Rick West Follow @dhrickwest Updated 10/19/2021 4:33 PM
Harry Blizzard, a founding board member of both Elgin Community College and the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, died over the weekend at age 94.
“Everybody in our community knows of Harry Blizzard,” said Eric Larson, executive director of the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra. “His name is almost synonymous with arts and culture in the Elgin area.”
Blizzard grew up in Fonda, Iowa, and graduated from Iowa State College — now Iowa State University — with a bachelor’s degree in engineering. He worked for Muncie Construction Co. in Indiana before moving to Elgin in the 1950s, eventually forming his own business, Harry Blizzard and Associates, in 1961.
Blizzard was elected a founding member of the board of trustees for Elgin Community College in 1966. In 1981, when the college ended its financial backing of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, he became a founding member of the orchestra’s board. He helped transform the all-amateur group into an all-professional, award-winning organization.
“Harry was certainly a foundational part of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra,” said Bert Crossland, ESO board chair. “He was there from the beginning.”
Crossland said he’s known Blizzard for more than 20 years and that Blizzard was still playing a “vital” role in the ESO until the pandemic. He said Blizzard attended a July ESO concert at Goebbert’s Farm in Pingree Grove.
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“Harry was passionate, and that passion was infectious,” he said. “He loved the music, and he loved the orchestra members, and the players loved Harry.”
ESO CEO Marc Thayer said Blizzard played an essential role in growing the orchestra.
“His leadership was instrumental in making the ESO the award-winning orchestra it is today,” Thayer said. “Serving on the board for more than a decade, he chaired every committee and was awarded honorary life director status.”
Larson said the Blizzard name looms large over the EYSO even though the two organizations are separate.
“We literally think of him all the time because most of our concerts are in the Blizzard Theatre,” he said of the 662-seat theater at the ECC campus that was named after Harry and his wife, Phyllis, for their many contributions to the college.
Blizzard also served on the boards of the Elgin YMCA and the Elgin Area Historical Society.
Details about funeral arrangements have not yet been made public.