The spot where Ed Yaeger planted the seeds for local historic preservation soon will be marked by a tree growing in his memory.
Members of the Lake Geneva Tree Board have announced plans to plant a burr oak tree and dedicate a plaque in Yaeger’s honor during an Arbor Day ceremony on April 27.
The tree will be planted on Sage Street near the Geneva Lake Museum where Yaeger worked to establish historic markers for Lake Geneva’s long-forgotten railroad train station.
The former aldermen and historic preservation activist died in 2017 at the age of 90.
His daughter, Eileen Yeager, said her father cared deeply about protecting the community’s past heritage, especially its ties to the railroad industry.
“The trains are a part of the reason why the town exists,” the daughter said. “I know he is happy that they are doing this. I wish he was here to see it happen in person.”
The tree planting and plaque dedication ceremony is scheduled for 9 a.m. April 27.
The plague is engraved with the words: “Preserve Our Past. Protect Our Future. Save Our City.”
After Yeager’s death, city officials began a project that he had championed to use bricks embedded in the ground to mark the outline of the former railroad station and other facilities that once operated at the Sage Street site.
Ken Etten, chairman of Lake Geneva’s historic preservation commission, said Yaeger conducted a lot of research to help get the railroad brick project started.
Yaeger worked with the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad by scouring their archives to find a site plan for the Lake Geneva railroad site.
Etten said he was happy to hear that the city is honoring Yeager’s years of service to the community.
“It’s something his family feels greatly about to honor his memory and legacy,” Etten said. “It’s something he cared about.”
Officials believe the oak burr tree will grow to about 80 feet fall, and that it could live for up to 300 years.
Yaeger served on the city council during the 1990s.
Spyros Condos, who was mayor when Yaeger served on the city council, said Yaeger worked hard to serve the city’s residents and had a strong interest in preserving the community’s history.
“He cared a lot about Lake Geneva,” Condos said. “He did not want Lake Geneva to have a lot of massive development.”
Although Yaeger spent years promoting the brick paver concept for the old railroad site, it never came to fruition during his lifetime. The historic presentation commission eventually started the project last year.
Jon Foster, an arborist for the city, recalled talking with Yaeger many times about the railroad brick project.
“He wanted to get the area cleared,” Foster said, “to have something that people can view that represented the history of the railroad industry.”
The city’s tree board celebrates Arbor Day each year by planting a tree in honor of a community leader. Past honorees have included board member Bob Flemming and former public works director Dan Winkler.
Candy Kirchberg, chairperson of the tree board, said the group was happy to be honoring Yaerger at the same site that meant so much to him.
“He worked tirelessly on promoting the railroad,” Kirchberg said. “It was one of his pet projects.”
Eileen Yaeger said she shared in the excitement of seeing her father’s memory honored.
“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “It’s a real victory for all the work he put in this area. It’s a victory for the railroad and a victory for the town itself.”