William “Bill” G. Edwards, who died Wednesday in his Urbana home, is being remembered by family and friends for contributions he made to many facets of the Urbana community.
“He always had a favorite quote,” Edwards son Phil said. ‘There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you are not worried about who gets the credit.” He said his father often repeated this quote from one of his mentors.
“That quote sums up his overall life,” he said. “He was never in it for an award or recognition. My dad was in it for the betterment of whatever task he took on. He was a proud community member. I cannot ever remember my father saying no. If somebody needed help, my father would do what he could.”
In 2005, Edwards received the Simon Award from the county Chamber of Commerce for service to the community.
He was a part of many local boards and organizations over the years, including the Urbana City Council and Planning Commission, the Urbana University Board of Trustees, the Community Improvement Corporation, the Logan-Union-Champaign Regional Planning Commission, CRSI, Perpetual Federal Savings Bank and others.
He started Edwards Surveying and was employed by Knowlton Construction, eventually becoming its CEO.
“My dad’s background was large construction,” his son said, adding that after retirement and while on the UU board, he was instrumental with renovation and construction projects at the university. “He was on campus daily overseeing those projects.”
Asset to UU building projects
Dr. Robert Head, now retired and living in Florida, was president of UU from 2001 to 2008, a part of Edwards’ approximately 15 years as chairman of the UU board of trustees. He recalls Edwards at UU every day during the major renovation of the swimming pool and of Barclay & Bailey Halls and the construction of the Student Center, stadium and McConnell Hall.
“Because of his background, he served on the (UU) buildings and grounds committee,” Head said. “His expertise allowed these projects to be completed on time and under budget. Bill was a quietly a major force in all that.
“Bill was someone you can describe as a quiet and gracious leader, a dynamic force for the community he served,” Head said. “His devotion to his family and community was outstanding.”
Head called Edwards an “exemplary leader and fine trustee” and said a highlight of his own career was working with Edwards and at Urbana University.
Helped establish CRSI
Another facet of the community assisted by Edwards was CRSI, formed in the mid-1970s as a private, not-for-profit residential alternative for those with developmental disabilities.
Prior to such organizations, said CRSI CEO Than Johnson, the options for people with such disabilities were to live with family or in institutions. He said local parents of children with disabilities were intent on creating local residential opportunities and asked Edwards to assist.
Johnson said Edwards was on both the boards of CRSI and of the county Board of Developmental Disabilities, formed before CRSI to focus on education workshops and transportation.
Because of his construction background, Johnson said, Edwards could assist with securing state funding to build or buy structures that became group homes.
Involved with city zoning and planning, Edwards also could assist with with zoning matters, he added.
“He was great at figuring solutions to get around perceived barriers,” Johnson said.
‘Common sense approach’
Michael Melvin, president of Perpetual Federal Savings Bank, said something similar about Edwards, who was on Perpetual’s board of trustees 24 years, resigning from that duty a couple years ago.
“He had a common sense approach to sometimes complicated situations,” Melvin said. He said Edwards’ construction background made him a “valuable asset” with input concerning potential loans for building projects.
Melvin said Edwards also helped in the early years of the Logan-Union-Champaign Regional Planning Commission.
“He contributed a ton of time to that organization, trying to bring in business to those three counties,” he said. “He knew a lot about the community, was really a solid businessman.
“He used his expertise in many projects,” Melvin said. “Urbana-Champaign County is a better place because he was here.”
Edwards’ obituary is inside today’s Daily Citizen.
Kathy Fox can be reached at 937-652-1331, Ext. 1773.
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