History is paramount to Jack Klasey, specifically the history of Kankakee County.
“I think it’s very important that we preserve and understand the history of the community,” Klasey said. “It’s important to know what happened in the past.”
A longtime Kankakee area resident, Klasey was recently bestowed the Volunteer of the Year award by the Kankakee County Historical Society for his countless hours of volunteering at the Kankakee County Museum and for his dedication in assisting the society in bringing exhibits to life.
“Jack is our historian,” said Robert De Oliveira, president of the Kankakee County Historical Society. “He knows everything about Kankakee. He has a mind that is like a trap. He remembers everything, and he is able to connect people with location and situations. It’s just amazing.”
De Oliveira said he refers to Klasey as Mr. Kankakee.
“He’s given endless hours to the museum,” he said. “He’s a man of letters, he’s always writing and polishes things that have to be written. He’s a go-to guy and just a genuine person.”
Klasey said he was surprised by the honor because, quite honestly, he didn’t know it existed. He just loves history.
“There’s a great deal of interest among people in the community of learning about the what the community’s past has been, and its importance,” he said.
Connie Licon, executive director of the Kankakee County Museum, said Klasey is a valuable resource.
“We have never found a resource like Jack in our lives,” she said. “We go to Jack for everything because he knows everything about Kankakee County. He just thrives on a topic and just runs with it.”
Licons said Klasey volunteers in the photo department, where he has digitized more than 12,000 photos for the museum.
“He’s here at least two days a week, and he is our go-to resource person,” Licon said. “He has written so many books that are in our museum store. ‘Of the People’ is one of our bibles that we go to for everything, and he wrote it.”
Part of his volunteer efforts over the years at the museum included the Black History exhibit, the Press Room and the sports wing.
“Jack has been so instrumental,” Licon said. “He also did the Press Room, we call it the Jack Klasey Room, here at the museum. He took just a huge interest in all the printing presses because of his publishing career.”
Klasey was also the point person for the sports committee in putting the sports room together, bonding with the 20 members made of coaches and local dignitaries.
“He really helped us put the sports room together, all the verbiage,” Licon said. “He knew the teams, and he just knew so much about the history of sports here.”
In addition to his volunteer work at the museum, Klasey also writes a weekly history column for the Daily Journal.
“It’s very rewarding and I enjoy doing the research,” he said. “When I first began writing the column, I made of list of topics and it ran several pages. I’ll never run out of topics to write about.”
De Oliveira said when you talk to Jack you feel like you’ve known him for a long time.
“He’s an amazing individual,” he said. “We’re very happy to have him, and we’re very proud of him.”