Gene Nottolini, a former Kane County chief judge who oversaw the 1993 courthouse move from Geneva to St. Charles, died Thursday from leukemia.
Nottolini, 69, was a lifelong Elgin resident who also served as the Kane County's first ethics adviser. He also was a family man and a great cook.
Colleagues and family recalled Nottolini as warm and caring, with a knack helping opposing parties reach settlements in often-complicated cases.
"He had an ability to see both sides. He was wise," recalled his wife, Kay, who met Nottolini when they were freshmen at St. Edward High School in Elgin. "He was always known for settling cases. He didn't want everything to go to trial. He was very practical. He was very pragmatic."
Gene Nottolini passed the bar exam in 1968 and was hired by attorney George Carbary. In 1984, Nottolini was selected as an associate judge to serve in traffic, felony, family and juvenile courts.
He was appointed circuit judge in 1989, elected in 1990 and retained every election until he retired in November 2005.
Nottolini served as Chief Judge of the 16th Judicial Circuit from 1993 to 1996 and helped oversee the move from the Third Street Courthouse in Geneva to the current Judicial Center in St. Charles.
Planning the $11 million, 80-bed juvenile detention center and helping 47 Kane County attorneys qualify to practice law before the U.S. Supreme Court were two other contributions Nottolini was particularly proud of, his wife said.
He also started a divorce education program, requested and received a state-funded arbitration system for civil cases and authorized a computer sharing information system so the state's attorney, schools and police could exchange information about serious juvenile offenders.
"He had some innovative ideas," Kay Nottolini said. "He loved the law, but he loved his family more. He was a family man, first and foremost."
Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon, also a St. Edward grad, said he knew Nottolini for more than two decades.
"Judge Nottolini was known and respected for his kindness. He would always make an effort to make people in his courtroom feel comfortable, and he would display great patience with those who were unfamiliar with the court system," McMahon said in a statement.
There was a domestic side to the judge, too, Kay Nottolini said. He was known for baking pies that were good enough to be auctioned as part of a fundraiser for the Kane County Bar Association, his wife said.
Sister-in-law Colleen McKeown said Nottolini was a great cook whose cioppino, an Italian seafood soup, was a hit at Super Bowl parties.
"He was a very giving man. He was generous with his time and resources," McKeown said. "He was like my brother and my dad."
Joe Nottolini said his father was a huge White Sox fan, and one of the family traditions growing up was seeing a game on Father's Day at the old Comiskey Park. Gene Nottolini had season tickets in 2005, when the team won the World Series; he sacrificed his seat so each of his sons could see a World Series game at U.S. Cellular Field, Joe Nottolini recalled.
Visitation is from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday at the Laird Funeral Home, 310 State St., Elgin, and from 9:15 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. Thomas More Church, 215 Thomas More Drive, Elgin, where a funeral mass will be held at 11 a.m. For more information, call (847) 741-8800 or visit lairdfamilyfuneralservices.com
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the American Lung Association, the Elgin Community Crisis Center, the Cosmopolitan Club, St. Thomas More Church or a charity of one's choice, Nottolini's family said.