Naperville activist shot in Chicago leaves legacy of 'togetherness'

Naperville activist Ronald Allen was all about family, playing cards and bringing people together to make the world a better place, his children and friends said Friday.

Allen, 73, was shot to death early Friday while he was driving in Chicago, authorities said.

He had been visiting friends, playing cards and "being his positive self," his son, Mark Allen of Aurora, said, before shots were fired in the direction of his vehicle on the 1300 block of North Laramie Avenue.

The Chicago Police Department's Area North Division is investigating the shooting that also caused Allen to crash into two parked cars before he was pronounced dead at the scene.

It was typical for Allen to visit Chicago's Austin neighborhood, where he still had deep ties from years of running an insurance agency, despite living in DuPage County since 1968.

"When you think of his legacy, it should be that of togetherness and reminding each other that we're more alike than we are different," his daughter, Vera Bass of Naperville, said. "He tried to bring people together."

As family members await answers on who shot Allen, they say they're not seeking vengeance.

"The only thing we want is what he wanted - just people to start loving each other," said his son, Keith Allen of Aurora.

Allen spent his retirement years active in the DuPage County Democratic Party, recently becoming vice president of a police/community relations improvement group called Unity Partnership.

Friends praised Allen's kind spirit and openhearted community-building, which they say helped him address hate and bigotry. Because of his efforts, Allen's death is especially tragic and "senseless," Naperville police Cmdr. Ken Parcel said.

Paul Scott of Bloomingdale said he met Allen through Unity Partnership and the DuPage County NAACP and was impressed by Allen's motivation to give back.

"His booming, authoritative, kind voice is ringing in my head right now," Scott said with a tear.

Regina Brent of Aurora, a fellow Democratic activist and president of Unity Partnership, said Allen helped the group introduce minority kids to police officers and build their interest in law enforcement careers to help diversify suburban police forces.

"Ron was so excited about seeing that take place," she said. "He was a trailblazer."

Parcel and Lisle police Chief Dave Anderson were among leaders who stopped by the house Allen shared with his wife of more than 50 years, Carol Jean Allen, on Friday morning to offer condolences.

Anderson said Allen was helping the DuPage Chiefs of Police Association develop best practices for town hall meetings that turn talk into action.

He also helped push for a Black History Month proclamation that the DuPage County Board gave earlier this year, Brent said.

Allen was a Naperville resident for about 10 years and was active in the DuPage County NAACP and the DuPage AME Church in Lisle. He most recently served as a member of the DuPage Diversity steering committee.

A Democratic precinct committeeman, he ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for Naperville Township trustee in 2013. Dianne McGuire, a spokeswoman for the Naperville Township Democrats, said Allen "brought to the organization his wit and his wisdom, facilitating appearances from local African-American law enforcement leaders and business owners. He was a gentleman in every sense of the word. His senseless and tragic death should challenge each of us to honor his legacy by helping to build greater understanding, peace and justice in this world."

A graduate of Chicago State University and a former business education teacher with the Chicago Public Schools, Allen joined Allstate Insurance Co. in 1967, becoming one of the company's first black claims adjusters. He later became one of the first black people promoted to Allstate agent.

The founder of A. Allen Insurance Ltd. in the Austin neighborhood in Chicago, he maintained an agency affiliation with Allstate for 42 years before his retirement in 2009.

In 2014, Allen became an author with the release of "The Evolution of Bid Whist: 150 Years in the Growth of an African American Tradition," a book his children say details his love for the game and its cultural significance.

He also was the co-host of "The Financial Forum" radio show, broadcast on WVON 1690-AM in Chicago, and served on numerous boards and committees, including the DuPage County Crime Stoppers board of directors, the Chicago State University alumni board, and the National African American Insurance Association board of directors.

In 2009, the Chicago Defender newspaper honored him with the "50 Men of Excellence Award."

His children said their father's influence can be seen in each of their lives - Keith as a lawyer and minister, Vera as an educator, and Mark as a Marine.

  Siblings Keith Allen, Mark Allen and Vera Bass come together at the house of their father, Ronald Allen of Naperville, after hearing of his shooting death early Friday while driving in Chicago. Bev Horne/
  Keith Allen gets a hug from Regina Brent outside the home of his late father, Ronald Allen of Naperville, who was shot to death while driving early Friday in Chicago. Bev Horne/
  Lisle police Chief Dave Anderson consoles Vera Bass, daughter of Ronald Allen of Naperville, after Allen's shooting death early Friday in Chicago. Also gathered at Allen's home were Allen's son Keith Allen and friend Fred Greenwood. Bev Horne/
Carol Jean Allen and family are mourning the death of Ronald Allen of Naperville, right, after he was shot while driving early Friday in Chicago. Ronald and Carol were married more than 50 years, their children say. Courtesy of Keith Allen
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