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C. Dirk McGinnis

May 4, 1936 November 23, 2021
C. Dirk McGinnis
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Obituary for C. Dirk McGinnis

C. Dirk McGinnis, age 85, passed away on Tuesday, November 23, 2021 at Unity Point Proctor from complications of COPD. He was born May 4, 1936, in Winnetka, IL to veterinarian Clifford (“Doc”) and Francsis (Jackson) McGinnis. While at Bradley University he met and soon married Martha E Pfeffinger, on October 24, 1958, at First Federated Church in Peoria, IL. He told everyone and anyone that she was the love of his life. She passed away on November 19, 2018, having just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.
Surviving are their three daughters, Roz Helms (Ron) of Peoria, Polly McNally (Mike) of Metamora and Meghan Tejero (Arnel) of Metamora. He was very proud of his grandchildren, Keegan McNally (Poolville, TX), Colleen McNally (Baltimore, MD), Lilianna Tejero (Metamora), and “Peoria’s Helms Quintuplets” Shannon Helms (Dallas), Benjamin Helms (Peoria), Samantha Helms (Peoria), Bevin Helms (Peoria) and Meredith Rager (East Peoria). He is also survived by his brother, Michael McGinnis (Seattle, WA), sister-in-law Mary Lou McGinnis (Quincy, IL) and many nieces and nephews, as well as great nieces and nephews. This group was what Dirk called “The McGinnis Family Singers.”
He was preceded in death by his mother, father, and brother Alex (formerly of Quincy, IL), and most recently, son Arran McGinnis (formerly of St. Thomas, USVI).
Dirk graduated from Peoria High School in 1954. He continued his education at Kansas State University, in Manhattan, KS and then at Bradley University where he graduated as an accounting major. He was a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity. Though his major was in business, he cultivated his joy of singing there as well.
He was an accountant and then a Peoria realtor with Commercial National Realty where he was invited to join the Downtown Rotary Club. He eventually started Dirk McGinnis Realty where he developed a subdivision in Mossville and in Brimfield, then bought a Century 21 franchise. When the real estate market crashed in the 70s, Dirk turned to acting and singing in Chicago. He got an agent and was soon appearing in commercials for many businesses including McDonald’s, Lipton Tea and Amway. He was in industrial films and had a long run as Andrew McClaren in the Lincolnshire production of “Brigadoon.” Being away from his wife during the week was a hardship he soon tired of. He returned to Peoria and took up teaching. He taught computers at Woodruff High School and also taught accounting, bookkeeping and real estate at Illinois Central College in the evenings.
A Peoria County Board seat opened and needed a representative from his neighborhood, Columbia Terrace North, and he was encouraged to run. It began a long career in local politics. He also was elected the Peoria County Recorder of Deeds for 12 years. Attending state conferences, he was known as the “Singing Recorder.” It was from the Recorders office that he finally retired from work.
He was a long-time member of the Illinois Valley Yacht and Canoe Club. In college he had been taught to sail, and soon got a small sailboat of his own. He sailed various boats on Upper Peoria Lake for decades. He even taught sailing to adults through the Peoria Park District. Being on the water was his greatest joy. He got his captain’s license and was skippering charter sailing cruises to the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, his last in 2006. He and his wife retired for a time on their boat. The intent was to circumnavigate the eastern half of the U.S. They left on the Illinois River, down the Mississippi, to the Gulf, and around Florida. They stayed several years in the Bahamas living aboard their sailboat. They eventually gave that up and retired in the winter in North Fort Myers, FL. They never completed their circumnavigation. The waters in the north east were too cold for their enjoyment. Dirk also crewed on a sailboat in “The Mac,” the dangerous Chicago to Mackinac Race. Once was enough for him. He also helped friends do long sails from the Caribbean to Florida or even up to the New England coast.
He was a great swimmer from an early time, and encouraged his children to swim as well. He was well known through the swimming community for his personal and enthusiastic swim meet announcing.
