Former Yorkville Mayor Named Waubonsee “Fab 40” Alumnus
Sugar Grove — Elden C. Madden has lived a life dedicated to serving others. He served his country in the military in times of war and peace. He served his fellow veterans with his work with the American Legion, which included a stint as state commander. And he served his community for years as part of the city of Yorkville’s government, including a five-year term as mayor. For his extraordinary accomplishments and service, Waubonsee Community College is proud to honor him as one of the college’s “Fabulous 40” alumni.
As part of the college’s yearlong 40th anniversary celebration, Waubonsee is honoring 40 alumni and students who embody the mission, vision and values of the college. These individuals represent the diversity of Waubonsee’s students and the college district, as well as the diversity of the college’s mission as a comprehensive community college.
Madden came to the Fox Valley in a somewhat roundabout way. Growing up in northeast Missouri, near Novinger, Mo., Madden left home to find work, which was scarce at the time. He started hitchhiking west and ended up in Butte, Mont., where he found work in a hotel. After staying there for a year and a half, he returned home to Missouri, but no work was to be found. Leaving home again, this time he hitchhiked north, even though it was January, and made his way to Aurora, where he found work in a nearby plant making supplies for our country’s effort in World War II. Madden found more than work in Aurora, marrying local girl Mary Nagy.
In 1943, Madden joined the U.S. Army Air Force and was trained to be a navigator on B-29 Superfortress bomber airplanes. He was in the process of shipping out to the Pacific theater in 1945 when the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. His deployment was eventually rescinded following Japan’s surrender, and he left the service in 1946. However, Madden continued his military service in the Reserves, first with the U.S. Army Air Force and later with the U.S. Air Force. He continued to fly missions for 25 years, including flying cargo to Vietnam during that war. He retired from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel.
In addition to his years of military service, he has been a similarly devoted veteran through his active participation in the American Legion. Rising through the ranks, he became commander of the Illinois American Legion in 2000 through 2001. He was also the American Legion, Department of Illinois, National Legislative Council Liaison from 2003 to 2005. The Yorkville American Legion Post, where he is still active, honored Madden by naming their banquet hall after him.
“I appreciate the honor they gave me,” he said.
Having just finished his term as state American Legion commander, Madden was part of a delegation scheduled to testify before the Armed Services and Veterans committees of Congress on Sept. 11, 2001. Before the meeting began, the unforgettable events of the day started to occur and news of a plane heading toward Washington, D.C., was reported. Madden and the other legionnaires were evacuated from the Capitol Building to return to their hotels.
Just taking into account Madden’s military and veterans’ affairs service, he has lived a notable life worthy of recognition. However, Madden’s impact on his surroundings has been even more significant. Madden and his wife moved to Yorkville in 1949, and he spent years working to shape the city of Yorkville into what it is today.
In 1956, Madden was elected to his first term as alderman in Yorkville. He served two consecutive terms, during which he helped bring the villages of Yorkville and Bristol together, forming the Village of the United City of Yorkville, later shortened to the United City of Yorkville. On April 16, 1957, after 100 years of maintaining separate governments on the north side of the river for Bristol and the south side of the river for Yorkville, the united city bridged that gap. As part of the united city’s 50th anniversary, Yorkville recently honored the founders, Madden included, who merged the two villages during a Founding Fathers’ Celebration on April 9, 2007.
After his two terms as alderman, Madden was elected mayor of the united city. He served from 1962 to 1967, further leaving his mark on the city by working to expand the public water and sewer system among other projects. He then took a few years off from public service before again serving two additional terms as alderman in the early 1970s. In 1974, he became Yorkville’s public works director. He also worked as building and zoning officer and the water plant operator. Eventually, he was named the city’s assistant administrator, helping to run the city on a day-to-day basis.
Most biographies cover their subject’s educational history early on, but Madden’s biography is unique. Upon his retirement, Madden decided to finally pursue a lifelong dream — to attain a higher education. In 1985, at the age of 66, he enrolled at Waubonsee and began work toward an Associate of Science degree in education. A perennial Dean’s List student, Madden earned his first degree from Waubonsee in 1986 and earned a second associate degree, in journalism, in 1988. In 1994, he returned to earn a Certificate in Real Estate Sales.
“I had always wanted to earn my degree,” he said. “But earlier in my life, it was financially out of the story.”
Although Madden was significantly older than the vast majority of his fellow students, and most of the faculty too, he never felt out of place as a nontraditional student.
“There were so many wonderful, great teachers. Not only were the faculty and staff outstanding, but the students were just great,” he said. “Going to class from building to building, the younger students always stopped and held the door for me. It was really a wonderful display of what our young people are — something you don’t normally hear in the media.”
Madden was not merely satisfied to come to Waubonsee and get his degree. He also pursued an active student life — working as business manager on the student newspaper, Insight, in 1987 and as co-editor-in-chief in 1988.
“Waubonsee helped me tremendously,” he said. “It meant a whole lot to me. I’ve always been thankful for Waubonsee. I felt like it made my life more complete. I recommend college to all seniors.”
Madden’s wife of 63 years, Mary, passed away in 2006. He remains an active member of the Yorkville community and the Yorkville American Legion Post. Although it is not an honor he is actively seeking, today Madden’s name is listed among several Yorkville founders who have been selected by the Yorkville Human Resource Commission as those deserving of having a new street named in their honor because of their positive impact on the city. Currently developers can choose from a select group of names for new streets.
Note: Elden Madden passed away in January 2013 at the age of 91.