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updated: 12/27/2012 2:35 PM

Remembering the lives of residents who died in 2012 in the Fox Valley

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  • Cpl. Alex Martinez and his wife. Martinez, of Elgin, was killed in Afghanistan in April.

      Cpl. Alex Martinez and his wife. Martinez, of Elgin, was killed in Afghanistan in April.

  • The senior-year high school portrait of Christopher Patterson of North Aurora.

      The senior-year high school portrait of Christopher Patterson of North Aurora.

  • Bob and Mary Patterson, flanked by sons Carl, left, and Thomas pay their respects as the casket of their son, Spc. Christopher A. Patterson, is placed outside Immanuel Lutheran Church for full military honors at his funeral in Batavia in January. Patterson was killed in Afghanistan.

       Bob and Mary Patterson, flanked by sons Carl, left, and Thomas pay their respects as the casket of their son, Spc. Christopher A. Patterson, is placed outside Immanuel Lutheran Church for full military honors at his funeral in Batavia in January. Patterson was killed in Afghanistan.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Former Geneva alderman Paul DesCoteaux

      Former Geneva alderman Paul DesCoteaux

  • Huntley Fire Captain John C. Winkelman

      Huntley Fire Captain John C. Winkelman

  • Kane County Board member Robert Kudlicki

      Kane County Board member Robert Kudlicki

  • This undated photo provided by the Larimer family shows John Larimer, a Navy sailor, who was killed in the Colorado movie theater shooting in July.

      This undated photo provided by the Larimer family shows John Larimer, a Navy sailor, who was killed in the Colorado movie theater shooting in July.
    AP Photo

  • Kane County Coroner Charles H. West

      Kane County Coroner Charles H. West

  • Teacher Mary Bencini works with a student on a Valentine's Day letter during class on Friday at Western Avenue Elementary School in Geneva.

       Teacher Mary Bencini works with a student on a Valentine's Day letter during class on Friday at Western Avenue Elementary School in Geneva.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer, 2008

  • Merritt King of Geneva with the French Legion of Honor medal, which was bestowed on him in 2009. He landed with the Allies on Omaha Beach in the third day of the famous 1944 invasion.

      Merritt King of Geneva with the French Legion of Honor medal, which was bestowed on him in 2009. He landed with the Allies on Omaha Beach in the third day of the famous 1944 invasion.
    Photo courtesy of the Geneva History Center

 
 

We mark the notable deaths of several people throughout the Fox Valley in 2012.

Some we remember for their lives spent trying to improve the world; others, due to tragic circumstances.

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Spc. Christopher Patterson: Residents of Batavia, North Aurora and Aurora mourned the January death of Spc. Christopher Patterson of North Aurora, 20.

The Indiana National Guard member was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. Illinois Gov. Patrick Quinn and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels lauded Patterson's devotion to service at his funeral. The 2009 West Aurora graduate, who was a music-education student at Valparaiso University, could have postponed his tour of duty in Afghanistan until after graduating college, but wanted to serve with his comrades in the 713th Engineering Company.

Marine Cpl. Alex Martinez: A loving husband, son, brother, cousin and uncle with an infectious laugh and a passion for Tapatio hot sauce. A role model to his fellow Marines, a true hero devoted to a life of service.

That's how Marine Cpl. Alex Martinez was remembered in April at his funeral, attended by more than 400 people including the governor and about 50 servicemen and servicewomen. The 21-year-old Elginite died April 5 during combat operations in Afghanistan.

His older sister Jenny Martinez, of Palatine, said Martinez always viewed life as something that should be enjoyed.

"He was always a protector, and that's why he proudly joined the Marines," she said.

Quinn said "From the day he was born, he was trying to help others. He was a person who understood that helping others is the essence of being a human being on this earth," Quinn said.

Merritt King: Merritt King of Geneva died in January, at age 93.

"I just can't imagine Geneva without Merritt King," said Terry Emma, director of the Geneva History Center. "Geneva was Merritt, and Merritt was Geneva."

King moved here when he was 8. He was a decorated World War II veteran, with a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, and received the Legion of Honor medal from the French government. He served 32 years on the Geneva City Council, was president of the American Legion, and was historian emeritus of the Geneva History Center.

Chuck West: Kane County Coroner Chuck West died July 4. The last few years of his life were spent battling criminal charges of official misconduct. It was charged that he allowed a television set to be stolen out of the home of a dead Carpentersville man. West had been coroner since 2000.

Robert Kudlicki: Robert Kudlicki loved politics, but didn't consider himself a politician.

While the Hampshire resident's public-service record included two terms as village president and two others on the Kane County Board, he was also known as an entrepreneur who owned Marberry Cleaners and Village Toggery, a men's clothing store, in Hampshire. He died, at age 83, in October. The Republican was president from 1976 through 1984, and on the county board from 2004 to 2012.

John Larimer: Crystal Lake South High School graduate John Larimer was among the 12 victims of the Aurora, Colo., theater shooting July 20. Larimer, 27, was a petty officer in the Navy. known for his unassuming nature and his strong sense of social justice.

"Here was a young man who was gifted in so many ways. A young man who did believe he was accountable for his community and society and he needed to apply his gifts to a greater cause," said Ben Stoner, Crystal Lake South High School English teacher and theater director.

