Former director of Elgin PADS dies at 69
Dennis Hewitt, the former longtime executive director of PADS in Elgin, is being remembered for his commitment to helping the homeless and dedication to creating the city's first permanent shelter.
Hewitt, 69, died peacefully Monday at home after a brief battle with leukemia and lymphoma, his son Kristopher Hewitt said.
Born and raised in Elgin, Hewitt worked for 27 years as a fleet and commercial sales manager at Biggers Chevrolet in Elgin before he was hired in 2003 to lead PADS, for which he'd been a longtime volunteer. "I've been in business 30 years, and I did it well," Hewitt told the Daily Herald at the time, "but there was just something missing. I realized this is what it is."
Under his leadership, PADS transitioned from a seasonal program to a permanent shelter for men, women and children in 2007. Hewitt, who retired in 2016, "had not only care and compassion, he treated people with dignity," his son said.
"He didn't do things for them but helped them do things for themselves," his son said.
Hewitt became not just the face of the shelter but also its heart and soul, said Ron Barkby, president emeritus of the PADS board.
"He took the organization to a new level that eventually ended up using case management as of one of our very vital tools to help break the cycle of homelessness," Barkby said.
Hewitt also spent 25 years as a volunteer leader for Little League and recently was appointed to the Hanover Township mental health board. He strongly believed in collaborating with other social service and mental health agencies, Barkby said. "He was a well-respected person."
Hewitt was diagnosed with leukemia and lymphoma after he fainted about two months ago while volunteering for All Peoples Interfaith Food Pantry at First Congregational Church in Elgin, his son said. "He had a first round of chemotherapy and he was looking forward to fighting his battle with two different kinds of cancer," his son said. "But last week, he realized he was not going to get better."
In his final days, Hewitt received visits from his seven younger siblings and many nieces and nephews. "He got to say goodbye," his son said.
Hewitt met his wife, Mary, through a mutual friend in high school, their son said. The couple would have celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary in January.
He loved baseball -- he was a huge Cubs fan -- and fishing, and enjoyed using a camper to go on trips with his wife, Kristopher Hewitt said. He also enjoyed riding his Honda Gold Wing motorcycle and was active with the Gold Wing Road Riders social group.
"My dad, my son and I had a weeklong fishing trip this summer," he said. "That's a tradition that I had with my grandfather, so I wanted to my son to be able to do that. I am so glad he did."
State Rep. Anna Moeller said she met Hewitt when she served on the Elgin City Council. The two attended the same church.
"We could tell, when we were in church, that he had a strong faith and lived that faith through his work," Moeller said. "He was a serious and intentional person. He lived intentionally. I admired him for that."
Funeral services are at noon Friday at First Congregational Church, 256 E. Chicago St., Elgin. Visitation will be from 10 a.m. to noon at the church.