A Life Remembered: Mahomet loses a lifelong public servant

A Life Remembered: Mahomet loses a lifelong public servant

MAHOMET — Lee Jessup was one of Mahomet's most prominent and influential residents.

He devoted 33 years to the Corn Belt Fire Protection District, starting as a volunteer firefighter and retiring last spring as a trustee.

He spent 24 years as the principal at Lincoln Trail Elementary, retiring in 2005.

He was also a former board member with both the Chamber of Commerce and the Mahomet Area Youth Club.

Mr. Jessup passed away suddenly on Sunday, but his influence won't soon be forgotten.

"He had a pulse on the community and it showed all the time," former M-S Superintendent John Alumbaugh said. "There's going to be an empty spot in Mahomet, but I'm pretty sure he'll be watching over Mahomet from above.

"He was as caring for people as you could ask for."

Before he was hired as Sangamon School principal, Mark Cabutti had already met Mr. Jessup.

"He was on the interview committee when I applied for the Sangamon job," said Cabutti, who retired in June. "I got the vibe from him that he was a straight-shooter, direct and very common sense.

"When I got to know him through administrative meetings, Lee continued to show those traits. His heart was in the right place."

Mr. Jessup was involved with many community projects and endeavors, often without attracting attention to his role.

He and Marty Schroeder were two of the driving forces behind a 2007 ballot question about whether the village should allow liquor sales.

It passed by a 1,408-539 margin.

Whether it was a community issue or a school district issue — such as construction of the high school fieldhouse or the addition to the junior high — "when Lee said it was good, people bought in," Alumbaugh said.

Fire chief John Koller called Mr. Jessup a mentor.

When Mr. Jessup was named public information officer for Cornbelt, Koller said, "he took that role to a whole new level and did a lot being the face of Cornbelt."

Andy Busch got to know Mr. Jessup during the 24 years he spent on the Mahomet-Seymour school board.

"He was honest, straightforward and sometimes a little raw," Busch said. "He might say something in less-than-couched terms.

"He might say, 'This isn't right. We need to re-think this.'"

No matter Mr. Jessup's opinion, there were never any lingering hard feelings.

"We weren't always in agreement, but it didn't affect our personal relationship," Busch said.

Alumbaugh agreed.

"We could disagree privately, but publicly he supported me and the school board," he said.

Cabutti remembers an early meeting with Mr. Jessup, one where they exchanged business cards.

"Mine was a 1-by-2 card," Cabutti said. "He gave me his and it was 3-by-5. His had each of his jobs (Cornbelt, Lee J's Arcade, etc.) in the corner and in the middle was Lincoln Trail principal.

"He was a master at multi-tasking."

Busch said that Mr. Jessup's passing will leave a void in the community.

"A lot of people knew him and he knew a lot of people," Busch said. "He was very present everywhere. He was one of the people who did give back with his time, but with more than his time.

"The community has lost a good one."

Fred Kroner is editor of the Mahomet Citizen, a News-Gazette community newspaper. For more, visit mcitizen.com.

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