Larimer's commanding officer, Cmdr. Jeffrey Jakubowski, described Larimer -- a cryptologic technician specializing in collection, processing and analysis of communication signals -- as an "outstanding shipmate, a valued member of our Navy team, and an extremely dedicated sailor."

Other sailors, he said, were drawn to Larimer's "calming demeanor and outstanding work ethic."

Mary Bencini: Genevans were shocked at the April death of Mary Bencini, 63. Bencini, a retired Geneva schoolteacher, suffered a heart attack while driving through downtown Geneva.

She was known for volunteering for many things, including the Geneva Cultural Arts Commission and the Geneva Academic Foundation. She won the Wood Community Service Award. She worked on the effort to get a grant to pay for preservation work on the Viking replica ship at Good Templar Park.

"Any time anything needed to be done, she did it. She did all the stuff no one else wanted to do. There was no Geneva project too big or too small for Mary," said her friend and neighbor, Kathy Klees.

James Hughes: James Hughes, founder of the Wiseman-Hughes real-estate development company, died in November at age 91.

The Elburn man's firm built an estimated 35,000 houses in the South and Western suburbs.

Paul DesCoteaux: Former Geneva alderman Paul DesCoteaux died in December at age 83. He served 20 years on the council, stepping down in 2009.

He was passionate about avoiding waste in government, routinely voting "no" on no-bid contracts. But he also was passionate about keeping Geneva beautiful, including working with the Geneva Beautification Commission, which plants and maintains flower beds throughout the downtown.

John Winkelman: Huntley Fire Capt. John "Winky" Winkelman was killed in Crystal Lake in April while riding his motorcycle home after a fire department meeting.

Winkelman, 54, of Marengo, was remembered as the quintessential man next door who could never sit still, who loved his job, mentored younger firefighters and groomed the firehouse cat with his own comb.

Tony White: Tony White grew up as the impoverished child of Italian immigrants and made himself into a prominent business owner in Elgin's once-thriving downtown, never forgetting his roots or losing his compassion for others in need. White died Feb. 10 at 95, ending a long life that included 20 years as owner of Tony White Shoe Stores.

White, a devoted Catholic, helped found St. Thomas More Catholic Church in 1959 to provide a place of worship on Elgin's west side. He owned apartment buildings and spent much of his 30 years in retirement doing maintenance work. White never stopped giving his money to those in need, writing dozens of checks each month to charities. He also made weekly trips to a nursing home to shave some of the older men and keep them company.

Sheri Buttstadt: The Elgin community lost a fighter when Sheryl "Sheri" Buttstadt died of cancer Sept. 17 at age 59.

Buttstadt moved to Elgin in 1986 with her husband, Randy, and two sons at a time when the city didn't have its own code department and neighborhood groups were rare. She worked tirelessly to research how other cities enforced code violations and pushed Elgin officials to create a full-time department. In the meantime, she supported the founding of neighborhood associations and later the Elgin Community Network, which brought the individual groups under a larger umbrella.

While her passion sometimes put Buttstadt at odds with officials or other members of the community, she never backed down from the fight. She led the charge for improvements at Lords Park Zoo, organizing volunteers to restore the old fountain and area around the pavilion. Buttstadt wrote a community column for the Daily Herald in the late 1990s, served on the city's zoning commission and volunteered during the Fox Trot and the Gifford Park House Tour.

"Whatever she could do to help make it a safer city and a better city for our family, that's what she was trying to accomplish," Randy Buttstadt said of his wife.

"She might have been a stay-at-home mom, but she didn't stay at home."

Tracy Hill: The property-management industry lost a pioneer in Tracy Hill, who died at age 68.

Hill grew up working in his father's company, Kimball Hill Homes, learning first how to do construction labor. Hill split from his father's company to found Property Specialists Inc. in 1975; it grew to 60 employees, working in 250 communities today. Hill was inducted into the Home Builders National Hall of Fame.

Ronald Rhoades: Ronald Rhoades was the first principal of Dundee Highlands Elementary School in West Dundee when it opened in 1964 and he stayed until he retired in 1982. The longtime East Dundee man died Nov. 26 at 88.

Rhoades spent 31 years in District 300, first as a teacher. His entire career was in elementary education, where he made an impression on people as a kind, yet firm, leader who always listened to and supported the teachers he worked with. Rhoades also took on leadership roles in the Dundee Lions Club, where he was a member for almost six decades, and Bethlehem Lutheran Church in West Dundee, where he served for many years as a church elder.

Samuel Sublett Jr.: Samuel Sublett Jr., 84, of St. Charles, was the longtime leader of the Illinois Youth Center in St. Charles, a correctional facility for juvenile offenders.

Sublett was known for helping author many of the standards for the operation of both juvenile and adults correctional institutions across the country.

Mathew Shane Huffman: Mathew Shane Huffman, 20, was an assistant coach to the St. Charles East/North High School combined junior varsity lacrosse team. Huffman died in August after suffering head trauma from a skateboarding accident.

• Daily Herald staff writers Lenore Adkins, Elena Ferrarin, Harry Hitzeman and Tara Garcia Mathewson contributed to this report.

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