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Article posted: 12/28/2012 6:00 AM

Remembering Lake County residents who died this year


Several well-known Lake County residents died in 2012, leaving behind impressive accomplishments and years of service as their legacy.

The list includes politicians, philanthropists, historians and even a newspaper reporter, each of whom had a lasting influence on communities across the county.

Harold Banser

In becoming Stevenson High School's first superintendent in 1965, Harold Banser overcame a host of obstacles to get the new school off the ground.

And, during 11 years in the job, he created the foundation for what is now recognized as one of the nation's top schools.

Banser, 84, died Sept. 22 in downstate Peru.

The campus was built as part of the Ela-Vernon High School District, but Lake Zurich-area residents seceded and formed Lake Zurich District 95 that summer. That left what was to be Ela-Vernon East High unfinished and without a school board, administrators or teachers, months before it was to open.

Banser was hired to lead the school, which opened in fall 1965 without running water and some classrooms without desks.

He handled those early obstacles "remarkably well," recalled former Stevenson teacher Dave Hanson said.

Banser was responsible for some unusual initiatives, including oral exams for graduating seniors and a four-day school week that featured 72-minute class periods, Hanson said.

Helen Casey

Helen Morse Casey was known to be so full of vigor, that at the age of 90, she could be seen driving a tractor on a steep slope on her Libertyville-area property.

One of the most prominent land owners in Libertyville Township, Casey died July 8, in Bartow, Fla. She was 100.

She was described by family and friends as a strong woman, who was known for her sharp mind, and a great sense of humor.

Casey was born in St. Joseph, Mich. in 1911, before moving to Chicago where she met her husband, Adkins Burnel Casey, while working at the Northern Trust Company in Chicago.

They married in 1944 and moved to Libertyville Township, where they owned more than 200 acres.

Ruth Paul Caudle

Vernon Hills resident Ruth Paul Caudle was known throughout the community for her work in Haiti where she ran a school that was severely damaged during the earthquake. She was 39 when she died of cancer on Feb. 24.

Friends and family members said Caudle touched many lives and was considered an inspiration.

"With my wife, Christ was her center and her example. The legacy she wanted to leave our kids is we live our lives to help other people," said her husband, Brian.

And that meant giving with no expectations, be it paying for surgery for a fellow cancer patient or raising funds to buy a new vehicle for a friend who had to shuttle kids in a battered van with a broken window.

But the focus of the woman who raised $20,000 to build a school near her hometown in Haiti and tens of thousands more to reduce poverty, improve education and other causes, always was on children.

Douglas Challos

Friends say former Hawthorn Woods Mayor Douglas Challos was a kind man with a heart of gold who entered politics because he wanted to serve the community.

Challos was 69 when he died May 25. In addition to serving as mayor from 1991 to 1995, he was a Navy commander.

Vernon Hills Assistant Village Manager John Kalmar, who was Hawthorn Woods' top administrator when Challos was mayor, remembered him as a man with a big heart.

Challos was elected as a trustee in 1989 and appointed acting mayor in 1991. He was elected to a four-year term in 1993, but stepped down in April 1995 amid a dispute over the village's role in the proposal to extend Route 53 into Lake County.

Cathy Curran

PADS Lake County Executive Director Cathy Curran was remembered as a compassionate woman dedicated to helping the homeless.

"She did it because she wanted to help people," PADS board member Randy Rossi said. "And there's not many people left like that these days."

Curran, 61, of Highland Park, died Oct. 24. She had been at PADS since 2002.

With seasonal, temporary centers throughout Lake County, PADS provides overnight shelter and other services for homeless people and families.

Robert J. Devery

Longtime municipal engineer Robert J. Devery was a key contributor to Wauconda's growth, family and friends said.

He died May 2 after a bout with kidney cancer. He was 60.

Devery owned Devery Engineering Inc., his consulting firm for 31 years, and served as Wauconda's village engineer for more than 14 years.

Wauconda officials said Devery was the driving force behind many of the village's capital infrastructure projects, including multiple road improvements, an expansion of the wastewater treatment plant and finding ways to bring Lake Michigan water to the village.

Tony Gordon

During his long career as a reporter in Lake County, the Daily Herald's Tony Gordon was a fixture at the courthouse in Waukegan, where he covered some of the 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, and 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.

"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."

Gordon, of Wildwood, died July 6 of lung cancer. He was 60.

In 2000, he was part of the Daily Herald team that produced the series "Driving Drunk Again and Again," which earned the Peter Lisagor Award for public service for exposing the dangers of repeat drunken drivers.

