Dick and Shelley Peach have dedicated much of their lives to making Evanston a better place to live, work and play. They were both born and raised here. They met, married and raised their sons here. Only now, Evanston is their official second home.
“We’re not leaving Evanston permanently. This is always going to be home. … For the last 25 years, we’ve been visiting Minnesota for six or eight weeks every year. Now, we’re just going to reverse that. We’re going to live in Minnesota and come back here for six or eight weeks every year,” Dick Peach announced to a crowd of close friends, family members. co-workers, and fellow community volunteers who gathered at Temperance Beer Co. on July 22.
A “Grand Farewell Party for Dick and Shelley Peach,” was held on an idyllic summer evening to celebrate their immeasurable contributions to the Evanston community and beyond.
Hosted by former Mayor Steve Hagerty, and supported by various Evanston organizations and individuals, the event was an occasion for laughter, food, music and shared memories. Speakers highlighted some of the many ways Dick and Shelley have enriched the community, together and individually.
“It’s bittersweet tonight. I think we’re all excited to celebrate Dick and Shelley this evening. But two weeks from now, they won’t be Evanston residents anymore,” said Hagerty.
In a toast to the couple, Marybeth Schroeder, retired Vice President of Programs at Evanston Community Foundation, said she knows Dick and Shelley Peach “as people who exude love and care for their fellow human beings. …
“I want to talk about them … from the point of view of a nonprofit world. Dick is somebody who doesn’t just talk about the things he cares about… He rolls up his sleeves… and makes them happen,” said Schroeder, adding that Dick’s far-reaching community work has been possible because he has had his wife, Shelley, at his side.
Schroeder cited Dick’s long association with the Evanston Chamber of Commerce – he has served twice as Chamber president – and his belief in the trades as a viable path for students who wish to pursue training for a career over a four-year college upon graduating from high school.
“He mentors kids. He worked with the late, great Hecky [Powell], on WE [Evanston Work Ethic Program] to really make that happen…
“As a Vietnam veteran, Dick has demonstrated his belief in our country… He is also a long-time Fourth of July Association Celebration Manager,” said Schroeder.
Shelley Peach is known throughout the community for her career of more than 20 years at Anton’s Greenhouse, which relocated to Wisconsin in 2018, after 70 years at its former location at 1126 Pitner Ave.
“She is the reason the Rotary Garden is so beautiful,” Schroeder said about Shelley, who has for many years devoted 10 hours a week or more tending the Rotary Garden in the Ladd Arboretum.
Shelley and Dick both have deep connections to the Rotary Club of Evanston. Gene Servillo, who is a member of the club, said, “Dick is the only person in the history of the Rotary Club of Evanston that has been president twice.”
Megan Anton, daughter of Anton’s Greenhouse owner Gary Anton, spoke about growing up, with Shelley Peach watching over her.
“She babysat me as a toddler when I ran around the greenhouse. I planted next to her, I filled orders with her. … She was as much of an Anton’s person as my dad,” said Megan Anton.
“Then I started driving, and I met Dick,” said Anton, drawing laughter from the crowd. She recalled that, as a teenage driver, she took the family car to Dempster Auto Rebuilders, following a driving mishap that resulted in a flat tire. Dick Peach, who worked as the general manager there for 35 years, was highly regarded for his careful and expert handling of such instances. So much so that he was known for handing out his business card to parents of newly minted drivers, said former Mayor Hagerty.
Addressing Dick and Shelley, Anton said, “Evanston is losing an incredible power couple. Cheers to you. Good luck in your next adventure. Minnesota has no idea what they’re getting.”
Dick and Shelley share a love for the outdoors and a passion for the environment.
Dick has worked to help make Evanston a national leader in climate mitigation through his involvement in Citizens’ Greener Evanston. He organized the first Green Ball and has served as the president of Evanston Environmental Association.
An avid fisherman, he spent nearly 20 years fishing professional bass and walleye tournaments – which leads to a story recounted by Mary Gavin, retired executive editor of the Evanston RoundTable.
“About a decade ago, a fisherman and an editor walked into a bar. The fisherman lamented, as he had many times before, ‘We live on one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, and no one is writing about it,’” she said.
This time the editor responded, “You write it.
“Dick took the challenge, of course, but he was a bit hesitant about writing,” she said.
His column, “Hooked on Fishing,” became one of the RoundTable’s most popular columns, winning several awards for “Bet Sports Column” from the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association.
“It was Dick’s voice, his love of the water, and his love of fishing. Even people who weren’t keen on fishing loved to read him,” said Gavin.
Together, Dick and Shelley Peach have taken on challenges large and small to enhance the community they will always call home.
In late spring 2013 the couple picked up an unusual package at O’Hare International Airport: several small trees grown from seeds of a gingko tree that survived the atomic bomb that destroyed the city of Hiroshima, Japan on Aug. 6, 1945. Only one of the saplings survived, and they planted it in the Ladd Arboretum in October 2013. A month later members of the Evanston Rotary Club and officials of Rotary International officially dedicated the gingko. The story appeared in the RoundTable the following week.