Mike Silverman, Arlington Heights banker and 'legacy builder,' dies at 84

Mike Silverman founded First Northwest Bank, served as president of the Rotary Club of Arlington Heights and the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce, and was recognized for his business leadership at the 2007 Arlington Heights Hearts of Gold dinner.

But the roots of his leadership could be found in one common theme: community involvement.

Silverman died Sunday. He was 84.

"Mike was one of our greatest legacy builders in the village," said Jon Ridler, executive director of the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce, "not just in the business community but also in many service nonprofits he helped lead."

Silverman grew up working in his family's business, Heights Cleaners, and eventually took it over from his parents. It was in that role as a small-business owner that he became involved in the chamber of commerce, stepping up to lead as its president in 1975, at the age of 35.

"Mike was influential in leading the chamber to develop a stronger business-to-consumer marketing focus," Ridler said.

Silverman realized a personal goal in 1995, when he started a local bank. He was among five original organizers of First Northwest Bank - along with Jack Whisler, John Corneliuson, Jim Sherrin and Walter Payton.

"I always envisioned a community bank, made up of people from within the community, serving people in the community," Silverman said in a 2010 interview with the Daily Herald.

Payton was a major investor and provided star power in drawing people to trust the bank. It was Silverman who recruited Payton, drawing on his 18 years of service as a photographer for the Chicago Bears.

Carol Blackwood, a former Arlington Heights village trustee and vice president of retail banking at First Northwest, described Silverman as a mentor.

"Mike very clearly saw that middle size businesses weren't getting the kind of attention from financial institutions that they deserved," Blackwood said. "His vision was a small community bank focused on small businesses and the people who lived and worked in the community."

First Northwest Bank merged in 2005 with Village Bank & Trust, with Silverman serving as a director, and as one entity they became a Wintrust Community Bank.

Silverman's other passion was his role as a Rotarian. He became involved as a small-business owner and led the Arlington Heights chapter as president from 1980 to 1981.

"He was always trying to help people in Rotary - and help getting people involved in Rotary," said Jim Hassenplug, who accepted Silverman's invitation to join the club.

One of Silverman's main areas of devotion, Hassenplug said, was advancing the Rotary Youth Exchange Program, whose mission is to build peace, one young person at a time.

Silverman and his wife, Masha, hosted more than a dozen Rotary students over the years, and three of their four children lived overseas through the exchange program, including staying in Sweden and Brazil.

Services are pending.

Mike Silverman, left, was honored in 2007 with the President's Award during the 61st annual Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce Installation and Recognition dinner. At right is Jon Ridler, executive director of the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce. Daily Herald File Photo
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