Jeffrey Liedtke has been the face of the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District’s Marie Irwin Center for 32-plus years. Friday, June 4, was his last day on the job.
Liedtke got hired for janitorial work at the building that had been open for about two years when he arrived in December 1988. He’d been a part-owner of a janitorial service before he walked through the doors of the Irwin Center.
His primary duties were cleaning and room set-ups on his 2-10 p.m. shift. But over time, the building manager switched his hours to mornings with a start time of 7:30 a.m. and Liedtke took on more responsibility working with outside contractors and delivery people, in addition to his duties on building maintenance and set-ups for parties, classes and meetings, preschool classrooms and summer camps.
Most recently, he worked with teams that remodeled the bathrooms and the preschool classrooms, and the conversion of the building’s fixtures to LED lighting.
At the Irwin Center, he was often one of the first greeters. “Everybody knows Jeff,” said Debbie Kopas, H-F parks executive director. “We are going to miss him.”
Liedtke said he will take many fond memories with him. His kids all went through park district programs, and he loved being in Homewood. He especially enjoyed the Starry Nights concerts hosted by the park district and the community band concerts.
Of all the activities, Liedtke said “my two favorite programs here in the building are preschool, all the little kids and meeting the parents, and the senior program. I got to know a lot of seniors here and became friends with a lot of them.”
He tells the story of seeing a woman at Wiley's Grill who recognized him as "the guy from the Irwin Center." Turns out she had children who went through the preschool program and knew Liedtke from her years walking through the Irwin Center halls. She said her kids are now in high school.
“One thing that I tell everybody is that over all these years I’ve met so many wonderful people who have become friends,” Liedtke said, “and my co-workers are like family to me.”
What’s next? Liedtke isn’t sure. In the immediate future, his daughter, Amy, who teaches at James Hart School, is getting married and that will be a big family party. After that, he’ll take in his grandson’s baseball games and find a few things to do with his wife, Carol, a retired nurse.
And, he’s promised to stay friends with the people he’s met at the center. He expects he and his wife will be back as guests at a senior luncheon in the not too distant future.