — whether it’s the decades she served the Round Lake Area Schools as a teacher, or her terms as Mayor of Round Lake Park she was a bastion of respect for this community. It is because of people like Ila Bauer that the Round Lake Area can no longer be readily dismissed as a “bedroom community” or “that nasty town next to Grayslake”. She did it by being a straight shooter, true to her word and her principles and setting an example of what it meant to be a representative of her community. I can only hope what I learned from her will be put to good use continuing to contribute to the community, I certainly can only dream about having as much of an impact as she did.
She impacted the lives of thousands of Round Lake High School graduates and has impacted many thousands more in the Round Lake Area. She worked together with her neighboring mayors in getting thing done, this in a town where that was well known to rarely happen. But she knew, she knew that if we were to grow up and move forward we needed to do it together. My only regret is that she won’t be here to see it.
We have her legacy though and it is an endearing one. We have two relatively new schools that were not named and I will be presenting a resolution to the Board of Education to have the Early Education Center or Round Lake Middle School renamed in her honor. I can think of no greater tribute to her legacy of contributions to this community and Round Lake Area Schools and am hopeful my fellow board members and the Finance Authority will agree. I encourage your thoughts, feel free to email me with your support: [email protected].