Barbara Giorgi Vella and other donors
E.J. " Zeke" Giorgi (1921-1993) represented Rockford in the Illinois House of Representatives. First elected in 1964, he served for 28 years and at the time of his death was known by the honorific “Dean of the House” – its longest serving member. A major booster of projects to enhance Rockford’s economic and civic statures, Giorgi invested great energy and effort making a dangerous and inadequate road into a major transit route through the state. The Giorgi Highway includes the portion of Interstate Highway 39 that begins at the Wisconsin border in Winnebago County and ends with its intersection with Interstate 88 in Ogle County.“Zeke Giorgi was the model for what an elected official should be,” Madigan commented. “He was devoted to his constituents and a mentor to many of his fellow legislators. Zeke believed strongly in the House as an institution, he provided leadership on many important issues to its members and he was widely admired by people of all political stripes. Any achievements that I might claim as a representative owe their existence to the guidance and direction that Zeke provided early in my career. He was, simply, my best friend.”Rockford Mayor Doug Scott, Illinois Assistant Secretary of Transportation David Phelps and other local elected officials joined Madigan at the event. Scott counted himself among the dozens of people whose careers Giorgi influenced over the years. “Zeke definitely helped to direct my path into public service,” said Scott. “Even more importantly, the impact of his many contributions to the improvement of our city will be felt for years to come. It was simultaneously very sad and a great honor to succeed him as Rockford’s state representative.” Some of the more notable projects in which Giorgi played a leading role during his 38 years of public service include: the Rockford Metro Center; Rockford Branch of University of Illinois College of Medicine; Riverfront Museum Park; Milestone Specialized Handicapped Living Center; Chrysler Assembly Plant; and the Rockford State of Illinois Office Building. His leadership was also instrumental in the creation of the College of Law at Northern Illinois University; the legal clinic there also bears his name. “Above all, Zeke was interested in providing opportunities for all people to achieve their fullest potential and to share in the benefits of the society that they helped to create,” Madigan remarked. “He never believed that government was the final answer, but rather that, done right, it could have a constructive and positive role to play in improving the lives of those who did not come from the loftiest stations.”Before becoming a US Congressman, Phelps served with Giorgi for eight years in the Illinois House. “We came from opposite ends of the state and represented different kinds of constituencies,” Phelps observed. “Zeke never let that be a barrier to understanding each other and, as Democrats, we were able to find plenty of political common ground on issues like health care and education.”Born to Italian immigrant parents in 1921, Giorgi was a lifelong Rockford resident who devoted his career to public service as a deputy township assessor, alderman and eventually state representative.