Former Peoria Mayor Jim Maloof Dies
By Chris Berube, with additional reporting from The Associated Press
A former three-term mayor of Peoria has died at age 93.
Jim Maloof died Saturday at his home in Peoria. A son, Nick Maloof, says the former mayor was surrounded by his family when he died.
He was Peoria's mayor from 1985 to 1997 and was often called "the cheerleading mayor.'' He was involved the opening of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Midwest Affiliate at Methodist Medical Center.
When Maloof became the mayor, things were not going well. Jobs were scarce, and buildings were becoming run down.
Maloof, a cheerful child of Lebanese immigrants, used to sing and dance on the campaign trail.
He worked to revitalize Peoria with attention-grabbing ideas, like making cab drivers wear a suit and tie, and comparing the city to New York by calling it “the Little Apple”.
Roberta Parks started her career as an assistant to Maloof, and is now the President of the Peoria Chamber of Commerce. She says that Maloof’s big personality brought a lot of national media attention to the struggling town.
"There was an article - I don't remember if it was in the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times or what it was - a quote was made, something about 'New York City's out and Peoria's in," Parks said. "And so Maloof sent flowers to Mayor (Ed) Koch, and called him on the phone, and gave him is consoling comments. That gets lot of coverage when a mayor does something like that."
According to Maloof’s friends and colleagues, he was more than just a cheerleader.
Under his leadership, the unemployment rate dropped, and Peoria won an All-American City Award in 1989. They say that through all of the boosterism, he was just trying to keep the lights on.
The family plans a memorial Friday at 7 p.m. at Riverside Community Church in Peoria. The service will be preceded by a visitation starting at 3 p.m. at the church.
There will be a Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral at 2 p.m. Saturday. Visitation will precede Mass, starting at 8 a.m. at the cathedral. The burial will be private.
<em>(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Media)</em>