NEWS COLUMNS

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2014

CHESTER GOULD’S CHARITABLE WORK

By James Johnson

Originally printed in the Woodstock Independent
March 22, 2006

During his long career, Chester Gould contributed countless hours of his time, along with donations of cash and property, to charitable causes. The Chester Gould-Dick Tracy Museum has numerous exhibits showing his work in this area. A major local beneficiary was the Woodstock Memorial Hospital, now Centegra Memorial Medical Center. Gould donated the land at Route 47 and Country Club Road, where McDonalds now sits, to the hospital for one of its fund drives. He served on fundraising committees and created much original art for use in the publicity for the drives. Some of his drawings show that “it takes many hands” to raise a million dollars for the hospital. In 1947, when B.O. Plenty and Gravel Gertie’s daughter, Sparkle Plenty, was born, Gould was surprised to receive a flood of baby gifts in the mail. Gould’s wife, Edna, gave all of the items to the Woodstock Hospital for the real babies of the time.

Gould campaigned extensively with Easter Seals to benefit children with disabilities and served as McHenry County chairman for several fundraising series. Along with such celebrities as Carol Burnett, Gould and his wife worked tirelessly for the cause. Congressman Bob McClory honored Gould at a 1979 Easter Seals dinner in recognition of his work. Gould helped fund the McHenry County Rescue Squad, a forerunner of today’s highly efficient extrication, paramedic and emergency medical team units.
Gould and his friend Tiny Hansman, Woodstock’s chief of police, worked actively with local youth in the Crimestoppers Club. One activity they particularly enjoyed was driving groups of local boys to Waukegan for smelt fishing in Lake Michigan. The boys learned to use nets to capture fish during the smelt runs. Upon returning, extra fish was donated to the VFW, American legion and other service organizations for reduced price or free fish fry meals for local residents. Gould was the underwriter of expenses for these trips.

The museum has copies of cartoon strips of which the actual original art was donated by Gould to charitable organizations. One was a 1953 black and white daily, showing Dick Tracy and his wrist radio, with the handwritten inscription “Donated to the highest bidder at the Mental Health Association.” Another was given to the “Y-Women celebrity auction.” The lucky bidders on these strips have valuable properties today. Gould also helped in small ways, showing that charity was close to his heart. A panel in a strip printed Jan. 18, 1946, shows Dick Tracy seated at headquarters. On the wall behind Tracy is an unobtrusive small sign that says “Fight Infantile Paralysis.” Perhaps a subliminal message like this produced contributions throughout the United States for his millions of readers.

Follow-up note: Some of the original hospital fundraiser drawings are owned by Don Peasley, Woodstock’s historian and photographer. They may be displayed from time to time at the Old Court House Art Center. Bob McClory’s Congressional seat is now held by Mark Kirk.

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“The first wrong step might be the last. Bullets don't recognize first offenders.”
- Chester Gould
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