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Woodford Times - Peoria, IL
  • Long-time Festival of Lights volunteer, float builder dies at age 90

  • There are developers, architects and construction firms that help shape the city. There are also those special individuals in the background who quietly lend their time and talents doing the same.

    Wally Jaquet was instrumental in shaping much of East Peoria, especially the Festival of Lights.
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  • There are developers, architects and construction firms that help shape the city. There are also those special individuals in the background who quietly lend their time and talents doing the same.
    Wally Jaquet was instrumental in shaping much of East Peoria, especially the Festival of Lights.
    Jaquet, 90, died March 1. 
    Friend John Broshears said Jaquet was there from the beginning. In the 80s, Broshears and Jaquet flew to Niagara Falls with a group to see their Festival of Lights and to bring ideas back to East Peoria.
    Broshears participated in the parade as an elf initially, while Jaquet designed and constructed the floats. Over time, Broshears moved away from the Festival of Lights to spend more time with his family, but Jaquet stuck with it.
    “He loved it. It gave him something to do. Wally was the parade,” Broshears said. 
    City officials hired Broshears to oversee the volunteers recently at the Festival Building. A core group of senior volunteers can be found at the building during the week. Jaquet was there drinking coffee and lending a hand. He normally brought his dog along.
    “He never missed a day. If he wasn’t, there was something really wrong,” Broshears said.
    Jaquet was at the Festival of Building just a couple of days before he became ill and was hospitalized. Broshears and volunteer Virgil Hauk visited Jaquet at UnityPoint Methodist the day before he died. Broshears said Jaquet was reading a book in intensive care.
    “He said, ‘John, I’m going to die,’ and the next day, he died,” Broshears said.
    Broshears is saddened by the loss of his friend who was so instrumental with the Festival of Lights.
    “If I needed help with anything, he would help me. The guy was amazing,” he said. “I’ll miss his stories, his knowledge. It was scary how much the guy knew.”
    Broshears recalled that once he gave Jaquet a very rough drawing of some letters and some engine changes he wanted to make on a float and within a half hour Jaquet had already changed it.
    “I don’t see nobody coming close to what he could do with steel artistically,” Broshears said.
    Broshears said that Jaquet was extremely resourceful.
    Page 2 of 2 - “He’d go through all the garbage cans in the morning to make sure nobody was throwing anything away that could be used,” Broshears said.
    Jaquet retired from Caterpillar. He was named the East Peoria Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year in 1997. Jill Peterson, a former East Peoria Times-Courier editor, wrote the story about Jaquet. Peterson, who now works for the city of East Peoria, recalled that when Jaquet, a quiet, behind-the-scenes guy, accepted his award, he merely said, “Thank you.”
    In the Jan. 21, 1998, East Peoria Courier article, Jaquet was described by friends as “a generous person who enjoys giving to his community, someone who helps just because he wants to make East Peoria a better place.”
    The Festival of Lights is not the only thing Jaquet helped with in the community. He also fabricated and constructed items when EastSide Centre was built. Broshears said he also made stage sets for Eastlight Theater and two-dimensional items at First United Methodist Church.
    “He did a lot of stuff in the community,” Broshears said. “He made the angels at the Free Methodist Church, and that’s just small stuff. He made stuff all the time.”
    Broshears said he is currently working on a D-10 tractor that Jaquet made awhile back to be part of the parade.
    “I want to make it nice and take my time and do it right because I want to do it for Wally,” Jaquet said. 
    Peterson said Jaquet’s legacy will be carried on with the Festival of Lights.

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