The Rockford Files

Lighting Candles

I cannot remember when I first met Mary Ann Aiello.  I know, of course, that it had to have been sometime after I moved to Rockford in the last week of 1995, and I suspect that it may have been another three or four years later.  But there was something about Mary Ann that made you feel instantly as if she had always been a part of your world.  Slightly over five feet, a bundle of nervous energy, she spoke openly, honestly, earnestly with everyone she met.  Normally, those who have the gift of gab tend to spend the moments when someone else is talking thinking of their next line.  Mary Ann was never that way.  She listened as intently as she spoke.

Even in the midst of debate, Mary Ann treated her most bitter political opponents with the same respect and dignity and kindness that she showed her friends.  In almost 21 years as a member of the Winnebago County Board, she fought battle after battle on behalf of her constituents—and even occasionally against their expressed will.  She may never have read Edmund Burke’s Speech to the Electors of Bristol, but when she was certain that a policy was right or wrong, she thought that the best way to represent those who had elected her was to fight for what is right, without regard to the consequences for her own political career.

I had the privilege of working side by side with Mary Ann as she fought against a number of bad ideas,...

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