Mr. George Bexson is well known within the GSWB villages as well as the surrounding communities.He is an exemplary example of character with a multitude of accomplishments in his lifetime so far.
South Wilmington is where George grew up and where he began his life of working by peddling newspapers. He was in the first graduating class in the new South Wilmington Grade School in 1954. In High School, George participated in many activities: Class President 1, 2, 4. Student Council 1, 3. Basketball 1-4. Football 1-3. Cross Country 4. Newspaper Staff / Sports Editor 4. Junior Play. BBA 3, 4. King’s Court / Sweethearts Ball 1. Along with maintaining his school activities, George worked as a farmhand for various farmers and was a lifeguard at the Essex Sportsman’s Club. Remarkably, he was even able to save the life of a girl who was drowning. George has always loved challenging himself with hard work and the pursuit of learning new things.
While attending GSW, he met Donna Yedlicka, who was raised and educated in Braceville, They married in 1962. They built their own home 5 houses down from the GSW HS, where they still reside. They raised 3 children - Brian, Pat and Teresa. All attended Gardner Grade School and GSW HS and were involved in sports, honor roll, Student Council, band and/or other extra curricular activities. The ethics of doing one’s best, kindness / generosity and empathy resonated throughout the Bexson household.
Following graduation in 1958, George served his country by volunteering for the US Army. He completed basic training in Fort Leonardwood. He completed six months of teletypewriter repair school in CA. From there, he was stationed in Korea for 13-months followed by one year at Joint Communication Agency, Maryland, before being honorably discharged in 1961.
George worked for several manufacturing and chemical companies in the Joliet area. He also owned his own carpet cleaning business, Bexson Carpet Cleaning, for a number of years until his son, Brian, took it over. Around 1963 (about age 23), George was diagnosed with a debilitating autoimmune disorder, Ankalosing Spondylitis (AS) which is a crippling arthritis that has caused him to have 5 hip replacements, a back fusion, degenerative bones and joints, and constant pain throughout his adult life. AS placed him in a position to fight for disability after 13-years of employment with Amoco Chemicals in 1974.
With a strong work ethic and problem solving skills, George didn’t allow the debilitating pain of AS and being on disability to stop him from providing for his family. He continued to manage Bexson Carpet Cleaning and began making all kinds of beautiful wooden toys to sell. During this challenging time, George and Donna switched stereotypical roles to the husband taking care of the home and the wife being the breadwinner. Donna went to waitress at the Coffee Table and went to school to earn a Business Certificate, which led her to her 23-year career at the Dwight Correctional Center. This transition showed their kids that despite the circumstances life may give, there’s always a solution to a problem. It probably isn’t easy, but it can be done.
Throughout all of George’s pain, he always demonstrated strength, tenacity, and generosity. In 1977, George and a family friend gave their time, talents and money to open and manage the POW Amateur Boxing Club in Gardner at the old Opera House (where the new fire house stands now). Boys of all ages were welcome to train and compete in boxing matches amongst themselves and official competitions throughout the state. Boxing provided physical and mental training involving discipline, respect and structure. Matches gave the novice boxers opportunities to show off their honed skills and learn the value of winning and losing on an individual and team basis. George and other coaches took care of all the expenses. There was no cost or fees to the young boxers. Doing so gave those that traditional school sports may have not been a fit for a chance to learn life lessons, forge friendships and gain the experience of being a team player.
In 1982, George was given the opportunity to get off of disability and fully provide for his family like he always intended. George never felt that being on disability for his lifetime was an option. That’s when a family friend offered George equal partnership and management of West Side Rentals in Joliet. The company rented everything from champagne fountains to backhoes. West Side Rental gave George ample opportunity to utilize his many skill sets and knowledge on so many levels. His sons made their careers at the business and his daughter worked part-time as needed. The operation of West Side Rentals provided numerous people a good living. It also gave some second, third and more chances in life to gain skills and employability for other careers.
During his 20 years in business, George faced many obstacles: changing economy, evolution and stress of the operation, serious medical problems with both his sons, his own struggles with health, among many other factors. Yet, George never hesitated to help someone. Whether it was giving someone spare cash who’s down and out, showing someone how to fix a piece of equipment, sponsoring a local sports team, or donating some needed inventory from his business. George’s generosity comes from a place of helping someone so that they may learn to help themselves. This was never to belittle, and always help without the expectation of gratitude.
Among all of his other undertakings, George served his community by being a member of the Gardner Grade School Board, a trustee for 28-years on the Greenfield Township, and the treasurer of the Illinois Amateur Boxing Association. He also assisted coaching Gardner Boys Little League Baseball Programs. One of which he helped to organize was the beginning of what is now called “Travel Ball” in the area.
Chock-full of constant examples of hard work, generous giving, and persevering despite struggling circumstances, George Bexson’s life and times prove him to be one of a kind. To this date, George can be found putting in a full day’s work in and around the house, especially in his garden, and helping family and friends with the hopes of them helping themselves. He manages to do all of this even with physical pain he has endured for more than 60 years.