Roger Schmidgall named Normal Citizen of the Year
The Citizen of the Year in the Town of Normal has a long record of involvement in service organizations in town and internationally. Mayor Chris Koos has named State Farm retiree Roger Schmidgall as this year’s citizen honoree.
“Roger nurtures others, builds strong relationships and demonstrates empathy. A previous coordinator with Friends Forever International, he organized efforts in the Bloomington-Normal community to host youth from Israel and Palestine traveling together in the spirit of building relationships and cultivating international understanding between the nations,” said Koos.
The annual award was presented Wednesday evening at the town's annual Appreciation Reception at Uptown Galleries.
Friends, colleagues and community members described Schmidgall as a “quiet, compassionate leader” who is “genuine, humble and dedicated to building up others,” according to a town news release.
Schmidgall often travels to other countries on humanitarian aid and faith missions.
“Roger recently demonstrated his knowledge of international issues and passion to support all who seek a better life by participating in group discussions with me and other community leaders on the topic of immigration and welcoming migrants to central Illinois,” said Koos.
Schmidgall has a long history of service a variety of community organizations, including the Normal Sunset Rotary chapter. He is a past president of that group.
“Schmidgall has dedicated his life to making a positive difference without praise or attention,” said town officials.
He has advised community leaders on what it means to be a welcoming, sustainable and productive community.
It is hard for people to manage career and family and then add community service on top of it. Schmidgall did that for decades before his retirement. He said it’s important for the next generation to reach for that height.
“I think if we value the community where we live it’s just natural to give back in whatever little ways we can. And it takes a team. I really encourage young people to consider a service club where they can feel like they’re not doing it all themselves; they’ve got a group of friends around them that can encourage them to step out and follow their passions,” said Schmidgall.
Schmidgall has gone on numerous international humanitarian aid and cultural missions to Israel, Pakistan, China, Japan, Lebanon, Honduras, Trinidad, and Surinam. He said that experience has made him aware of the needs of the world and his own community and appreciate the strengths of central Illinois.
“Just the tremendous richness and blessings of life in America in general compared to so many other places in the world. And certainly, right here in the heart of Illinois in Bloomington-Normal, we are just rich beyond belief in the things we take for granted,” said Schmidgall. “And we shouldn’t take it for granted.”
There are some prerequisites for a healthy vibrant functioning community in his view.
“First of all, peace, peaceful relationships among neighbors despite difference in politics or religion or whatever. To be a multicultural peaceful community is something we should all strive for without racism, without discrimination or prejudice,” said Schmidgall.
Despite the bitter rhetoric and division of recent years in the U.S., Schmidgall said it is possible to get beyond the political divide.
“We need to realize our enemies are not human beings," he said. "There are forces of corruption, racism, exploitation, trafficking all types of evils in the world that are not tied to my neighbor who may have differences religiously or politically. He needs his family to flourish just like I want my family to flourish, and we should not see each other as enemies.”