by Susan O’Neill
ELBURN—Bud Wise, his mom, dad and four siblings, moved from rural Missouri to Elburn when he was 4 years old. Several careers and three terms of village public service later, Wise retired from the Hogan Walker/John Deere store in Elburn on Dec. 20, 2012.
When Wise and his family arrived in Elburn, they had “$25 in furniture and $15 in cash,” according to Wise. His father found work as a farm hand, making ends meet for the first few years by moving with his family from farm to farm.
Wise began his education at LaFox Elementary School, where there were three children in his first-grade class.
When Wise was in high school, he played both varsity football and basketball. He earned a reputation as a sharp-shooter from the corner of the basketball court. In his senior year, the basketball team made it to the regional finals with its 30-1 record, missing the win against East Aurora High School by one point in overtime.
During his senior year, Wise began dating a girl he had met in fifth grade, Marilyn Kanstrup, who would later become his wife. Although they came to the senior prom with different dates, Wise said that “sparks flew” between the two later that night, and they have “been together like peanut butter and jelly” ever since. Bud and Marilyn married on June 23, 1956, and started their life together in an apartment on East Shannon Street in Elburn.
That same year, Wise began working for Jewel as an apprentice meat cutter. He enjoyed a long career with Jewel, making a good living for his family. When he retired nearly four decades later, he had been promoted through the ranks to the position of quality assurance manager. While raising their children, Marilyn worked as a secretary at the school in town.
Current Elburn Village President Dave Anderson said he knew of Wise during high school, and came to know him when they worked at Jewel during the same time. They would later serve together on the Village Board.
“He was a good family man,” Anderson said. “He was a staunch supporter of Elburn.”
During the 1970s, an investor group began purchasing land in and around the Elburn community for the purpose of developing a subdivision called West Valley that would have increased Elburn’s population exponentially.
“It would have been five times the size of the village of Elburn,” Anderson said.
Wise joined others in speaking out against the development during Village Board meetings. Bud’s debating skills earned the respect of his peers, and in 1973 he was elected to a seat on the board.
After a four-year term as a village trustee, Wise decided to run for village president. According to an article in the April 21, 1977, edition of the Elburn Herald, the voter turnout for that election “was the heaviest that anyone could remember.” Wise received 274 votes, defeating Carl Einar Olson with 135 votes, and went on to serve two four-year terms as Elburn’s village president.
When Wise retired from his 38-year career with Jewel-Osco, he took a position as a greens keeper at Hughes Creek Golf Course. He had worked at the course for three summers when Ron Ehlers offered him the opportunity to join Ehlers Lawn and Recreation dealership.
According to Hogan Walker manager Noel Phillips, Wise quickly became a well-liked and jovial fixture throughout his dozen or so years at the John Deere store.
“Bud would mesmerize customers with his product knowledge, his quick wit and his entertaining stories,” Phillips said in an announcement of Wise’s retirement. “Regardless of who entered the store, Bud Wise either knew the person directly or knew one of his relatives.
Phillips said Wise’s enthusiasm was contagious.
“Bud would begin every day of work by shouting, ‘Hey, hey,’ to rally the team and get things going,’” Phillips said, also noting that some of the programs and events Wise initiated during his time as village president, such as the adult pick-up basketball games at the Elburn and Countryside Community Center, are still around today.
Although he is currently 76 years old and several times retired, Wise is not particularly interested in slowing down. He and Marilyn spend their winters in south Texas on the border of the Rio Grande. Wise said they go there for the weather, and he also plays golf and cards. Bud and his wife typically return to Illinois in April.
“He’s a fun-loving, active man,” Phillips said.