A former mayor and long-time community leader who passed away this past weekend is being remembered as someone who helped make Edwardsville what it is today.
Steve Ellsworth, 73, who served as Edwardsville’s mayor from 1977 to 1981, died Saturday of complications from pneumonia. And among the requests in his obituary was a line that asked for memorials to be directed to the city’s building fund for the two new fire stations.
Born in 1943, Ellsworth attended Highland High School for three years and then graduated from Edwardsville High School in 1961. He owned and operated a Texaco station at Buchanan and East Vandalia before beginning a 48-year career with State Farm in 1967, sharing an office with his father for many years.
A member and past board president of First Christian Church in Edwardsville, Ellsworth was active in many community organizations, including the Edwardsville Jaycees, Boy Scouts, Greater Edwardsville Area Community Foundation and Edwardsville Rotary Club, as well as a long-time supporter of the Edwardsville YMCA.
“Steve’s many contributions to Edwardsville the surrounding area made this a better place for all,” said Gary Niebur, another former mayor of Edwardsville. “He was a good man who cared deeply about his family, his friends and his community.”
Ellsworth was elected mayor in 1977, and served one four-year term. After his term as mayor, Ellsworth continued to serve in various community organizations. In recent years, he served on the Edwardsville zoning board, and toward the end of his term, Niebur appointed him to the public safety building committee managing the construction of the new police and fire station downtown and the firehouse being constructed on the campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He continued to serve on that committee until his death.
Niebur, who served as mayor from 1993 to 2013, said Ellsworth was “a truly great guy.”
“He not only served the community very well, but he was a great advocate for Edwardsville,” Niebur said.
He not only served the community very well, but he was a great advocate for Edwardsville.
Former Edwardsville Mayor Gary Niebur
Niebur called Ellsworth “a dear friend and mentor.”
“Steve touched the lives of so many people in so many positive ways, and he did so in a very humbling and unassuming manner,” Niebur said. “I am saddened by his passing, but will forever treasure his friendship and what he did to make Edwardsville the great place it is today.”
Current mayor Hal Patton said that Ellsworth was “an incredible mentor” for him and a very close friend. In addition to a personal friendship, he rented office space from him for 22 years, and he often would walk over to Ellsworth’s office for advice.
“He was a cool, collected advisor; he didn’t waste words,” Patton said. “We talked every week about business, the city, Cardinals baseball or just life in general. His advice was so appreciated that often you had to wait outside his door while another friend of Steve’s was doing the same.”
Patton said Ellsworth continued to give to the community for many years after his mayoral service, contributing to everything from Rotary to Little League to the Girl Scouts.
“Few have put in that kind of time and dedication into the community,” Patton said. “He saw it as a combination of giving back to the community and paying it forward to the next generation.”
Ellsworth and his wife, Rae Yehling, were married for 52 years until his death. He is survived by a daughter, a son and three sisters, among other relatives.
Funeral services will take place at 11 a.m. March 5 at First Christian Church in Edwardsville, with Rev. James Brooks officiating. There will be a luncheon immediately following at the church. Weber & Rodney Funeral Home is handling the arrangements.
Memorials may be directed to First Christian Church or the Public Safety Facilities Fund for Edwardsville’s new fire stations. Condolences may be expressed online at weberfuneralhome.com.