Distinguished Alumnus
Class of 2015
Edward M. Finfgeld
(January 20, 1903 - November 24, 1976)

AHS Class of 1920

Teacher, businessman, Mayor and State Representative Edward Mulliken Finfgeld was born in Arcola January 20, 1903. He was the first of three sons of second generation Arcola shoe store owners Charles B. and Ruth Mulliken Finfgeld. Ed attended Arcola schools, graduating with the Arcola High School Class of 1920. Limited sources reveal he played football, basketball and was “a bright and shining star” as the lead in his senior class play. Ed worked in his father’s shoe store while in grade school and high school.

Following his high school graduation, Ed first attended Eureka College and then earned his B.A. at the University of Illinois in 1924. While at Illinois, he was a member of Delta Sigma Phi social fraternity. Ed and University of Illinois student Inez Jane McCuster, of Sullivan, were married in Chicago on June 6, 1924, just prior to his University of Illinois graduation.

Ed taught chemistry and physics at Monticello, West Chicago and East Moline High Schools before entering the life insurance business in Moline in the early 1930s. During World War II, he was employed in the production department of Farmall Works at Rock Island. Ed and Jane’s son, Thomas E., and daughter, Mary Ruth, were born in 1925 and 1930 respectively.

Finfgeld returned to Arcola to manage the family shoe store at the time of his father’s retirement in January 1947. Ed and Jane’s daughter, Mary Ruth, graduated with the AHS Class of 1948. Ed soon became involved in the community. As a result of his interest in developing better summer recreation for the youth of Arcola, Ed was named Arcola Community Council’s first president in January 1949. That same year, Ed was elected Arcola’s mayor, with his re-election as mayor in 1953 and again in 1957.

Early in Ed’s second term as Arcola mayor, their son, Dr. Thomas E. Finfgeld, was killed in a plane crash southwest of the University of Illinois airport at Champaign on December 9, 1953.

In Finfgeld’s years as Arcola mayor, from 1949 to 1961, Arcola experienced a period of change and progress. The city improved services with water work expansion and natural gas lines. With the addition of the National Petro Chemical Company in the area, Arcola’s population grew 39% in the 1950-1960 decade. New housing subdivisions, businesses, school additions and church expansions bettered Arcola. Ed was also serving as mayor at the time of Arcola’s Centennial in July 1955.

In April 1960, in his third term as Arcola mayor, Ed sought the Republican nomination as representative for the 51st District of the Illinois House of Representatives. He was successful in the primary and received the top vote of four contenders in the six-county district in the November general election. The Arcola City Council reluctantly accepted Mayor Finfgeld’s resignation in January 1961, following his swearing-in as State Representative in Springfield. Ed was re-elected to his second term as representative in November 1962.

As his terms in the 72nd and 73rd General Assemblies ended in January 1965, Arcola leaders urged Finfgeld to once again seek the office of mayor in the upcoming April city election. He initially agreed, but injury, illness and extended hospitalizations caused Finfgeld to withdraw his candidacy.

Ed and Jane continued their work in their Main Street shoe store. Finfgeld’s Shoes received much central Illinois publicity as the business observed its centennial in June 1971. The Arcola community paid tribute to Ed and Jane at a Chamber of Commerce dinner. The Illinois General Assembly also honored the Finfgelds with a House Resolution, commending the family as the only Arcola business to be operated by the same family for 100 years.

Arcola was well-served by Ed’s commitment to our service organizations. He was a 1947 charter member of Arcola Lions Club, was elected 1949 and 1950 Arcola Community Council President and 1968 Arcola Chamber of Commerce President. Ed was also a member of the Moose organization, Arcola Telecare and longtime member of the Masons. He joined the First Christian Church of Arcola in 1912, was an Elder and long-time board member.

Former Arcola Mayor and State Representative Edward Finfgeld died November 24, 1976, from injuries sustained in a fire in their home at 214 North Ridge St. As a diabetic and double amputee, Ed was unable to leave their home quickly.

The Illinois House of Representatives further honored Finfgeld’s public service with Death Resolution 1046 on December 2, 1976. Nearly forty years after his passing, Ed is now survived by his son-in-law, William Simpkins, five grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.

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Last Revision November 11, 2017