PRINCETON — Former longtime Bureau County Clerk Tom Velon died Tuesday at the age of 93 in Texas.
Velon had worked in the Bureau County Courthouse for 34 years, in both the county treasurer’s office and the county clerk’s office. He was elected in November 1970 as the Bureau County Clerk and held that office for 26 years, retiring in June 1996.
Following Velon as Bureau County Clerk was current county clerk Kami Hieronymus, who had worked for Velon for nine years in the county clerk’s office. Much of Velon’s impact on the county clerk office is still evident today, Hieronymus said.
“I respected Tom quite a bit. He was a very smart businessman and politician. Many of the ways we handle the job of county clerk today in the office is because of the policy and structure that was created while Tom was county clerk,” Hieronymus said.
As she looked back on her time working with Velon, Hieronymus said there are some things that stand out in her mind about the kind of boss, the kind of person Velon was.
“For one thing, Tom was always willing to help. If we ever had a busy time whether election day or not, he would step up and help. He’d answer the phone, help people and staff, whatever he could do. Election night he would be right there with his sleeves rolled up ready to work,” Hieronymus said.
Also, many people would come to Velon during the years with other problems or questions outside of the county clerk business, and Velon would stop and help them, Hieronymus said.
“It did not matter to Tom what political party you were. If you needed help, he would,” Hieronymus said. “He was a good leader. He would show you what to do, guide you and then be there to answer questions. With on the job compliments, he was always very quick to say it was because of his great office staff that he was able to accomplish things.”
Again, Tom Velon’s impact is still felt in the county clerk’s office, Hieronymus said.
“Many of the ways I handle the job today is because of the leadership and guidance I received while working for Tom Velon,” Hieronymus said. “He was a very well-respected county clerk throughout the state of Illinois. He, of course, had a lot of knowledge about all the responsibilities and had many other county clerks look to him for help. Tom really had a lot of experiences and knowledge of life in general outside of being county clerk. His life experiences is what made him a special person and a great county clerk.”
Though well-known throughout the county and state as Bureau County Clerk, the Rev. Jon Olinger of Princeton also knew Velon as a neighbor, friend and coffee buddy.
Though the Olingers and Velons lived just three doors down from each other, Olinger said he really got to know Velon through their near-daily coffee times with three or four other guys at the former Hardee’s restaurant.
“We had such a good time. Tom was quite outgoing, always leading the conversations, talking about the old times, just shooting the bull together,” Olinger said. “Tom loved people. He was so friendly and always glad to see you. He was so down-to-earth. I loved him. He was a good friend, and I’m sorry to hear about his passing.”
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