One of the Alexian Brothers, who served more than 25 years at Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village and held the longest continuing tenure of any brother in the hospital's history, died Monday.
Brother Valentino Bianco had suffered a stroke last year and left the hospital, which bears his imprint. He passed away at a skilled nursing facility run by the Alexian Brothers in St. Louis. He was 89.
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John Werrbach, president and CEO of Alexian Brothers Medical Center, announced his passing to hospital employees on Monday, pointing to Valentino's many accomplishments, both as a registered nurse and administrator, as well as a designer.
"Brother Val defined what our ambience was," Werrbach said. "He transformed the appearance of many sections of Alexian Brothers, bringing a sense of light and healing to the hospital."
Valentino grew up in a large family in Conneaut, Ohio. When he entered the Alexian Brothers, he was the youngest postulant ever accepted, hospital officials say.
He attended the Alexian Brothers' School of Nursing, and spent the first part of his career as a nurse, setting up the traction, central sterile supply, and orthopedic departments at Alexian Brothers hospitals in St. Louis, San Jose and Elizabeth, N.J.
By the early 1970s, the religious community recognized his artistic talent, and energy, and he was awarded responsibility for the interior design for Alexian Brothers facilities across the nation.
At each one, he personally selected paint colors, art work and religious icons, but he also created some of their iconic symbols from his art studio, located in the lower level of Alexian Brothers Medical Center.
Colleagues point to the "Modern Samaritan" stained-glass window at Alexian Rehabilitation Hospital in Elk Grove Village and the stained-glass windows at St. Alexius Medical Center as some of his work.
His last project, the Heritage Wall that remains on display at Alexian Brothers Medical Center, and was inspired by Valentino's drawings, tells of the 800-year history of the religious congregation in the United States.
His designs also drove the artistic side of the Alexian Brothers' charity ball -- including its invitation, flowers and specialty dessert -- that began in 1987 and over the years has raised more than $6 million for Alexian Brothers' critical programs.
"That was his passion, designing the theme each year," says Joan Scheffler, assistant vice president for the Alexian Brothers Foundation. "He'd start planning the next year's one, even before the ball took place. That's how much he loved it."
At the 25th annual ball, which took place on Navy Pier and drew more than 700 guests, organizers honored Valentino for his contributions to the success of the event, which over the years has featured such entertainers as Bob Hope and Jay Leno.
Guests gave Valentino a standing ovation, Scheffler says, but it's the quiet side of the religious brother that will remain his legacy.
"He was never too busy to visit a patient," Scheffler says. "He had such a caring way, offering words and comfort at the bed side that really touched people."
Werrbach concurs, adding that his loss was felt across the health care system.
"He started every day at dawn and could be seen throughout the facility well into the evening, seven days a week," Werrbach said. "His gifts to us will forever be remembered and cherished."
Services are pending.