Peasley exhibit set to unveil Sunday

UNION – In life, Don Peasley spent his time with a lens on the world around him.

A year since his death, the McHenry County Historical Society is turning the focus on Mr. Woodstock himself. The organization on Sunday will unveil a Don Peasley exhibit, a collection celebrating the local historian and journalist while providing assurance his work will live on.

"Twenty years from now, if someone walks into the historical society ... they'll have an idea of who this guy was and what kind of impact he had on the area," Historical Society Administrator Kurt Begalka said.

Friends, family and co-workers of Peasley's will form a panel to discuss his contributions and inspirations Sunday at the historical society museum, 6422 Main St., Union. The free event runs from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

The exhibit centers on a re-creation of Peasley's home office, featuring a portion of the desk he used since the early 1970s and a word processor from the 1990s. The space will be filled in with Peasley knick-knacks like his favorite coffee mug and the jar of Acme rubber cement he'd been using to paste his clips into scrapbooks since the 1940s – a jar depleted but not quite empty.

For Sarah Peasley, Don's daughter, one of the exhibit's gems will be the newspaper ink-stained door taken from that office, still covered in clippings about the Cubs and a sticker from Woodstock's 1963 All-America City Award.

"My dad loved newsprint and there's newsprint all over that door," Sarah Peasley said. "So it's going to be authentic. This is not going to be a dry, boring exhibit."

Peasley died on May 3, 2013, at age 90. He'd continued to write and take photos until the day he died, and had been scheduled to sit on a historical society panel two days later.

The process of compiling his work had started more than a decade earlier. With the help of several of Peasley's friends, the historical society and Peasley began looking through old negatives, putting names with faces, Sarah Peasley said.

"Before dad died, he was already involved in the cataloguing and archiving of his materials," she said. "That was truly a blessing."

Such efforts ramped up after his death, as Begalka and Don Rose, also of the historical society, searched through shelves and shelves of Peasley's materials.

The result is a collection of more than 11,000 archived photos that tells a unique and wide-ranging McHenry County story, said Kira Halvey, the historical society's exhibits curator.

It's a collection all its own, but one that has served several other exhibits Halvey has put together.

"Pretty much whatever I'm doing, I can think of a Don Peasley photo," she said.

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