PEORIA, Ill. -- Residents across central Illinois continue to remember Jim Maloof, the man known as "Peoria's biggest cheerleader".
Thousands turned out for the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Junior luncheon in Peoria to remember the life and work of Dr. King, but many were also reflecting on another life that touched so many in the Peoria area: Jim Maloof.
Veteran Peoria City Councilman Eric Turner was just a young councilman when Maloof was the leader of the horseshoe. Turner said, "He was the kind of guy that would give you guidance so that you wouldn't make the wrong vote and regret it a lot later. We spent a lot of late hours there. Figuring out how we were going to do things. And everything he recommended always seemed to work out for the best."
Former City Councilman and long time friend James Polk said, “He was just an open heart... the type of person that wanted to help people all the time."
Mayor Maloof was known for his optimism in the 1980's when Peoria had some of its highest unemployment numbers ever. His successor says Maloof's attitude is a big reason the community rebounded.
Former Peoria Mayor Bud Grieves said, "Jim had an attitude that anything is possible. When people became negative around here he was very optimistic that we could indeed pull ourselves out of the problems we had."
Maloof was instrumental in the St. Jude Midwest affiliate being established in Peoria through his work with founder Danny Thomas. Former Peoria Police Chief John Stenson believes that is the lasting part of his legacy.
Stenson said, "What he's done for this community, what he's done for this nation's kids. What he's done in the name of what's right will live forever."
Perhaps the biggest compliment paid to Maloof was that many say they cannot imagine Peoria without him.
Former Peoria City Councilman John Morris said, "Peoria, Illlinois and Jim Maloof are inseparable. He will forever be remembered as one of the greats the city has ever had."