Saluting notable local residents who died in 2020
We said goodbye to several notable suburban residents in 2020. They left indelible marks on their communities through impressive accomplishments and dedicated public service. The list includes local officials and community, religious and business leaders.
Jan. 18: Carol Stream's namesake never actually lived in the village, but that was of little consequence to the town's residents, who claimed her as one of their own -- and she delighted in her status as a legend in the village that bears her name.
Stream, who grew up in Wheaton, died near Paradise Valley, Arizona. She was 77.
Her father was the village's founder, Jay Stream, the larger-than-life developer who built the town out of farmland, hand-picked its leaders and named the community after his daughter during her recovery from a tragic car accident.
In August 1957, a 14-year-old Stream and her friends were driving near her family's summer home in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, when their car collided with another vehicle. A 15-year-old boy died and Stream was left in a coma.
According to local mythology, Jay Stream whispered his decision to name his new housing development after his daughter into her ear, miraculously rousing Carol from her coma and inspiring her recovery. His daughter later said it wasn't so dramatic.
Still, she enjoyed the rare honor usually reserved for early pioneers or landowners.
"I get a kick out of thinking, 'Eat your heart out Elizabeth Taylor. My name's in bigger lights than yours ever was,'" Stream told the Daily Herald in 2006.
Jan. 28: He built his family's nut business into a publicly traded company that last year had $876 million in sales, but it was his passion for musical instruments, particularly mechanical music machines, that helped shape his legacy. He was 88.
Sanfilippo's Barrington Hills house grew to include additions to showcase his vast collection. He and his wife, Marian, helped nonprofit groups raise millions of dollars through welcoming them to host their fundraisers at the estate.
His son, Jeffrey Sanfilippo, who succeeded him as CEO of John B. Sanfilippo & Son Inc. in 2006, dates his father's interest in vintage music machines to a family vacation to Knott's Berry Farm in California in the mid-1970s.
Jasper Sanfilippo built an addition to display his collection of automated musical instruments, including music boxes, phonographs, coin-operated pianos and violin machines. It grew to include dance organs and calliopes, and a world class theater organ.
He built an organ room and later a carousel building and helped local charities host banquets to raise money.
The couple established a family foundation in 2007 to help preserve the collection and manage the charity events.
Feb. 18: The former longtime DuPage County prosecutor and judge is remembered for his work ethic, compassion and empathy for victims.
He brought a relentless focus, prosecuting some of the most heinous criminals in the county's history. Wolfe was part of the team that prosecuted convicted killer Brian Dugan for the 1983 abduction, rape and murder of Jeanine Nicarico, a 10-year-old from Naperville. As criminal prosecutions chief, Wolfe worked 61 straight 12-hour days in 2006 on the case against convicted serial killer Paul Runge.
Wolfe retired from the bench in 2018.
He died from atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. He was 60.
In 2008, he received the Chicago Crime Commission's first Mitchell A. Mars award, named after the federal prosecutor who took on organized crime in the Family Secrets mob trial. He also served as a volunteer mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters.
May 4: The Aurora carpenter single-handedly built thousands of crosses for shooting victims across the country.
Zanis died after battling cancer. He was 69.
His crosses would become a symbol of the national ritual after every mass shooting. Zanis would visit grief-stricken communities to put up crosses, Stars of David, crescent moons or generic wreaths in Newtown, Connecticut; San Bernardino, California; Orlando, Florida; Las Vegas; Parkland, Florida.
Of the nearly 3,000 crosses he built last year before retiring, one set bears the names of the five employees killed in a shooting at the Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora.
"He was a man of action who simply wanted to honor the lives of others," Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin said in a statement.
Zanis began making crosses in 1996 to help him grieve the murder of his father-in-law, Ralph "Bud" Stadler.
May 12: He was a staple in the collector car world, who with his brother turned a 20-acre farm property into the Volo Auto Museum.
In an indication of his place in the collectible automobiles market, Grams' bidder number was 4 with the popular Mecum Auctions.
He died of a heart attack after battling cancer. He was 77.
Bill Grams and his younger brother, Greg, grew up on a nonoperating dairy farm northwest of routes 12 and 120, and, as teenagers, they enjoyed renovating automobiles "put out to pasture" by area farmers, according to the museum website. Their handiwork paid off when they sold a 1931 Chrysler CD-8 Roadster, which Greg Grams had restored, for $25,000.
