Colwill named 2020 Gratitude Award winner

Posted 12/2/20

Wendel "Pal" Colwill was named the 2020 Gratitude Award winner Thursday evening.

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Colwill named 2020 Gratitude Award winner


ROCHELLE — Rochelle Mayor John Bearrows presented the 2020 Gratitude Award on Thursday evening following the city's tree lighting ceremony.

The annual award, presented on behalf of Bearrows Real Estate and Auction Co., was presented to Wendel "Pal" Colwill.

Bearrows has been presenting the award since 2010 to an exemplary member of the community.

“The hardest part of coming up with someone is trying to decide who to narrow it down to,” Bearrows said. “There are always plenty of folks very well deserving of the award.”

Presentation of the award was done differently this year due to COVID. The City of Rochelle annual tree lighting was held Thursday evening live on the city’s Facebook page and following the lighting of the tree, Bearrows announced this year’s Gratitude Award winner.

Explaining the life-long Rochelle resident’s accomplishments, Bearrows said Colwill was a member of the first Cub and Boy Scout Troop in Rochelle, a 1952 graduate of Rochelle Township High School, active in service club, his church choir and having served on several city committees.

Pal was also a long-time employee of Del Monte; a volunteer fireman of the Rochelle Fire Department beginning in 1957 and in the first group of EMTs in Rochelle; he became a member of the RTHS Alumni Board in 1992 and is still active in assisting and selecting scholarship recipients; was a Rochelle City Council member from 2000 to 2008; and a member of the Rochelle Planning and Zoning Commission for the past eight years.

Colwill’s largest contribution to the community revolves around his patriotism and support of veterans.

“All of his patriotism for veterans stems from his father’s tales through the effect of war and the effect of Mustard Gas used in World War I and the way those effects applied to his father,” Bearrows said. “This brings me to the most important example of what tonight’s award is about. Not only was he instrumental in developing the War Memorial but he would also stop by day after day to make sure that the flowers were taken care of at the War Memorial.”

Colwill’s support for veterans did not stop at the development of the War Memorial.

“He decided that Rochelle needed a bronze statue in honor of all those veterans who served in the armed forces. With this idea he began to talk to the right people and began the process of making it happen,” Bearrows added. “He and many others managed to raise greater than $50,000 to make the bronze  statue a reality for our community.”

Following the announcement on Facebook Live, Bearrows went to Colwill’s home to present him the award in person.

“[He is] truly a classic example of unselfish dedication for the betterment of our community and exemplifies all the right values and can truly be a mentor for all of us,” Bearrows said.

Colwill was nearly speechless when presented with the award.

“Thank you to everybody,” he said.

Colwill joins past Gratitude Award winners Lee Harris (2010), Rochelle VFW (2011), Rochelle Area Community Foundation (2012), Ken Wise (2013), From the Heart committee (2014), Hub City Senior Center (2015), Dan and Deb Wyka (2016), Rochelle Rotary Club (2017), Dennis Swinton and Golden K (2018) and the Rochelle Christian Food Pantry and Jennie O’Rorke (2019).