Longtime contributors Northwest suburbs lost in 2017

The Northwest suburbs lost several valuable and long-serving contributors to their respective communities during 2017, not least of whom was Bartlett Village Trustee T.L. Arends, 69.

Arends died April 11 after a long-fought battle with illness. A career banker, she'd served on the village board since 1991 after a decade on the Bartlett Park District board.

She also served as the Bartlett Chamber of Commerce president, was a member of the Bartlett Economic Development Commission and was the first female member of the Bartlett Lions Club.

Arends, who died two months after her brother - retired Glen Ellyn fire chief Stuart Stone - always said her father instilled his children with the belief that public service was expected, Bartlett Village President Kevin Wallace said.

That belief clearly ran through the generations as Arends' daughter - local optometrist Kristina Gabrenya - was appointed to succeed her on the village board in May.

Darlene Ahlstedt

Darlene Ahlstedt, a former Prospect Heights alderman, who represented residents of the city's multifamily housing district on its east side, died May 17 at the age of 68.

Ahlstedt served on the city council from 1997 to 2007.

Koeppen described her as a loyal public servant who worked diligently to improve conditions on the city's east side.

"She always had the interests of her residents at heart," said former Alderman Gregory Koeppen, who served on the council from 1995 to 2003 and is now executive director of the Grayslake Fire Commission and the Lake County Farm Bureau. "Whether they were renters or owners, she was committed to ensuring the area was safe, clean and a place that residents would be proud to call home."

Ahlstedt lived and worked at Quincy Park, managing its condominium association. Consequently, she knew many of its residents and quickly became their advocate.

"She developed relationships there," says Prospect Heights Police Chief Alan Steffen. "She knew many of the children who lived there and she was a mentor to them."

As an alderman, Ahlstedt worked closely with the Prospect Heights Police Department to advance safety measures within the ward.

Though she stopped representing her community in an official capacity 10 years ago, Ahlstedt continued to be involved. Last year, she appeared before the city council to oppose a parking lot for trucks that was being proposed for city-owned land on the east side.

Fred Dietrich

Fred Dietrich

Fred Dietrich, whom colleagues considered one of the most influential Schaumburg leaders who never ran for elected office, died Aug. 2 in Kentucky at the age of 74.

He joined the village's zoning board of appeals in 1984 and became its chairman in 1986. He believed he'd found the right venue for his skills on the zoning board and was never interested in the politics involved in serving on the village board.

"I think there were maybe a lot of things that weren't built because of him," Trustee George Dunham said. "He was a great believer in precedent. There was a time when the developers were coming in asking for all kinds of crazy things. Fred was always the right person to put the brakes on."

One of Dietrich's major contributions was always making a developer look at a project from the village's point of view rather than being persuaded by the developer's rhetoric, Trustee Tom Dailly said.

John W. Glueckert Sr.

John W. Glueckert Sr.

John W. Glueckert Sr., the Arlington Heights native synonymous with his funeral home business in the village, died Aug. 14 at the age of 82 after a yearlong battle with cancer.

Though Glueckert formally retired a decade ago, turning operations over to his son and two daughters, he still frequented the funeral home that bears the family name at 1520 N. Arlington Heights Road.

"He just enjoyed being around people so much," his son John Jr. said. "He loved seeing the staff and people coming through. And knowing so many people in town for so many years, people enjoyed seeing him."

Glueckert got his start in the business as a teenager working at Black's Memorial Home, which was on the northeast corner of Vail Avenue and Northwest Highway. As a student at Arlington High School, he worked part-time, doing odd jobs like cutting the grass and painting.

Betty Black eventually sold the business to Howard Haire, who renamed it Haire Funeral Home. Glueckert, who had earned a degree from the Worsham College of Mortuary Science, served as manager. He bought the business in 1970, changed the name to Glueckert Funeral Home in 1976 and relocated to the current location in 1987.

