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Merle Gene Widmer

June 30, 1925 June 2, 2020
Merle Gene Widmer
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Obituary for Merle Gene Widmer

Peoria-Merle Gene Widmer of Peoria, IL, passed away on June 2, 2020 at 11:18 of natural causes.

He was born on the family farm on June 30, 1925 in Congerville,IL to Donat (Tony) Widmer and Lillie (nee Witzig) Widmer. He was married to Claire (nee Borer) Widmer on February 25, 1978. He was also married to Delores (nee Stegall) Keaton in 1951. They had three children. Mark Gene Widmer, Mary Jo (nee Widmer) Greytak, and Nancy (nee Widmer) Cripe of Glen Carbon, IL. Merle was proceeded in death by two children, son Mark G Widmer and daughter Mary Jo Greytak, son-in-law William Greytak and 7 sisters and 1 brother. Verna Widmer, Chester Widmer, Freda Pfledder, Henrietta Waldbuser, Loretta Hoffman, Pauline Hermann, Viola Kauffman and Dorothy Kauffman.

He is survived by his wife Claire, daughter Nancy, Son-in-Law Brad Cripe as well as, 3 grandsons, Joshua A. Richie (Rebecca), William J. Greytak (Amanda), Terry D. Cripe, 8 great grandchildren and several nieces and nephews.

He attended a one room grade school, Congerville High School, Normal Community High School and graduated from Western Illinois University.

Merle served in the United States Army Air Force. During his service he was a starter on the 1st Army Airforce post traveling basketball team when they were Northeast Regional Champions. After his service he received his bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University. He was the only one in his family to attain a college degree. After college he taught and coached high school basketball in Colusa, Heyworth, and McLean/ Waynesville, IL.
His business career began with Remington Rand Systems in Peoria. He was promoted to District Manager in Topeka, KS, next as Assistant Branch Manager in Dallas, TX. In 1964 he was awarded a franchise in Peoria with Remington Rand Systems. Originally named Widmer Inc., the name was later changed to Widmer Office Products, Widmer One Stop Office Marts and finally Widmer Office Products/Interiors by Widmer. As the largest office products dealer in downstate Illinois. Widmer's ideas predated the big box concept of office supplies and equipment. Widmer also had branches in Bloomington/Normal, Pontiac, Spring Valley, Peru and Decatur. He also had offices in Bettendorf, IA and Springfield, IL. In 1981, he started a business in Phoenix, AZ known as Office Filing Systems of Arizona. The Arizona company was sold in 1986.

After 28 years in business he sold his company and retired in 1992. The company is now known as Widmer Interiors.

Widmer served on numerous boards of directors including Vice President of the Bradley Chief's Club, Southside Development Corp., Chairman of the Southside Recreation Committee which helped develop the John Gywnn Park. He served on the board of directors of MIV, Cincinnati, OH, a nationwide program supporting office products companies. He was a founding director of International Systems Dealer Association (ISDA) with operations in Chicago and Los Angeles.

After retirement, he continued to serve the Peoria area with a focus on building sports and youth programs for disadvantaged children. He was active in social groups such as the East Peoria and Peoria Rotaries, Optimist Club, Southside Kiwanis, Country Club of Peoria and other organizations.

He remained active playing basketball into his 70's and tennis into his 90's and was a lifetime member of USDA and Super Senior Tennis. He was an avid reader and followed sports, politics, economics and education closely. Merle was known as the oldest blogger in Illinois. His political blog, "Widmer's Peoria Watch" was a relatively conservative examination of Peoria, national, and personal politics.

Merle was an advocate of education as a strong supporter and a critic. In 2000 he was elected to the Peoria County Board retiring in 2010. He was twice elected by his peers to hold the position of Vice Chairman of the Board. Widmer took his Board service seriously and came to meetings having extensively studied the issues and the effect they would have on the residents and growth of Peoria County. Widmer served on the Peoria City/County Landfill Committee among many positions he held on the County Board and was a member of the Council of River City Governments. He left his position on the Peoria County Board with all funds balanced.

Widmer was disappointed with politically elected officials who spent taxpayer's dollars on projects that failed to meet unrealistic projections. He worked to protect taxpayers from wasteful use of tax dollars in the face of public and personal criticism.

Widmer was respected by his friends and family for his ethical business practice and his concern with health and fitness. He had a strong interest in the Peoria area and wanted it to be a strong affordable community and good place to raise a family.

A private memorial service will be held for family at Wright & Salmon Mortuary in Peoria. In Lieu of flowers, donations are requested for Peoria Children’s Home (http://www.chail.org).

Friends and family may sign the online guestbook or leave their private condolences by logging onto www.wrightandsalmon.com


Memorial Contribution

Children’s Home Association of Illinois

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