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.

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.

Nathaniel Hamilton

Gurnee resident Nathaniel Hamilton lived a life of service that included the Navy and public education, but he was best known for founding the nationally renowned Angel Drill Team.

Hamilton died March 13 after a lengthy illness, friends said.

Donna Dallas, an administrative assistant and deputy clerk for the village of Gurnee, said Hamilton was a disciplinarian who instilled punctuality, respect for authority, self-esteem and determination in Angel Drill Team members. Dallas was on Hamilton's first squad in 1967.

"The chief was like a mentor and a friend," she said, "and a lot of what I am today, I owe to the chief."

A retired Navy senior chief and drill instructor, Hamilton ended the Lake County group after 44 years in September 2011. Angel Drill Team was the only all-girl synchronized rifle tossing and twirling marching champion in the United States.

Hamilton, who also had a career as a teacher and administrator at two Lake County school districts, led Angel Drill Team to 23 national championships and four international titles, along with more than 700 trophies and citations.

In his 20-year naval career, Hamilton was sent to the Vietnam War five times. He was on a recovery force that picked up astronaut John Glenn after he became the first American to orbit Earth in 1962.

Two years after he came to Great Lakes Naval Station in 1965, Hamilton started the Angel Drill Team. More than 2,000 Lake County girls were Angels during the group's 44 years.

Charles Hendricks

Charles R. Hendricks Sr. served a decade on the Buffalo Grove Village Board and was known as a "quiet giant."

"He was the sort of person who never complained," said friend John Green, who noted Hendricks' physical ailments such as the cancer that led him to leave the village board in 2001.

"He listened a lot and thought a lot," added Green, who knew Hendricks through the Buffalo Grove Rotary Club, of which he was past president. "He liked to use his mind instead of depending on technology. When he was a village trustee, he was slow to adapt to carrying his own computer and wanted to hear what people had to say and wanted to hear the whole dialogue before he made his mind up."

Hendricks died Jan. 20. He was 71.

Bob Irwin

Longtime Fox Lake resident Bob Irwin was remembered for his love of family and community involvement.

Irwin, who died Feb. 19 at the age of 80, was involved in politics in Fox Lake, Grant Township and with the Lake County Republicans. He served about 20 years on Fox Lake's zoning board and was known to attend a variety of community events.

His wife, former Fox Lake Mayor Cindy Irwin, said she wasn't even registered to vote until she met her husband. "He got me into politics, absolutely," she said.

Spencer Loomis

Spencer Loomis made the most of his 90 years.

The former Lake Zurich teacher, author, historian and philanthropist who died April 21 of congestive heart failure, was remembered as a loving father and husband who touched the lives of hundreds of friends, students and family members.

"He truly lived life to the fullest," daughter Peggy Loomis Spencer said. "He opened the world to my mother, my sister Nancy and me."

Loomis spent 33 years as a teacher and administrator at May Whitney Elementary School. In 2003, he was honored for his contributions to the local school system when Spencer Loomis Elementary School in Hawthorn Woods was dedicated.

He participated in a multitude of service organizations including the Lions Club, Meals on Wheels and PADS.

Loomis also fulfilled his passion as a historian, serving as president of the Ela Historical Society and authoring five books, including "A Pictorial History of Ela Township."

Jose M. Martinez

Jose M. Martinez, a longtime Ela Township highway commissioner, was remembered as a dedicated worker, father and husband.

He died in Rice Lake, Wis., April 12 after a long battle with leukemia. He was 69.

Born in Alice, Texas in 1942, Martinez came to Lake Zurich to work around 1958. He raised a family and ingrained himself in the community, where just about everyone knew him as "Joe."

He served Ela Township for 32 years, including 14 as highway commissioner until his retirement in 2001.

"He was a fantastic, all-around good man," said Ela Township Clerk Bill Donnan said.

Nancy Pesz

During her 20 years on the Wauconda Unit District 118 school board, Nancy J. Pesz had a passion for what happened in the classroom.

Pesz, a resident of Island Lake for 58 years, died June 15. She was 76.

She and her late husband, Joe, ran a landscaping firm for many years and she used that business expertise as a school board member, Superintendent Daniel J. Coles said. She served five elected terms from 1983 to 2003 and was a longtime district liaison to the Illinois Association of School Boards.

Current board member Tom Weber was a running mate with Pesz in 1995 and described her as an "excellent mentor" for a new school board member.

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