Glueckert was a member of the Arlington Heights Lions Club for more than five decades, serving as president in the late 1960s, and was named a Melvin Jones Fellow, the organization's most prestigious honor. He also was a charter member of Knights of Columbus Holy Rosary Council No. 4483.

Jerry Hill

Jerry Hill

Jerry Hill, a first-term Rolling Meadows alderman whose family was among the city's first residents, died Aug. 13 at age 64.

Hill was elected Ward 2 alderman in April.

"Jerry was a lifelong Meadows guy," Mayor Len Prejna, the previous Ward 2 alderman said. "Rolling Meadows was in his heart. It was 'Rolling Meadows first.' He just loved this city and its citizens."

Prejna said he and Hill developed a close friendship during the past year, after Prejna decided to run for mayor and Hill ran unopposed for Prejna's former seat.

Prejna praised Hill for the acumen he brought to city finances, developed during a 35-year career at ComEd.

"He just had a brilliant mind," Prejna said. "'OK, Jerry, you just read through 500 pages. Can you break it down for the mortal man?' Jerry was the type that could take any situation and digest it and bring it down to a simpler form."

Hill's family was among the original residents of Rolling Meadows in the 1950s.

Some two decades ago, he was chairman of the city's zoning board of appeals. He also served on the city's Diamond Fest committee and as a youth coach for Rolling Meadows boys baseball and football.

Hill also was a co-owner of thoroughbred racehorses and enjoyed afternoons at Arlington International Racecourse with friends and family.

Thomas O'Driscoll

Thomas O'Driscoll

Thomas O'Driscoll, a career educator who worked at four different high schools in Northwest Suburban High School District 214, and helped open two, died May 12 at the age of 85.

O'Driscoll ultimately spent 30 years in the district before retiring as principal of Hersey High School in 1991. He died May 12 at the age of 85.

"Tom was part of what we called the 'Golden Era of 214,' when we had unprecedented growth and were opening new schools," said Robert Cudney, former assistant superintendent for District 214.

O'Driscoll grew up in downstate Quincy, where he was a standout athlete and earned a football scholarship to play at Quincy College. He would go on to receive a degree in physical education and later a master's degree in guidance and counseling at the University of Illinois.

He began his teaching career in his native Quincy, but after earning his advanced degree in counseling, O'Driscoll headed north to take a counseling position at Arlington High School.

Within three years, O'Driscoll would move to the newly opened Elk Grove High School to serve as director of counseling, before being named athletic director of Rolling Meadows High School when it opened in 1971.

O'Driscoll stayed at Rolling Meadows until 1984, when he was named the second principal of Hersey High School. He replaced the immensely popular founding principal, Roland Goins, but Hersey colleagues say O'Driscoll immediately won over parents, students and staff.

Rev. Karl Schmidt

Rev. Karl Schmidt

The Rev. Karl Schmidt, who led St. Peter's Lutheran Church Community in Arlington Heights for 30 years, died May 17 at the age of 66.

"Countless men and women, boys and girls, have been encouraged and strengthened by his life and his teaching," said his longtime assistant, Janet Fischer.

By all accounts, Schmidt was a traditional pastor, whose love of the Gospel was contagious and devotion to serving others was evident in his visits to the shut-ins and hospitalized.

"He was extremely compassionate and whatever need there was he would be the first one there," said Fischer. "I worked for him for over 20 years and never met someone who would drop everything to help a person in need, even driving in snowstorms to take care of a parishioner."

Schmidt and his family joined St. Peter's in 1984 while he taught religion at Luther North High School in Chicago. By 1986, he was called as pastor of the congregation, whose roots date back to 1860.

Near the end of his term as pastor, the congregation wanted to give him a trip or a monetary gift, but he would not accept them.

"He declined emphatically and said that he wanted any gifts anyone wanted to give him to be given to St. Peter designated for social ministry," his wife Kathy Schmidt said.

Connie Schofield

Connie Schofield

Connie Schofield, who served as Lake Barrington village president from 1997 to 2005, died in early July at age 81.