The brothers co-founded the Volo Auto Museum in 1960. It's now a 35-acre family destination that includes various exhibits and a collection of 400 cars dating to the 1900s. It also handles purchases and sales of collectible vehicles.
May 16: Universally beloved, always upbeat, a legend in suburban high school sports. That summed up Frisk's more than 50-year Daily Herald newspaper career.
He started working as a high school sophomore, was hired full time after his 1958 graduation from the University of Illinois, and quickly became a columnist and sports editor. Even more important than his longevity was his legacy to emphasize positive writing to all his full- and part-time high school sports reporters.
The longtime Arlington Heights resident, who would have turned 84 in June, died at the Hospice Center at the Lutheran Home a few months after refusing treatment for cancer.
He won many awards and honors, including Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame induction and Hall of Fame enshrinement from three local high schools.
Bob cherished the idea of impressionable teenagers, devoted parents and caring coaches coming together to make something positive and far bigger than a final score. And they loved Bob for helping them realize what is truly important. People felt better after reading his columnist or chatting with him on the sidelines.
"Be positive, he always said, because these kids will have a lifetime of dealing with negatives," says John Radtke, the Daily Herald's current high school sports editor.
May 24: The first park district director in Elk Grove Village history left behind a legacy of nationally acclaimed village projects that endure to this day for people of all ages.
Claes died of natural causes. He was 96.
"I've never seen someone with that kind of foresight," Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson said.
Claes was named the Elk Grove Park District's first director in 1967. During his 29-year tenure, he oversaw development of several cornerstone projects, including Pirates' Cove theme park, Rainbow Falls Waterpark, Fox Run Golf Links and Fountain Square Park.
He retired in 1995. The Jack A. Claes Pavilion, opened in 1994, was one of his final projects and is named in his honor.
May 29: A 65-year Wheeling resident and the village's first female village president, Schultz was considered by many to be a cornerstone of the community.
Schultz, who died at age 90, was elected a trustee in 1979 and village president in 1981, serving in that position for 16 years.
During her tenure, Wheeling purchased Palwaukee Airport (now called Chicago Executive Airport), created its first senior center, joined first-of-their-kind joint municipal organizations the Northwest Water Commission and the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County, and constructed a new and modernized Metra train station to help residents more easily commute between the suburbs and Chicago. She helped form a human rights commission and a senior commission.
"Sheila was the definition of what it means to be a public servant, dedicating decades of her life to many facets of community service," Village President Pat Horcher said in a statement.
June 2: The fruits of her public service work can be seen throughout Lake County.
The Highland Park Democrat, who served on the Lake County Board from 1992 to 2008, worked to help create the North Shore Health Center, a facility in Highland Park run by the county's health department. As a county forest preserve district board member, she was a strong advocate for the creation of the Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy at the late statesman's home near Mettawa. She championed the development of the Prairie Wolf Forest Preserve near Deerfield in the 1990s.
Spielman, who died at age 92, also served on the Lake County health board and the Stormwater Management Commission. Her work earned her a Friends of the Chicago River Award and a Henry Horner Good Government Award.
In 2013, she received Highland Park's annual Humanitarian Award, which recognizes residents who serve the community through education, philanthropy, volunteerism or other means.
James 'Jim' Petri
July 23: Called one of the deans of the Northwest suburbs and Elk Grove Village's elder statesman, Petri was elected as a village board trustee in 1979 and served 40 years before deciding in 2019 to not seek reelection to an 11th term.
Petri died at the age of 86.
His village board tenure includes helping to bring $100 million in upgrades to the village's business park. He served as co-chairman of the village's Industrial/Commercial Revitalization Commission and chairman of the capital improvements committee. He was instrumental in bringing cable television and a local community access channel to Elk Grove Village.
Vernon 'Vern' Oie
July 25: The St. Charles man had his hands in many community endeavors in the Tri-Cities over nine decades.
Oie, who died at age 93, received two prestigious awards for community service: the Barth Award from Tri-City Family Services and the Charlemagne Award from the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce. The latter he shared with his wife, Sharon, who survives him.
The city dedicated a sculpture to the couple in 2018.
Oie retired as a marketing director for Valley Community Bank. He was also an owner of Fox Valley Cleaners, a family business.
