Streator Celebrates “Reuben G. Soderstrom Day” In Illinois
On Sunday, September 2, 2012, Reuben G. Soderstrom was posthumously celebrated by a large and proud gathering of family descendants, the townspeople of Streator, Illinois, and men and women of the Illinois AFL-CIO. He was honored as the Grand Marshall of his hometown’s Labor Day Parade, which ended at a ceremony dedicating a newly built plaza and bronze statue to the great labor leader. In attendance were Reuben’s surviving grandchildren, Carl W. Soderstrom, Jr. MD, Virginia Pace, Robert M. Soderstrom MD, William R. Soderstrom, their spouses, children, and many of Reuben’s great grandchildren and great great grandchildren.
Starting at the old old Streator depot, the parade wound its way through the streets of Streator with everyone in the family marching along carrying various campaign posters from Reuben’s long and illustrious career as a public servant.
At City Park, where Reuben attended political rallies and spoke to his fellow citizens many times, the gathering witnessed the unveiling of the entire Reuben G. Soderstrom Plaza and Statue, complete with the commanding centerpiece bronze figurine sculpted and crafted over many years by Peoria sculptor Lonnie Stewart. The statue of Reuben embodies his finger-in-the-air “Progress!” speech he gave in 1920 on the back of a flatbed truck with Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Mendota, Illinois.
In honor of Brother Soderstrom, the plaza’s concrete work, brickwork and statue placement was all created through donated labor time by David Raikes and the men and women of Laborers’ Local #393, Bricklayers #6 and #21, Electricians #176, Plumbers #130, Operating Engineers #150, Cement Masons #11 and the Illinois Valley Building Trades. The bricks were painstakingly recovered from abandoned streets in Streator, cleaned and mortared into their new role in the plaza. The dedication ceremony included moving speeches from Streator Mayor Jimmie Lansford, David Raikes, Sculptor Lonnie Stewart, grandchildren, and others.
The plaza is designed by Robert W. Soderstrom and Carl Soderstrom, MD, with landscaping by Jeff Bergfeld. It is adorned with twelve plaques that deliver some of Reuben Soderstrom’s most evocative, motivational, inspiring, and thought-provoking quotes, one from each era of his many decades as a leader. The quotes were researched and selected by Robert W. Soderstrom, Carl W. Soderstrom Jr. MD, Chris Stevens and Andrew Cass Burt. They are reprinted here.