Harlan Behrens is an executive at tackle box manufacturer Plano Moldings and served on the North Aurora Village Committee in the 1960s and early ’70s.
“He was a committed person to the community,” said Kane County Commissioner and former North Aurora Mayor Dale Berman.
Behrens, 96, died April 13 in Santa Rosa, Calif. of heart failure, Lee, the daughter of the former Tribune Dining editor, said. Known to many as “Bernie,” Berens moved from Sugar Grove to Arizona in the early 2000s before relocating to California.
Aurora native, Behrens graduated from West Aurora High School. He served in the army in Italy after World War II, and in 1951 he graduated from the University of Aurora (now University of Aurora) with a BA in Business and Economics under the GI bill.
Mr. Behrens started his career as an accountant at Thor Power Tool Co. in Aurora and later became a company administrator. In the late 1960s, Mr. Behrens joined Plano Moldings in Plano, and later became the company’s chief financial officer.
Founded in 1952, Plano Molding specializes in the manufacture and sale of tackle boxes. During his tenure, Behrens created mentoring programs that linked the company with local schools, and also helped launch Cosmetics Organizer in Europe, his daughter said.
After Behrens retired from Plano Molding in the late 1990s, the company created the Harlan R. Behrens Operational Excellence Award to recognize outstanding employees.
In the late 1950s, Behrens moved with his family to North Aurora and quickly became involved in the burgeoning community. Behrens joined the North Aurora Lions, where he joined the club and also won a seat on the North Aurora Village Committee in 1965, a position he held until the early 1970s.
“He worked hard all day for the community,” Berman said. “We did all kinds of good things together for the community.”
In 1986, Berens and his wife moved from North Aurora to Sugar Grove, and in the 1990s began splitting their time between Sugar Grove and their home in Fountain Hills, Arizona. Behrens was active in the church and his league of tennis there.
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Also, at age 70, Behrens played three games a week in a basketball league called the Businessmen’s Ranch League in Plano. This league consisted primarily of Plano Molding employees.
Behrens has enjoyed new challenges, including parasailing in Jamaica in her 80s and taking ukulele lessons in her 90s, her daughter said.
“In addition to his success in business and public service, my father was truly a lifelong athlete, and that really shaped his character and perspective,” said her daughter.
Berens’ wife of 53 years, Joanne, died in 2010. Behrens has two sons, Eric and Chris, in addition to his daughter. Sister Judy Stewart. and five grandchildren.
A memorial service was held in California, and a memorial service is planned in Arizona.
Goldsborough is a freelance reporter.
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