Every person has a history. E. C. (Mike) Alft’s began on July 13, 1925, in Chicago, Illinois, and ended 96 years later on November 22, 2021, in West Grove, Pennsylvania. Raised for the most part in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Mike was a stateside Army veteran. Following his marriage to Frances Virginia Clark, a college classmate, on August 12, 1950, the couple came to live in Elgin, Illinois for 65 years.
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Grinnell College, he earned a master’s degree at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, and was a John Hay Fellow at Yale University. He taught social studies at Dundee Community High School, 1950-1952 and was a teacher of economics and government at Elgin High School, 1953-1994. He was a part-time instructor in political science at Elgin Community College for twenty years, and was a lecturer for the Elgin Leadership Academy, 1991-2012.
Mike served as a member of the Elgin City Council, 1963-1967, and Mayor of Elgin, 1967-1971, and was elected in 1995 and 2001 for two six-year terms to the board of trustees of the Gail Borden Public Library District. As mayor, Mike spearheaded an effort to make Vientiane in Laos a sister city to Elgin.
He was one of several founding members of the Elgin Area Historical Society in 1961, and the Elgin Sports Hall of Fame Foundation in 1980. Mike participated in establishing the Elgin Historic District in 1981. He was a member of the Gifford Park Association, and during his retirement was one of the Golden K Kiwanis Club volunteers.
An avid cyclist, he rode a hundred miles on his 65th birthday. Mike was a fixture in the library for more than fifty years. A constant reader, he kept a record of more than 3,547 books he read – mainly in history, economics, government, and serious literature – from the age of fifteen. He was fond of reading, traveling with Fran (visiting more than a dozen places named Elgin in the U.S. and Canada), reading, touring museums and national parks, and reading.
Mike was the author of seventeen local histories – six hard cover books and eleven soft cover booklets – including Elgin: An American History (1984), Elgin: A Pictorial History (1991), Elgin: Days Gone By (1992) and An Elgin Almanac (2004) as well as more than 1,200 articles in the Courier-News beginning with a 1961 series on Elgin’s participation in the Civil War and continuing with the “Days Gone By” columns, 1981 to 2014. Over the years he gave several hundred presentations about his adopted city to service clubs, neighborhood associations, and church and school groups. He participated in Gifford Park Association house walks and Historical Society cemetery walks, conducted bus tours, and appeared on local radio (“Remembering Elgin”).
In 2007, Mike was named the Elgin Image Awards’ Lifetime Achievement winner. He was named an Illinois Library Association Luminary in 2010. Alft Lane, just north of Advocate Sherman Hospital, was named in Mike’s honor.
Mike was preceded in death by Fran, his devoted wife and best friend for 65 years. Survivors include four children: B Jefferson Bolender of Phoenix, AZ, John Lincoln (Rustie) of Normal, IL, Michael Wilson (Mary Teresa) of New London Township, PA, and Susan Q Adams Stanchak (Peter) of Portage, MI, thirteen grandchildren and twelve great grandchildren. During their marriage they raised 8 cats.
A celebration of Mike’s life will be announced at a later date and held in Elgin, Illinois with assistance of the Elgin Area Historical Society and Museum, and the Gail Borden Public Library. Burial services will be private. Donations may be made to the Gail Borden Public Library District Foundation in memory of Mr. Alft at this link http://www.gailborden.info/foundation/ Donors can select the yellow “Donate” tab and type IMO Mike Alft in the memo section or mailed to: Gail Borden Foundation Attn: Sara Johnson 270 N. Grove Ave Elgin, IL 60120 or donations are welcomed to Elgin Area Historical Society online at https://www.paypal.com/donate/?hosted_button_id=HX2HJPSVTBXXA Arrangements in PA are by Grieco Funeral Home & Crematory Inc. (484-734-8100) http://www.griecofunerals.com