She also served as a trustee from 1991 to 1997 and again from 2009 to her retirement from the board in August 2016.

In addition to her village service, Schofield was a director on the board of the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County during the 1990s, serving as chair of the 40-member board from 1999 to 2004. She also served on the board for Barrington Area Council on Aging.

"All who worked with Connie treasured her remarkable spirit, grace and enthusiasm," Lake Barrington Village President Kevin Richardson said. "Her love of her family and her dedication to her community leaves a lasting legacy that family, friends and colleagues will admire and benefit from for years to come."

Frank Svoboda Jr.

Frank A Svoboda Jr.

Frank A. Svoboda Jr., the namesake behind an iconic menswear store in Des Plaines that clothed everyone from farmers and local residents to the city's elected officials, died June 10 at the age of 83.

Though a longtime resident of Des Plaines, Svoboda had lived in Barrington Hills in retirement.

It was his grandfather, Frank J. Svoboda, who opened Svoboda Men's Wear in 1922. He was a tailor by profession, having worked in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood before moving out to the suburbs to open his own store.

He ran the business with his two sons, Frank A. Svoboda Sr. and Joseph Svoboda, until the 1950s, when the latter opened a second Svoboda's in downtown Arlington Heights.

Svoboda joined his father in the Des Plaines store after graduating from college in 1955. Shoppers found all they needed right in the downtown, with merchants such as Brown's Department Store, Spiegler's, Square Deal Shoes and Svoboda's within blocks of each other.

Svoboda was an active member of the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce, as well as being involved with the United Way, Lattof YMCA and the Lions Club.

Svoboda closed the store in 1995 - after 72 years of operation - conceding that the store no longer could compete with one-stop mall shopping and larger chains.

Bill Tiknis

Bill Tiknis

Former Bartlett mayor and Hanover Township Supervisor Bill Tiknis died Nov. 20 at age 89.

"Bill was instrumental in the starting of the (Bartlett) park district and the saving of the Bartlett Hills Golf Course," Hanover Township Supervisor Brian McGuire said.

At the time the village acquired the golf course, it was virtually unknown for municipalities to own such properties. And while Tiknis was normally the kind of person who would not have supported it, he realized it was the only way to save the open space from a home developer, McGuire said.

When Tiknis and his young family first moved to Bartlett in 1956, it was a town of only about 800 people. He became a volunteer firefighter and served a decade as a village trustee before being elected to one term as mayor in 1977.

One of Tiknis' most important contributions was as a mentor to younger officials, McGuire said.

"Nobody's perfect and neither was Bill Tiknis, but I believe when it comes to community service and citizenship, that's a piece we need a little more of," McGuire said. "He's a shining example."

Cecily Atcher Wingsong

Cecily Atcher Wingsong

Cecily Atcher Wingsong, daughter of former Schaumburg Mayor Bob Atcher and a performer with him in the Atcher Family Singers, died in July at the age of 62 after a battle with cancer.

Even after the Atcher Family Singers disbanded, Wingsong kept performing - first with her sister Chris Atcher Murov as the Atcher Sisters and in the group Wyld Oats, and then with new collaborators in groups including New Orleans-based Luzianne.

Murov said that while she stopped performing more than 20 years ago, it remained a lifelong passion for her sister.

"I think she came out of the womb wanting to be a musician," Murov said of Wingsong. "She was really going to keep pursuing that no matter what."

Just under a year earlier, Maggie Atcher, Bob Atcher's widow and longtime performing partner, had died. The former mayor himself died in 1993.

Current Schaumburg Mayor Al Larson said his memories of the entire family are strong, including Wingsong.

"She was just a beautiful young lady," he recalled. "Her voice was clear as a bell. Such a gorgeous voice! She lit up any room she walked into. Anyone who was lucky enough to know her was fortunate indeed."

Wingsong's last name was a spirit name given to her through her study of the spiritualism of the Lakota culture, Murov said.

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