By Valerie Hardy

Located in the center of Downers Grove, Ebersold Park is the only park in town named after the family who owned it, explained Kent Ebersold. Kent is the grandson of Fred and Marguerite Ebersold, who sold the 18 acres of land on which the park is situated to the Downers Grove Park District in the mid-1980s for $1 million.

Fred and Marguerite Ebersold with their sons Keith and Ken circa 1940s

Prior to the property’s sale, the Ebersolds’ farm was one of the last operational farms in the village. Fred and Marguerite grew up in River Forest before moving to Downers Grove to start their farm at what is now the southwest corner of Main Street and 59th Street. They grew corn, soybeans, and winter wheat and raised hogs and chickens on the farm. They also raised their family, which included two sons (Keith and Ken) on the farm “from the time Main Street became a dirt/gravel road south of 55th Street,” said Kent, Keith’s son.

Kent said his father, the rest of their family, and he “were taught to work hard and be a family that is proud of this town, love our neighbors, and be good members of the community.”

It is because of their care for their community that the eldest Ebersolds decided to sell their property to the Park District under the condition that it remain open land. Keeping nature and recreation at the center of the land’s use was important to the Ebersolds. “I know my grandparents would be very proud of the many, many people from the community using this space as a park – walking, walking their dogs and babies, playing soccer or lacrosse or flag football or sledding or having a picnic or enjoying the jungle gym set,” Kent said.

“Downers Grove is a special place, and we are proud that
our name will carry on long after we are gone.”

– Kent Ebersold

While Ebersold Park is used for a multitude of purposes, it is, perhaps, best known for its sledding hill. Anyone driving down Main Street past the park on a snowy winter day is likely to see a crowd of children and families out sledding. The big hill on the property was used for sledding going back to the time the Ebersolds bought the farm. “My grandfather used to love seeing the kids from all over town come and sled,” Kent recalled fondly.

Based on its location, the park was originally named 59th and Main Street Park. However, in 2003, the Park Board unanimously voted to rename it after the Ebersolds given their significant community support and generosity. An article in the “Downers Grove Reporter” from April 2003 stated that “a park can be named after its geographical location, historical events or individuals who make ‘exceptional’ contributions.”

Ebersold Park is a sledding destination every winter.

The Ebersold family epitomized that last criterion, and their contributions have continued within the community for four generations to date. Although Kent’s father, Keith, passed away in 2019, his mother, Joan, the family’s current matriarch, is “still going strong at 90 years young,” Kent shared.

Many other Ebersold descendants still reside in Downers Grove. In addition to Kent and his wife, Leslie, his mother, sister Joanne Orozco, and cousin Nancy Bifulco – Ken’s daughter – and her husband, Ed, also live in town. Until a few months ago, his other cousin, Donna Fletcher – Ken’s other daughter – and her husband, Gary, also lived in Downers Grove.

Whether the fourth generation of Ebersolds will keep the Downers Grove tradition alive remains to be determined. Currently, Kent’s son Jack, a University of Alabama graduate, is living in Arkansas and working in management for Walmart Corporate. His other son, Sam, played collegiate basketball for University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh and is now on the coaching staff at Southern Illinois University. Joanne’s son, Ben, and Nancy’s daughter, Olivia, are both currently attending college out of state.

Kent, on the other hand, might be what some would consider hyperlocal. His wife and he live less than a mile from Ebersold Park, which also happens to be the location of his office. Kent is the third generation of Ebersolds working within their eponymous family business: Ebersold, Inc.

“This is the advertising, marketing, and print firm my grandfather [Fred] founded in 1932,” Kent explained, and it is currently operated out of the house adjacent to Ebersold Park. The original farmhouse was torn down by the Park District years ago, but the office is housed in the home Kent’s Uncle Ken and Aunt June built that still stands at 6040 Main St.

Kent loves living and working in the community and being able to see the park each day when he goes to the office. “Downers Grove is a special place, and we are proud that our name will carry on long after we are gone.”

Kent Ebersold’s grandparents, Fred and Marguerite, standing in their cornfield.
The pump house barn and farmhouse when looking east