Family, friends and colleagues are remembering Roger Marquardt as a wonderful man with an uncanny ability to connect with people.
Marquardt, a Lombard native and longtime community resident, spent the final decades of his incredibly active life as a lobbyist in Springfield after founding Roger C. Marquardt & Co., an independent lobbyist and consulting firm. He died May 9 at the age of 75 without ever really retiring.
His oldest son, Scott Marquardt, said one of the major lessons he learned from his father was to treat everybody with respect, a practice his dad never veered away from in his work as a police officer, real estate agent, CEO, state official, state representative or lobbyist.
"I'm lucky because he was not only a father but a mentor, a partner and one of my best friends," Marquardt said.
Scott Marquardt said his grandfather slowed down a lot when he retired, a move Roger Marquardt swore never to do -- and in the end, didn't.
Roger Marquardt started his career with the Lombard Police Department, eventually working up to the rank of deputy chief. He left the force to get a real estate license and start his own firm. Then in 1981 he made another career switch, becoming CEO of the DuPage Airport Authority.
State Sen. John Millner of Carol Stream was Elmhurst's police chief when met Marquardt during his tenure with the Airport Authority. Now Millner, from his office at the airport, has a firsthand look at Marquardt's legacy.
"It is just run like a well-oiled machine," Millner said of the airport. "And it started that way with Roger."
Millner called Marquardt a visionary. As CEO he turned the airport into a regional hub and did it with the community's best interests in mind, buying substantial acreage in the main flight path to avoid inconveniencing future homeowners with the noise of air traffic.
Scott Marquardt said his father's work at the airport spawned an interest in transportation and aviation that he carried into the next phase of his life when he became the director of Illinois Department of Transportation's Division of Aeronautics. He later served as the assistant to the secretary of IDOT.
Marquardt always had an interest in politics and did his first campaign work for former state Sen. James "Pate" Philip. His lobbying work in Springfield began in 1992 and continued until he was appointed to fill the vacant 42nd District state House seat 10 years later.
Scott Marquardt said his father initially planned retire after a year in the House, but he made such strong relationships with other representatives in those 12 months he couldn't turn down a return to his lobbying practice.
The week he died Marquardt was lobbying in Springfield. Cardiac arrest took his life but allowed him to die before ever slowing down -- what his family said he would have wanted.
Millner remembered his longtime friend as larger-than-life -- the type of person you felt good after talking to.
"It didn't matter what you did or who you were," Millner said. "At the Capitol, the secretaries loved him as much as the legislators."
Through all his work across the region, Marquardt loved his hometown most -- he was the fourth generation in his family to live in Lombard. His contribution to various boards of hospitals, banks and civic organizations earned him a reputation for service and loyalty that prompted the village board to name Dec. 10 Roger C. Marquardt Day.
Visitation for Marquardt will be held from 3 to 9 p.m. May 18 at Grace Lutheran Church, 493 Forest Ave., in Glen Ellyn. A funeral service is set for 11 a.m. May 19 at the church with burial at Lombard Cemetery.