In completing 2018’s look at the namesakes of Naperville’s parks, let’s look at Pradel Park, named for Arthur George Pradel, Naperville’s Mayor Emeritus who passed away in September. The park is east of Route 59 and north of 111th Street and features softball fields, a playground, trails and a picnic shelter.
Father Arthur, who immigrated from Germany as a teenager, and mother Virginia bought land at Ogden and Naper Boulevard, about where the Aldi’s is now, to build themselves a house. With toddler George, they moved from Chicago and added rooms on as the family grew. George attended the one-room Bronsonville
Elementary and then Naperville Central High. His first jobs were at local grocery stores and he played in the Municipal Band. A faith-based family, they often visited orphanages and George thought he’d like to run one to care for children when he grew up.
As a young teen, George hitchhiked with a cousin to Wyoming to be a rodeo rider. After seeing cowboys thrown to the ground, they decided it was not for them, but they had a grand adventure. After graduation, he and three friends signed up for the Marines under the “buddy plan.” George served at 29 Palms in California,mainly in the motor pool.
Once back home, sister Grace and her roommate set him up with a
friend named Pat. After an awkward first meeting and a date at the stock car races, George and Pat married exactly one year later in 1960. After a couple years, George, Pat and new son George settled in Naperville where they welcomed two more children, Carol and Gary. George was working in Chicago at a warehouse during the week and volunteering with the Oak Park Terrace police department. Pat told him that if he like police work so much, why didn’t he just be a policeman? So he attended the law enforcement program at College of DuPage and applied for a job. Unfortunately, George didn’t meet the height requirement, but board member Harold Moser figured “if he’s tall enough for the Marines, he’s tall enough for us” and he got the job. Many of Naperville’s children remember him fondly as Officer Friendly.
Although he never did run an orphanage, as a juvenile officer, George frequently brought home youngsters who needed a home. He and Pat served as long-term foster parents to three teens. To support their growing family, George and Pat ran a little hotdog stand for a while called the PowWow. It was housed in the little building that was recently Lil’ J’s Bohemia until torn down with Russell’s Dry Cleaners last year. George also made donuts at Tasty Bakery before starting his shift with the police department and delivered flowers for Trudy’s since he knew the streets so well.
When retirement arrived, George figured he’d take it easy, maybe be a Walmart greeter, but some local folks asked him to run for mayor. Since he always found it hard to say “no,” George agreed — and won. Without a lot of experience, he worked hard to get up to speed as mayor of a booming city, but his best qualities were his people skills and his enthusiasm for Naperville. He was everywhere from charity functions to ribbon cuttings to council meetings and served an unprecedented five terms as mayor.
George loved Naperville and knew it well. Pradel Park is a fitting remembrance for a man who gave so much to his city and was happy to do so.