Most of Peoria knows Dirk as a singer. He was known to sing at all different churches in town. He directed choirs at First Presbyterian Church, First United Congregational Church and Northminster Presbyterian Church. With his earnings from choir directing he named his first boat the “Hallelujah.” When he wasn’t directing choirs he was often a guest soloist at all the different churches in Peoria. He sang at too many weddings to count, “The Lord’s Prayer” being the most requested piece. He was a life-long member of First Federated Church from the time of a boy to participating in the choir into his 70s.
Dirk was recruited by his voice teacher, Betty Anne Clayton, to help fill out the canon at Temple Anshai Emeth singing in Hebrew. He performed there for years on Friday nights, weddings at many churches on Saturdays, and church choir on Sundays. He said he was a “Community Christian” when asked about his faith.
Among the many organizations he performed with are most notably the Peoria Symphony Orchestra, Peoria Civic Opera Company, Peoria Municipal Band, Orpheus Club, and the Morton Civic Chorus where he also served on their board of directors for the CIMKF. He was able to be a major fundraiser with his musical revues from 1990-99 to raise over $100,000 for the local Alzheimer’s Association.
For many holidays Dirk led the Peoria Courthouse Plaza sing along. Then led his McGinnis Family Singers at the Yule Like Peoria celebration for years as they performed at different downtown venues.
Dirk and the late Gene Holmes organized a folk group composed of local high school students called The Young Folk. They primarily performed every year at the Heart of Illinois Fair in the afternoons but were asked to perform at other locales including an event in Peoria where President Elect Richard Nixon appeared. Dirk received a personal thank you note from Nixon after the rally.
Dirk had a long running Irish revue that he was in with good friends, Denise Adams, Helen Wade, Tom Joyce, and others over the years. They performed sold out evenings at Pekin’s Chateau restaurant. With his love of Irish music, beer, and culture, he tried his hand as the owner of the Limerick Pub on the Illinois River. He had a great time there, but seeing the River and not being out on it was too hard. He sold that venture.
Corn Stock Theatre was important to Dirk. He was part of the second generation of McGinnises (of four) to perform there. He was seen onstage in “Brigadoon,” “1776,” “South Pacific,” “Fanny,” “Finnian’s Rainbow,” “Kismet,” and “The Man Who Came To Dinner.” He music directed “Flower Drum Song,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” and “Chicago.” He served on the Board of Directors there. He was recently seen in a Corn Stock ad campaign too. He strongly believed in the importance of community theater and had season tickets there, as well as the Peoria Symphony Orchestra and the Heartland Festival Orchestra.
Dirk sang the National Anthem well. He was asked to sing it many years at the Illinois State Fair, the Peoria Motorcycle Club races, Bradley basketball games, Rivermen Hockey games, Peoria Chief’s games and so many others. He believed in every word he sang and wrote a letter to the editor in the Peoria Journal Star stating that he felt that at the end of the anthem there is a sort of question. And the country’s response should be, “Yes!” and applauding after the anthem as being appropriate.
He and his wife moved to Lutheran Hillside Village after he survived a serious illness. He enjoyed his years there participating in the many activities, which still included entertaining. As recently as last Christmas he strolled the hallways (in a mask) on Christmas Eve singing carols to the shut-in residents. He and his family are very grateful for the wonderful care he received there. He had no regrets at the end and felt he had lived a blessed and joyous life.
A Memorial Service will be held on Friday, May 20, 2022 at 10:30 AM at First Federated Church in Peoria. Interment of cremains will follow at the church cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorials in Dirk’s name may be made to the Peoria Municipal Band Fund at the Community Foundation of Central Illinois, Corn Stock Theater or the Ivy Club Legacy.
Friends and family may sign the online guestbook by logging onto

Previous Events

Funeral Service




10:30 AM 5/20/2022 10:30:00 AM
First Federated Church of Peoria

3601 N Sheridan Rd
Peoria, IL 61604

First Federated Church of Peoria
3601 N Sheridan Rd Peoria 61604 IL
United States

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