I first met Bob McCord when I was seeking office space to open my business in 1964. Bob owned office space just around the corner from his company, Illinois Mutual Life Insurance Company, a site where the Civic Center, a development both he and I supported, now sits. I was fortunate to rent this space from Bob and hang out my shingle at 313 S.W. Jefferson. In an article in today’s JS, son Michael McCord, in praising his father, was quoted as saying “he was always reminding everybody to do what was right and what was fair.” Michael has assessed his Dad as he and I and other who dealt with Bob, correctly.
A short time after I signed a rental contract with Bob, I came to work to park in my allotted two cars space in the back of the building only to find a bright red sports car setting crosswise in my space. After inquiring around as to whom it might belong to and finding no owner, my employees and friends, proceeded to pick the car up and move it. About an hour later Bob and Michael stormed into my office and demanded to know what happened to Michael’s car. When I told Bob that my rental space included parking for two cars and someone had parked crosswise blocking both spaces, Bob looked at Michael. No further words were said and the McCord’s left my office. End of story.
But not quite. Over the years, his company became a very good customer of mine and Widmer’s bought our health insurance from Illinois Mutual. My relationship with Bob continued as he praised my work and interest in the community, even as late as last October, when I visited with Bob and Vicki at their lovely High Point home. Despite his deteriorating health, Bob and Vicki insisted that we converse about happenings in the community. Bob regretted not being able to get about and especially about no longer being able to go the Bradley basketball games.
Bob’s extensive obituary does not nearly cover all the community development accomplishments and happenings in which Bob played some type of leadership role. Back in 1999 and prior to the Promenade Shopping Mall financing proposal being presented to the City Council for approval, Bob sent me the following letter. “Dear Merle, After reading your letter (to the Editors) in the 11/28/99 Journal Star, I thought you would be interested in the enclosed letter which was sent to the Mayor, all Council members and the City Staff on 11/24/99.” Sincerely, Bob McCord.
This 11 page detailed document reviewed all the financial figuring that he figured were not accurately included by the Promenade promoters in the proposal to the City Council. He particularly pointed out that the document referred to the bond repayment to the city of $29,500,000.00 when the actual figure would be about $80,630,000.00. He pointed out that “The owner/or developer have repeatedly stated that the owner and/or developer “guarantee” the repayment of these bonds to the City. The agreement DOES NOT provide for any such “guaranty” at all.” He concluded that the actual cost to the taxpayers would have been almost 100 million dollars.
The night of the Council Meeting, I spoke against this project; Diane (then) Cullinan left her seat and the meeting. She has not spoken to me since except in 2000, she sent me a letter reminding me that my election margin “was not a mandate”. (People as outspoken as I seldom get large mandates but most of us do get elected.) The Council did have the wisdom to turn down Diane’s plea for taxpayer money and I remind the taxpayers that the “Promenade”; later named The Shoppes at Grand Prairie, somehow did get built with a minimal cost to the community.
If we had a dozen more community leaders like Mr. Robert Alan McCord, we might not be heading for the financial crises I foresee in the future. On my last visit with Bob, he expressed concern for the future of property tax payers in Peoria.
He will be greatly missed by this entire community.