An elderly Elmhurst man apparently struggling with his health and his ability to care for an ailing wife and developmentally disabled adult children fatally shot all three family members Saturday before turning the gun on himself, authorities said.
The bodies of Francis Stack, 82, Joan Stack, 82, Francis Stack, Jr., 48, and Mary Stack, 57, were found about 6:45 p.m. Saturday by Elmhurst police officers on a well-being check at the home on the 600 block of Chatham Avenue. According to a statement from DuPage County Coroner's office, Francis Stack, Sr., shot the three family members in the head before doing the same to himself.
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Francis Sr. and Joan Stack had lived in the small, white home since the 1960s, according to neighbors. Francis, who was known as Frank, was a retired power company lineman. Francis Jr. and Mary, two of the couple's four children, were severely developmentally disabled and needed significant assistance, neighbors said.
Neighbors described the elder Stacks as loving parents who worked hard to care for their son and daughter, while more recently battling their own health difficulties.
"It was a very difficult situation," said neighbor Al Watson.
Next-door neighbor Peter Sterchele said Joan Stack had been suffering from cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.
"They were very great people. They were very humble. They were quiet, but not overly quiet. They were nice. I couldn't ask for a better neighbor," Sterchele said.
DuPage County court records show that Frank and Joan filed petitions in 1990 to have Francis Jr. and Mary declared legally disabled. Subsequent reports indicate that Francis Jr. was unable to speak and was on medication to prevent seizures.
"He can walk but needs assistance in all other tasks, such as personal hygiene and dressing," according to a later report to the court.
A 1992 guardianship report for Mary Stack states she is "unable to communicate verbally." A later report indicates she was able to walk and feed herself, but "but needs help in all other areas of living."
Later reports indicate Francis Jr. spent time living at a Ray Graham Association residence in Addison and Villa Park, while his sister lived at Ray Graham residences in Woodridge and Addison. The most recent filings indicate both spent weekends and holidays at their parents' home in Elmhurst.
At the home Sunday, a neighbor placed flowers outside the front walk while Greg Zanis of Aurora erected four white, wooden crosses, each bearing the name of one of the dead family members. A sign above a front window read "God Bless This House."
Neighbor Daniel Perez said he recalls seeing the Stacks' two disabled children in the backyard.
"They were basically very impaired," he said. "They needed quite a lot of help, for sure."
A Christmas card sent by the Stacks last year noted the couple were in poor health and would not be seen around the neighborhood as often, he said.
"I feel really bad," Perez said. "I wish we could have done more for them, or show some act of kindness."
Perez' wife, Adriana Perez, said the Stacks quickly accepted her family when they first moved to the neighborhood.
"They were the first family to have sent us a really nice card welcoming us into the neighborhood. They were just the most giving people that I think anyone could meet," she said.
Others described Frank Stack as a neighborhood fixture who always was quick to offer help to anyone who needed it.
Jane Bock, 89, who lived across the street from the Stacks, said Frank even saved her life 10 years ago. Bock said that on that day in 2004, her daughter called her twice without receiving a response. Finally, she called Stack, who had a key to Bock's house, and he found her laid out on a sofa and unresponsive.
When emergency responders arrived, they said she had two hours to live and rushed her to the hospital, Bock said. She was in a coma for three days, having had a reaction to medication for a bladder infection, but she eventually pulled out of it.
"If it weren't for Frank, I wouldn't be living today," Bock said.
The effort of caring for their children left the elder Stacks time for little else, Bock said.
"They were so good to those kids for all those years," she said.
Next-door neighbor Sterchele said Frank, who had been losing his mobility recently, once remarked that he didn't believe anyone could take care of his children as well as he did.
"A few months back, he said, 'Wouldn't it be nice if we could all just go together?'" Sterchele said.