Life Remembered: Shields 'respected and a real gentleman'
Colleagues remember Lyle Shields as a gentleman who was easy to work with on the Champaign County Board.
Mr. Shields, who died Friday at the age of 89, served on the Champaign County Board for 41 years, including 10 years (1986-1996) as its chairman.
"He was respected and a real gentleman," said County Administrator Deb Busey. "He was well known for his interest in county government, not just in Champaign County but with the United Counties Council of Illinois, where he served in many capacities."
Longtime board member Steve Moser, who like Shields is a Republican and a former board chairman, said he valued Shields' friendship.
"He was closer than anyone I had on that board. He was a great guy," said Moser, who retired from the board last year, and had served with Mr. Shields for 10 years. "He was honest. He got along with both sides. He was the best board chairman I saw in the last 40 years.
"He was hard to say no to, and he was open. He's listen to anybody about anything. He was just the kind of guy that you had to like. He was as honest as the day is long. You almost always knew what he was going to do and he usually did the right thing. Most of the people who worked there thought the world of him."
Mr. Shields left the board in 2002.
Moser said it was Mr. Shields who persuaded him to run for county board chairman.
"He was one of the big reasons I took that job, and he had a whole lot to do with making sure I got elected," Moser said.
State Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, served one term on the county board with Mr. Shields, and worked with him when Frerichs was county auditor.
"Lyle and I had bordering districts on the county board and so every now and then we would work on issues in and around Rantoul," Frerichs said. "He was just a real gentleman to work with and serve with.
"I think Lyle was committed to Champaign County, much moreso than a party ideology. He was easy to work with because he was interested in finding solutions to the county's problems, not in creating partisan fights."
Mr. Shields, who had lived and farmed in the Dewey area in northwest Champaign County, was a News-Gazette Farm Leader of the Year in 1992. He also was among the directors of the last one-room schoolhouse in Champaign County.
In a 2006 interview he recalled attending and representing the Mounts School, which was about 2 miles west and 3 miles north of Thomasboro. He had attended the school, as had his father and his two children. It closed in May 1958.
"It had a good furnace but there was no running water," he said. "There was a toilet inside the building. They called it a cloakroom. You'd hang up your coats in there, but there was a little room that had a toilet, just like an outhouse. But if you wanted running water, the well was outside."
Mr. Shields helped organize a reception for the last teacher at the school, who was presented with a portable television set.
"We were having a real nice picnic," he recalled. "All of a sudden a big plane from Chanute (Air Force Base) came in real low and it crashed about a mile away. They all saw that plane go down and that ended the picnic right here."