Longtime Wauconda fire board president remembered for his public service
Retired police officer and longtime Wauconda Fire District board President Richard "Rich" Bilisko is being remembered as a dedicated public servant and a caring man, especially when it came to children.
Bilisko, 70, of Wauconda, died May 29 at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville. He'd been taken there from his home the previous day, said Dave Geary, the fire district's business manager.
Born in Chicago, Bilisko spent 27 years as a police officer in Lake County.
His law-enforcement career started as an auxiliary officer with the Wauconda Police Department. He moved to the Hawthorn Woods Police Department and to the Lake County sheriff's office, where he worked for 20 years.
Bilisko spent much of his time in uniform working as a juvenile officer and served with many professional associations for juvenile officers. Among them, Bilisko served as president of the Lake County Juvenile Officers Association and the Illinois Juvenile officers Association.
He also worked on a children's justice task force with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
Bilisko also helped to investigate abuse complaints at a Lake County nursing home that led to criminal charges and national media coverage, said his widow, Cindy.
Bilisko retired from the sheriff's office in 2007, but his public service didn't end there. He'd already spent years on the Wauconda Fire District board, and that work continued.
He led the board as its president from 2005 until his death.
Lori Dierker, an administrative assistant with the fire district, remembered she first thought Bilisko was a tough guy but quickly learned differently.
"He was really a softy," Dierker said. "He genuinely cared about people."
Bilisko was a fixture at fire stations, asking employees about events in their lives and their children. He particularly liked visiting station No. 3 on Gilmer Road, Fire Chief Mike Wahl said.
"He would come out and sit underneath the shade trees and smoke his cigars and surf the internet a little bit on his iPad," Wahl said. "He liked when guys came out and gave him the inside scoop of what was going on."
Bilisko played saxophone much of his life. He was in several bands through adulthood, including one called APB -- the All Police Band -- whose members primarily were police officers, his widow said. Bilisko had to put down the sax, because of health problems that led to a kidney transplant in 2014.
Visitation is 3 to 9 p.m. June 17 at Kisselburg-Wauconda Funeral Home, 235 N. Main St., Wauconda. A funeral Mass will be said at 11 a.m. June 18 at Transfiguration Church, 348 W. Mill St., Wauconda.
In addition to his widow, Bilisko's survivors include two sons, Paul and Steven.