He served on the boards of Delnor Hospital and Delnor-Community Hospital for 30 years, and served with the St. Charles and Batavia MainStreet business organizations. He was a founding member of the River Corridor Partnership that beautified the Fox River banks in St. Charles.
July 25: Getting things done was Schmitt's stock in trade.
Schmitt, who died at age 72, was elected as an Algonquin village trustee in 1993, then appointed village president in 2002 after the death of his predecessor, Ted Spella. He was elected to the post in 2005.
Algonquin stressed quality development under Schmitt's stewardship, and he helped the village attract millions of dollars in projects to benefit the community.
Schmitt was a proponent for the western Route 31 bypass that opened in 2014. More recently, he advocated for the Longmeadow Parkway, which will provide another bridge across the Fox River. He oversaw the rapid development of the village's Randall Road corridor, and a $30 million downtown streetscape project.
Aug. 26: The former Palatine police chief brought innovation to the department and policing across the suburbs.
Bratcher, who died at age 86, served for 25 years as chief until his retirement in 1999.
He started the first local crime prevention unit in Illinois, led the creation of a multiagency major-crime task force and started the first DARE program in Illinois.
In Palatine, he implemented the neighborhood-based policing approach, still one of the cornerstones of the department, and was a driving force behind requiring a four-year college degree for new officers, Palatine Police Chief Dave Daigle said.
Bratcher led the initial investigation into the 1993 murders at Brown's Chicken and Pasta.
Rabbi Mark S. Shapiro
Aug. 28: The longtime leader of Congregation B'nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim in Glenview is remembered as an eloquent orator and social justice leader who inspired scores of students to become rabbis.
Shapiro was a past president of the Glenbrook Clergy Fellowship and the Rabbinical Fellowship of the Northwest suburbs -- and who marched with other religious leaders alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Alabama, in 1965.
Shapiro died after a six-year bout with Parkinson's disease. He was 85.
Shapiro led B'nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim in Glenview from 1962 to 2000 and was rabbi emeritus thereafter, presiding over funerals until three years ago. After his 2000 retirement, he and his wife, Hanna, moved to Northbrook. BJBE has since relocated to Deerfield.
He was passionate about Israel, founded United Power for Justice in Action, an interfaith organization, and worked with the Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute, a Jewish children's summer camp in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.
Sept. 18: Guiding Naperville through a pivotal time of rapid but strategic growth, Newman set the tone for its future development.
Newman, who died at 97, leaves behind a legacy that blends progressive planning with historic preservation.
He retired in 1996 as the city's economic development director, but also served as director of community development and zoning administration for the city, spearheading Naperville's first comprehensive plan, creating the historic district and revising the city's zoning ordinance, according to his obituary.
With roughly 27,000 residents at the start of his 20-year tenure, the city's population grew to more than 110,100 by the time Newman retired, documents show. He had a hand in the final design and siting of the municipal center along the Riverwalk, was involved in the North Central College expansion, and served on various city commissions. Later, he volunteered at Naper Settlement to help archive the city's history.
Dec. 2: He always had his bags packed, one for him and one for his dog -- and when a tragedy occurred, they responded.
Martin, of Lake Barrington, and his wife, Dona, and their two comfort dogs, Luther and Ruthie, were at the scene of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 within 24 hours. It was the first of many man-made and natural disasters Martin would rush to, leading a team of handlers and golden retrievers from Lutheran Church Charities to bring comfort to victims and first responders. Martin died due to complications from COVID-19. He was 68.
Martin started as a volunteer, but after retiring from a corporate career, he was hired as deployment director of the charity's K-9 Ministry. What started locally with Golden retrievers has grown to include 130 comfort dogs in 27 states.
Lutheran Church Charities officials count 16 major K-9 Ministry crisis deployments Martin led, and hundreds of site visits and emergency responses. Among them were mass shootings, including the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.
William 'Bill' Braithwaite
Dec. 6: He would go on to have a permanent impact on the region, serving as attorney for the village and several surrounding communities and working to preserve the area's rural character. Braithwaite died from complications of COVID-19. He was 92.
Recognized as on icon of municipal law for his 64-year legal career, Braithwaite also was known as a devoted family man and community servant. He was instrumental in the formation of the village of South Barrington in 1959.
"He had an amazing amount of history with all of the Barrington villages," South Barrington Village President Paula McCombie said.
Braithwaite also was known for civic involvement, serving on governing boards and providing free legal counsel for several groups.