Jay Boulanger, owner of Spengel-Boulanger Funeral Home and the winner of this year’s Bill Pierce Chamber Member of the Year Award, is Highland through and through.
He was born in Highland and raised by parents, Wilson and Elva Jo Boulanger, who were highly dedicated to community and taught their son to be the same.
“I feel the better description is that the nut doesn’t fall far from the tree,” said chamber treasurer Howard Held, who presented Boulanger with his award at the chamber’s annual meeting on June 23.
Boulanger graduated from Highland High School in 1962 and was named an all-conference football player. He continued his education by attending both Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and SIU Carbondale.
“He earned three different degrees from these institutions and actively supports them through their respective alumni associations,” Held said.
He married his wife, Cathy, in 1969; they have five children and 13 grandchildren.
He joined the family funeral business in 1974.
“Through his time and talent, he has not only kept the business going, but it thrived,” Held said.
Boulanger has now been at the helm of the business for 40-plus years and has become a leader in the industry, serving on many local, state and national boards.
“He takes great pride in the quality of service his company provides,” Held said.
The business has grown through the acquisitions of Halleman Funeral Home in Marine and Dauderman Mortuary Alhambra and Hamel.
“Through the funeral home, Jay acknowledges the services of the Highland Police Department and the VFW Honor Guard with a dinner each year. The business was designated a centennial business by the state of Illinois and will be celebrating its 113th year of existence in 2015,” Held said.
Along the way, Boulanger helped the community to thrive as well.
Organizations with which he has been involved, many in leadership roles, include the Helvetia Sharpshooters, Madison County Fair Association, Highland Historical Society, Highland Masonic Lodge, Scottish Rite Shriners, Silver Lake Shrine Club, Optimists, Highland Economic Development Commission, Louis Latzer Memorial Library Board, St. Joseph’s Hospital Friends, Highland Jaycees, Bulldog Booster Club, Faith Countryside Homes, Meals on Wheels, Highland Area Christian Service Ministry food pantry, the city’s sesquicentennial and bicentennial associations, the Highland City Cemetery Association, the Highland Area Community Foundation, and — of course — the Highland Chamber of Commerce.
“As a chamber member, his contributions easily show his dedication and love of this organization,” Held said. “He believes in the Chamber, its mission, and how it can be a very important and valuable resource for Highland businesses and their customers. He is a past president, along with his father.”
Boulanger served as chamber president from July 2005 to June 2006; his father was president in 1944-45. He has also served on various committees and projects and is currently a director.
“He supports the chamber by participating in our programs, such as business after hours, education seminars, and also by supporting our fundraising efforts,” Held said. “I believe he has never missed a year as a square sponsor at our annual Street Art Festival. He also is a major supporter at our Valentine’s/spring fundraiser dinner auctions. He has numerous times helped out the chamber, and at times, has done so anonymously.”
Boulanger said he was surprised to receive the award, which was named after his good friend, the late Bill Pierce.
“He was quite of a guy,” he said.
Boulanger said his dad and Ralph Korte were also a big influence in his life. He said his dad instilled him at an early age the importance of helping others out in the community.
“And that struck a chord with me,” he said.
Boulanger also recalled Korte telling him years later: “If you are going to make a living in a community and live in a community, you have to pay your community dues.”
Part of those so-called dues are donating your time, talents and mind back into a community.
“I echo him 100 percent,” Boulanger said.
But Boulanger believes he is just one of many who share Korte’s view.
“There are countless people volunteering their time and efforts,” he said.
About the Award
The Bill Pierce Chamber Member of the Year Award is presented to a member of the Highland Chamber of Commerce who has exhibited extraordinary service to the organization and who has made use of his or her business skills for the betterment of the entire community.
This person has held chamber leadership positions, being a board member and/or project chairperson and has shown initiative and creativity in pursuing the goals of his or her business or profession.
Pierce was an integral part of Highland, he wore many hats from chief of police to city manager and everything in between.