When Judy Streid first came to Pekin from her hometown Bloomington-Normal in 1963, she brought with her a can-do attitude and a spirit of giving.
Over the course of more than a half-century spent teaching at Pekin Community High School, it was that very mentality that helped Streid become a favorite among students and faculty alike — a role model to whom students refer to as, among other things, “beloved,” “great” and the “best there is.”
Streid, now 75 years old, has dialed back her teaching hours since then — she stopped working full-time in 1993, but still spends many days as a substitute teacher for PCHS.
As for the spirit of philanthropy, however, she has not yet wavered.
“When I first moved here, I realized you can’t just sit at home and wait for someone to come to the door,” Streid said of her beginnings in the Pekin community.
Just this week, she helped deliver a $1,000 scholarship to PCHS senior Taylar Freeman.
Altrusa Club of Pekin, in which Streid is heavily involved, was able to raise the money through their annual spaghetti dinner at First United Methodist Church this year.
Streid is also very involved with YWCA, and holds dear the time each year when she helps deliver new Scholastic books to local first-grade students.
“(The students) just hugs those books,” Streid says with an ear-to-ear smile. “They just don’t believe it. They can’t believe it. They don’t believe, and they ask, ‘I get to keep this?’”
Last week, Streid was selected as Grand Marshal for the 2016 Pekin Marigold Festival thanks largely to her beloved reputation around town.
Attached to her nomination for the title was what seemed an endless list of people, each vouching for her kind spirit and loving nature.
It’s an honor she said she cherishes, having been friends with many of the festival’s previous grand marshals, and having seen first-hand the event’s genesis and subsequent growth.
“I’ve always gone to the festival,” she said. “I’ve never been in the parade, but I’ve always supported it.”
“Even when it started, for the time, it was a great festival. I can remember when Art in the Park was just a few booths.”
Until the events start, meanwhile, Streid said she’ll continue doing what she always has: making a positive impact on those around her (and watching the Chicago Cubs — she’s a die-hard fan).
“I just can’t sit around,” she said.
A brief sit-down with her at Andy’s Diner, where she is a regular, is a testament to that fact. Every few minutes, someone stops by to say hi to her, many of them former students.
Whether in or outside the classroom, everyone seems to have been taught by Streid in some way, seems to have been touched by her positivity.
And yet, after more than 50 years in the classroom, she still doesn’t see it as work.
Rather, it’s a way of saying “thank you” for the same generosity she felt when she first arrived here in 1963.
“Pekin has always been very good to me,” she said. “The people — they’ve always been so, so good to me.”
Follow Robert Downen on Twitter at @Robert_Downen