Henry Blim has spent much of his adult life in a protective role.
While serving in the Army during World War II, Blim helped keep Air Force pilots from harm by making sure their planes were in perfect working order. After the war, Blim worked for a number of years at Wheeling High School. where he was in charge of guiding the students considered most at risk of dropping out. More recently, he acted as caretaker for his ailing wife.
It's fitting, then, that Blim will receive some protection of his own this summer, in the form of a new roof for his Mount Prospect house.
Blim, 90, has been named the winner in the No Roof Left Behind contest run by Peterson Roofing of Mount Prospect. The company, with the assistance of other businesses, will put a new roof on Blim's house for free later this month.
"I was pretty surprised to hear about it," Blim said Thursday. "It's a great honor."
No Roof Left Behind is a national program designed to help people who have fallen on hard times. This is the second year that Peterson Roofing has run a local version of the program.
The company awards the free roof to a Cook County resident who has contributed in some unique way to his or her community. Nominations are taken online, and then a public voting process gets underway on the company's website, petersonroofinginc.com.
"We could not have asked for a more deserving person to win the free roof," Jim Peterson Jr., the company's vice president, said in a statement about Blim.
Blim grew up in Park Ridge. After graduating from high school in 1942, he enlisted in the Army.
"The war was already on," he said. "If you enlisted, they asked you what you wanted to do. If you got drafted, Uncle Sam told you what you were going to do!"
Blim wanted to be a pilot, but he wasn't allowed to because he didn't have perfect vision. So he asked if he could fix the planes instead. The Army sent him to air-mechanics school. He worked on B-17 and B-29 planes in the U.S. and then in the Island of Saipan in the Pacific.
Blim and his wife, Marylin, settled in Mount Prospect in the early 1950s. After spending enough time in law school to realize he didn't want to be a lawyer -- "The attitude of the students there was that they'd crawl over your dead body to get ahead of you," he said -- Blim took a job at Wheeling High School, working with at-risk students. He later became a college counselor at Hersey High School in Arlington Heights. He retired about 20 years ago.
Retirement hasn't been easy. Marylin Blim suffered from Alzheimer's, and Blim was her primary caretaker for many years. She died in 2012.
"That was very hard," he said. "Near the end there she couldn't talk or do anything. It took a toll on me."
Blim still lives in the house he and Marylin bought, and one of their five children lives just a few blocks away.
"A free roof will really come in handy," he said.
Construction, scheduled for July 26, will be kicked off with a small neighborhood celebration.
Peterson Roofing is giving away one more roof this year; nominations are being accepted through Aug. 3. Go to the website for more.