Joseph England, a longtime Quad-Cities civic leader and former Deere and Company executive, died Thursday morning.
Mr. England, 71, of Moline, was a senior vice president and director at Deere. An East Moline native, he joined the company in 1962, holding management positions in finance and accounting in his 37 years with the company.
In addition to his high profile job and prominence within a world-wide, multi-billion dollar corporation, Mr. England servied on numerous boards and foundations in the Quad-Cities,
"He was a classy guy, extremely bright," said former Rock Island County Board Chairman Paul Mulcahey. "Yet, he was a regular guy, a fun person to be with."
Mr. England served as president of Arrowhead Ranch from 1984 to 1992. At the time, the Arrowhead superintendent, Gary Brown, said Mr. England's work with at-risk boys made the facility one of the finest in the country. His final project as president was raising $1.5 millon for Arrowhead's gymnasium.
Through eight years of monthly meetings, he only missed one, Mr. Brown said back in 1992.
He also served for 18 years as board chairman of the Moline Foundation, which annually distributes hundreds of thousands of dollars to nonprofit groups in the area.
Joy Boruff, executive director of the foundation, described Mr. England as a humble man, a behind-the-scenes guy who did much for the Quad-Cities.
"He made an impact on everything he touched," Ms. Boruff said. "The last time we talked, he had moved to Florida. He loved Moline. He came back here to pass away. This was his home, his community."
Ms. Boruff said Mr. England was instrumental in bringing the i wireless Center, formerly the Mark of the Quad Cities, to reality.
"More than one person has said that wouldn't have happened without Joe behind the scenes," Ms. Boruff said, holding back tears. "I'm sorry.
"Joe left a big, big legacy in the Quad-Cities of philanthropy and giving. He was so unassuming and quiet, he just didn't want to draw attention to himself.
"If you could create a perfect board member, friend, community volunteer, that would be Joe England."
Pryce Boeye, a long-time Realtor, said he and Mr. England were lifelong friends from high school onward. Mr. Boeye said Mr. England was captain of the University of Illinois golf team.
"Actually, Joe had the pleasure to be paired up with a guy from Ohio State named Jack Nicklaus," Mr. Boeye said. "It was a cold, windy day in a Big Ten tournament."
After competing against Mr. Nicklaus, Mr. England said, "This guy (Nicklaus) is going to make it," according to Mr. Boeye.
Mr. Boeye said his friend's battle with lung cancer had its inspirational aspects.
"Unfortunately, doctors gave him six months to live," Mr. Boeye said. "Joe lived two-and-a-half years. He told me, 'I'm a tough SOB. I'm not giving up to this.'
"And, he didn't. He fought it to the end."
Childhood friend Jim Jannes said Mr. England was "very, very sincere -- just a gentleman's gentleman."
John Hass, chairman of the board at Valley Construction, said he lived with Mr. England in Champaign in 1959 while they were students.
"Joe was a young man who came from a working family," Mr. Hass said. "He was very, very smart, a very hard worker, and he was very good with people. He loved his wife, his three daughters, and his grandchildren.
"They were very important to him. He will be missed."
Mr. England also was on on the board of directors of Winnebago Industries, Inc.