The longtime guiding force behind the Naperville Sun is being remembered this week for his contributions to the newspaper and community over the past 40 years.
Tim West, 66, died Tuesday afternoon after a long battle with cancer.
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West joined the Sun in 1973 at the urging of owners Harold and Eva White, and he never left. He was an editor, reporter and columnist. His first "All Points West" column appeared on July 24, 1973.
He would have celebrated his 40th anniversary with the paper next month.
"Tim West was an icon. We'll never find anyone who even compares to him," Mayor George Pradel said Wednesday. "Tim was probably the most opinionated guy I knew, but he was his own man who would get information about a story and he would write it as he saw it. But he always had the facts right."
Former Sun managing editor and current North Central College spokesman Ted Slowik said West was a tough nut to crack. But once you did, you were better for it.
"You know, he had this really, really gruff exterior, almost like he didn't want anyone to know how nice he was. But he was the nicest guy," Slowik said. "Once you got to know him, he was really friendly and fun to talk to and fun to be around."
Kathy Millen worked with West at the Sun for 30 years. He was her first editor when she started in 1981. He later became her friend as well.
"He was the consummate journalist and truly loved the community he covered. He had a wonderful sense of humor, which was apparent in many of the columns he wrote," Millen said. "He wasn't afraid to tackle any issue, including the cancer he had courageously battled in recent years. He wrote and talked about his health problems frankly, but never complained."
Donna DeFalco, now the spokeswoman for Naper Settlement, was the Sun's education reporter from 2000 to 2004. She remembers getting goose bumps during her interview when she realized she would be working with West.
"Never has there been a more true professional and genuine writer," DeFalco said. "I don't think people realized how much he loved people because he tried to always come off as being so gruff. But he was really just a warm guy who I was privileged to work with."
West also was an avid reader of mystery novels and a big Rolling Stones fan. Just a few months ago, he gave Millen a list of his favorite mystery writers.
"I'll think of him every time I pick up one of their books," she said.
Stephanie Penick, a Daily Herald columnist and publisher of Positively Naperville, remembered West mostly from their time together at the Rotary Club of Naperville.
"He would tell you what a curmudgeon he was because he didn't want people to know he had a heart of gold," Penick said. "One day we're all going to look back at the last 40 years and we'll see that Tim West really did make Naperville a better place."
Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mike Evans said that is precisely why the chamber honored West with its lifetime achievement award last year.
"He never wavered from his own beliefs and ideas, whether that coincided with ours or not, and for that he was a trusted and respected individual not only professionally but personally," Evans said. "He encouraged us all to be open-minded and take pride in the information our newspapers provide us with and the people behind it that work so diligently to keep our community informed."
West is survived by his wife, Kathy, his sister, Sue, and numerous sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents and his father-in-law, Robert Fritsch.
Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Friedrich-Jones Funeral Home & Cremation Services, 44 S. Mill Street, Naperville,
Family and friends will gather at 9:45 a.m. Friday at Holy Spirit Catholic Church, 2003 Hassert Blvd., Naperville, for his funeral Mass. Interment will follow at the Ss. Peter & Paul Cemetery in Naperville.