Robert Kudlicki liked politics, but he wasn't a politician, his eldest son said.
Although the Hampshire resident's public service career included two terms as Hampshire's village president and two others on the Kane County Board, he was also known as an entrepreneur who owned a dry cleaning business and a men's store in Hampshire.
Kudlicki died Monday morning at his Hampshire home after a brief illness. He was a week shy of turning 84, his son Bob said.
"My dad always had ... a really good respect for a person regardless of their political affiliation," his son said. "You may be political foes, but you're not political enemies."
Kudlicki, a Republican, served as Hampshire's village president from 1976 through 1984 and was responsible for ushering in a computer system that handled utility bills.
When he was elected to the county board in 2004, Kudlicki never forgot where he came from, county board Chairman Karen McConnaughay said.
He was passionate about open space and helped secure property for the county in Hampshire, Pingree Grove and Burlington.
"He had a very strong understanding of what was important to his constituency in Hampshire, as well as the unincorporated areas," said McConnaughay, who knew him for 20 years. "He really exemplified what a public servant is supposed to be about."
Kudlicki was born in Michigan and relocated to Chicago. He graduated from Lane Technical High School in Chicago and joined the Marines in 1946, forging his father's signature so he could serve at the age of 17, his son said. He was called back to the service during the Korean War, where he was responsible for drafting secret maps to be used during the conflict. He was honorably discharged both times as a staff sergeant, his son said.
After the war, Kudlicki met and married his wife, Theresa.
They settled in Pingree Grove and later moved to Hampshire. He took a job as a printer at Hampshire Printing and later he moved on to the Hampshire Register newspaper to work as a typesetter.
In 1959, he left the paper to open his own Illinois Cleaners franchise in Hampshire -- the business is now called Marberry Cleaners. Ten years later, he became the proprietor for the Village Toggery, a men's clothing store in town. Both businesses remain open.
Kudlicki remained active in his community and was involved with the Hampshire Lions Club, the Hampshire American Legion and the Elgin Marine Corps League Detachment.
In his free time, Kudlicki loved fishing and gardening.
Michael Kenyon, a Kane County Board member in the 16th District, said Kudlicki loved to share his crops and usually brought extra tomatoes to share with fellow board members.
Kudlicki was a quiet man who never sought the limelight and only wanted to get things done, his friends say.
When he became sick recently, he was most worried about his wife, Theresa, Kenyon said. "His biggest regret is not being able to take care of his wife."
Funeral services are pending at Fredrick Funeral Home in Hampshire.