Jim Maloof's legacy: leader and philanthropist

By Joe Bennett

January 20, 2013 Updated Jan 21, 2013 at 12:07 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Those who were close to Jim Maloof say it is too difficult to sum up his life in a few words.

The words that do come easy, however, are "leader, legacy," and "thousands of lives."

The many accomplishments of Jim Maloof may be traced back to a single gift. He knew how to verbalize his visions in a way that gave people hope.

The former mayor's long-time friends and colleagues can attest to that.

"He had an uncanny way of convincing people that this is the way it should be done, and this is going to be the best for our community,” said Maloof’s friend and contemporary, Pete Vonachen. “We really lost a leader, but when a man makes 93, Jim has done a great job, and he's in a better place."

Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis knows first hand how Maloof felt about being a leader in the community.

"We were fortunate that he came here, and served as long as he did in the Mayor's office,” Ardis said. “And obviously, the thousands of lives that he saved through his efforts with Danny Thomas. What a legacy. But what can you say? It's a huge loss for us."

"Twelve years as the mayor of Peoria is not an insignificant accomplishment,” said President of the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce Roberta Parks. “But I will tell you that probably pales in comparison to his role in helping found St. Jude and make sure St. Jude has become the force that it has, and that's really a very significant legacy, not just to our community but to children all over the world. "

"Because of him, we have a St. Jude Midwest Affiliate clinic,” said Peoria County Sheriff Mike McCoy. “And there are thousands of kids that are alive because of his dedication and his leadership to get others to follow his dream and believe in his dream. It's huge. It's a great loss for the whole community."

It is a great loss for a community he was proud to call his home, and for children all over the world who were given another chance at life.