ROCKFORD, Ill. — Without much fanfare, Jody Deery stepped away last Saturday from her active role as president and CEO of Rockford Speedway.
During the evening of the weekly racing card at the quarter-mile paved oval, Deery took a ride in the pace car around the speedway as fans and competitors, who came from the pits, cheered her as she held the checkered flag outside the passenger window.
At age 95, Deery has been experiencing some health issues but until recently was at the speedway office every day and tending to business on race days.
“She is going to retire from her day-to-day activities in the office,” her son, David Deery, said. “She will still be at the races, mostly on weekend events.”
Jody Derry took over the reins of the speedway after her husband, Hugh, passed away unexpectedly in July of 1984. Her operating of the raceway earned her Racing Promotion Monthly Auto Racing Promoter of the Year honors in 1994.
Hugh Derry bought an interest in the speedway in 1959 and became sole owner in 1967. Hugh Deery became a respected and innovative race promoter, gathering various laurels during his promoting career including twice being named promoter of the year by RPM. Jody Deery and the couple’s eight children helped in the success of the speedway.
After her husband’s death and some 20 years of racing promoting experience, Jody Deery commented in 2007, “I felt like I was one of the first women promoters. I felt like a pioneer. The one thing that stands out for me is that when we were racing back in those days, women were not allowed in the pits. And if they did go into the pits they camouflaged as boys. They put their hair under their cap and wore men’s clothing.
“Hugh’s idea of entertaining came from his love of the circus. He loved the circus and anything he thought he could put from the circus into the race track, he would. We also had grocery cart races and bowling contests on the track. Those were some of the unique things we did.”
Jody Deery turns 96 in November.