Veteran Daily Herald reporter Tony Gordon succumbed to lung cancer Monday, his wife at his side.
Gordon, 60, of Wildwood, had covered Lake County courts for the Daily Herald for 18 years. He was a fixture in the Waukegan courthouse, and when he was diagnosed with cancer in February he was inundated with support and prayers and words of encouragement from judges, defense attorneys, prosecutors and police officers.
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"I have never met a finer gentleman," Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Jeff Pavletic said. "He was fair, honest, intelligent and had the highest degree of integrity."
During his time on the legal affairs beat, Gordon covered some of Lake County's most notorious criminal cases.
His bylines appeared above stories about Juan Rivera's three convictions for the 1992 murder of 11-year-old Holly Staker in Waukegan, as well as pieces about Rivera's eventual exoneration.
Gordon also documented William Rouse's 1996 confession and subsequent conviction for the 1980 murders of his parents at their Libertyville-area home.
He was featured in the 2008 Court TV documentary "House of Secrets" on the Rouse murders.
Gordon also wrote about the 2008 prosecution of Peter Hommerson, who fled to Mexico after murdering Marvin and Kay Lichtman in their Barrington Hills mansion, and the wrongful arrest of Jerry Hobbs following the murder of his daughter and her friend in Zion in 2005.
But Gordon wrote about much more than murders.
In 2000, he was part of the Daily Herald team that produced the series "Driving Drunk Again and Again," which was awarded the Peter Lisagor Award for public service for exposing the dangers of repeat drunken drivers.
Gordon was committed to writing about justice. He attended numerous law enforcement training programs, including courses on investigations of murders, drug crimes, auto theft and arson.
In April, Gordon received a Liberty Bell Award from the Lake County Bar Association for contributing to the greater understanding of the legal system.
"Tony was a selfless and dedicated journalist," Daily Herald Editor John Lampinen said. "He took his obligations as a reporter seriously. He was honest, straightforward and caring. Those of us who worked with him loved him and we'll miss him greatly."
Waukegan defense attorney Elliot Pinsel called Gordon a throwback to journalists long gone, a writer who cut through the fluff to give readers the true story.
"He was an old-school guy who told readers the way it was," Pinsel said. "He was the complete class act. He was accurate, timely and told it like it was. Because of it, he had the respect of everyone around him."
That included Lake County sheriff's police Chief Wayne Hunter, who recalled the year Gordon spent accompanying the Metropolitan Enforcement Group on drug busts in the 1980s after crack cocaine found its way into the suburbs.
"Tony was an embedded reporter before I ever heard the term," Hunter said. "He was fearless. He went on every search warrant, every buy-bust. He was there for every open-air market take down.
"We always offered Tony a relatively safe vantage point," Hunter continued. "It was an offer he always politely declined."
If Round Lake Park Police Chief George Filenko saw the door of the small press office on the first floor of the courthouse was open and Gordon was inside, he'd stop to chat. Gordon was trustworthy and knowledgeable, and he stood up for what was right, Filenko said.
"Tony reported it the way it was," Filenko said.
A graduate of Stevenson High School and Southern Illinois University, Gordon worked at the Evansville Press in Evansville, Ind., from 1983 to 1985. He joined the staff of what was then the Waukegan News-Sun in 1985, working there for two years before jumping briefly to the Pioneer Press chain of weekly newspapers in March 1987.
Gordon rejoined the News-Sun later that year and remained there until he was hired by the Daily Herald in 1994.
Pete Nenni, the Daily Herald's Lake County editor and manager, described Gordon as a "hard-nosed newsman who embraced his role in being the readers' eyes and ears in the courthouse with vigor."
"He was fearless in telling the truth about what was happening in court or at a crime scene," Nenni said. "He was detailed about being accurate in his reporting and writing. He strove to explain why something happened and how it was important. Even more than that, Tony Gordon was a good man."
Gordon's widow, Carolyn, is a former Daily Herald reporter who now works for the Lake County Health Department. She was with him when he died about 4:10 a.m., said Gordon's brother-in-law, Ed Kipp.
To Lake County Chief Judge Victoria Rossetti, Gordon was a reporter who wrote about more than crime and criminals.
"He covered the achievements of the people who work in the 19th judicial circuit," Rossetti said. "He was accurate, he was honest, he was fair and (he was) courageous in how he gathered and reported the news. And, above all else, he could tell a decent joke."
Gordon's dry wit and sense of humor were well known by people at the courthouse. He may have saved that side of his personality for work, however.
"He was totally different at home," Kipp said. "He would be so funny at the courthouse, but then Carolyn would come up to me and say, 'I don't get it. I just don't see it.'"
Gordon also was an avid NASCAR fan who planned vacations around big races.
Visitation is scheduled for 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Kristan Funeral Home, 219 W. Maple Ave., Mundelein.
Mass will be said at 10 a.m. Friday at Santa Maria del Popolo Church's Chapel on N. Lake Street in Mundelein.
Interment will be Saturday in downstate Paris.
In addition to his wife, Gordon's survivors include a brother and two sisters.
Flowers or memorials can be sent to the American Cancer Society, 100 Tri-State International Parkway, Lincolnshire, Ill., 60069.
Daily Herald staff writer Lee Filas contributed to this report.