Eugene Schlickman greeted first-time visitors to his home with a gift: Free rein of his floor-to-ceiling library.
Friends could sift through a prized collection and keep whatever book they wanted from the shelves.
"Nothing was off-limits," his daughter Mary Rogozinski said.
The veteran Republican state lawmaker and former Arlington Heights trustee died Thursday from complications of diabetes, heart issues and Parkinson's disease, his family said. He was 84.
Schlickman was a voracious reader who championed prison reforms and disability rights during more than two decades in the Illinois House. He worked to secure funding for education and art programs in state prisons and pushed for overhauls of mental health facilities.
"He was always a big advocate for the underdog," Rogozinski said.
Born in Dubuque, Iowa, he became the first person in his family to earn a college degree. He learned he was accepted into Georgetown Law after asking about his application in the admissions office with his new bride.
Schlickman managed to earn his law degree working a job and raising two young children at the time.
He served five years on the Arlington Heights village board until he won election to state office in 1964.
He was known to break from his party and reach across the aisle in the name of good policy, his son Stephen Schlickman said.
"He cared very much for the village of Arlington Heights in particular," Stephen Schlickman said.
In 1971, he initially resisted a measure to create the Regional Transit Authority, taking issue with the absence of the Chicago transit agency in the proposed merger.
When voters gave the green light to the RTA, he switched stances and worked to shield the new agency from suburban lawmakers who tried to strip the public body of its power.
Schlickman advocated for better communication and an integrated approach to regional transportation, said Stephen Schlickman, a former RTA chief and executive director of the Urban Transportation Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
After Schlickman's retirement from public office in 1980, he continued to practice law at an Arlington Heights firm and co-authored "Kerner: The Conflict of Intangible Rights," a well-received biography on former Illinois Gov. Otto Kerner.
He also cowrote the first biography on Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.
He and his second wife, Sherry, settled in Beverly Hills, Ind. The devout Catholic helped raise funds through his church for earthquake-ravaged Haiti, despite failing health in recent years, Rogozinski said.
"He was always tremendously generous with his time," she said.
Visitation will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 2, at Edmonds & Evans Funeral Home, 517 Broadway, Chesterton, Ind.
Services will be held 11 a.m. Monday, Feb. 3, at St. Ann of the Dunes Catholic Church, 433 E. Golfwood Road, Beverly Shores, Ind.
Memorial donations may be sent to St. Ann of the Dunes Haiti Mission P.O. Box 727 Beverly Shores, Indiana 46301-0727.