Dr. Diane McNeilly

Dr. Diane McNeilly

ROCHELLE — Diane Elaine (Grohne) McNeilly, 79, of Rochelle, passed away peacefully surrounded by her children on Thursday, October 26, in Oconomowoc, WI.

Diane was born on June 30, 1944, in Brooklyn, NY. to Isabella "Jean" (Thomson) and Frederick W. Grohne. Upon graduating from Joliet (IL) Township High School in 1962, she attended Illinois State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education. In 1966, she and her first husband, Ron McNeilly, moved to Rochelle, IL, where she became a respected community leader.

In 1984, Diane earned her doctorate in education from Northern Illinois University. She spent her entire teaching career at Kishwaukee College, beginning as Women’s Athletic Director in 1969 and eventually becoming Vice President of Instruction. She and her second husband, Dr. Norman Jenkins, were married October 20, 1997 in Maui, Hawaii. They worked together until their retirements from Kishwaukee in 2000. They were recognized for their achievements in education in 2019 when Northern Illinois University presented them the John C. Roberts Community Service Award.

Diane found a true home in the community life of Rochelle. Her passion for sports and recreation resulted in her decades-long management of the Spring Lake Pool, founding and coaching the Rochelle Rays Swim Club, and enthusiastically supporting the development of Skare Park as a Flagg-Rochelle Park District Commissioner. Her “Dear Diane” column in the News-Leader educated readers about health and fitness. She served on the Rochelle Township School Board, and generously volunteered in local schools. Her dedication to the improvement and continued longevity of the community drove her roles with the Rochelle Rec Center, the Rochelle Planning and Zoning Commission, and the Downtown Rochelle Association, as well as the creation of LOTS, the Lee-Ogle Transportation System and the Hub City Senior Center. Her energetic leadership of the League of Women Voters was an outlet for her commitment to equality and civil rights. Diane took her citizenship duties as seriously as she took her family and work duties.

Diane’s enthusiasm for the outdoors and for environmentalism was boundless. She loved swimming, canoeing, camping, hiking, cross-country skiing, biking, and sports too numerous to list. She believed passionately in the importance of physical fitness for everyone. She was an energetic gardener, and the neighborhood rescuer of injured birds and wildlife. She adored her dogs. She loved traveling to destinations for outdoor activities, genealogical research, learning about history, and immersing herself in other cultures. Finally, Diane was committed to political activism, especially civil rights. She never did anything halfway. Her dedication to her community, students, family and causes was the source of her lifelong energy.

Diane is survived by her loving husband of 26 years, Norm Jenkins; daughters: Cheryl McNeilly and Kristine McNeilly; son, Steven Rush; sister, Donna Edwards; brother, Kent Grohne; and seven grandsons. She was preceded in death by her mother, Jean, and her father, Fred.

Visitation will be from 1:00 - 4:00 P.M., Sunday, November 19, 2023 at the Unger-Horner Funeral Home, 400 N. 6th St., Rochelle.  A Celebration of Life service will follow the visitation at 4:00 P.M. at the funeral home.  Cremation care has been provided by the Unger-Horner Funeral Home.  In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be sent to Flagg Rochelle Public Library District or the Kishwaukee Foundation. Visit www.ungerhorner.com to sign the online guest book.