Notable deaths 2019: Remembering many who made a difference in DuPage County
Even as we look toward the promise of 2020, we remember those we lost in the past year whose countless contributions helped make DuPage County become a better place.
Many were trailblazers. People like Roselle's Joe Devlin, who helped bring Lake Michigan water to the suburbs. Sister Rosemarie Burian, who created what became the Northern Illinois Food Bank. Marget "Margy" Hamilton, Wheaton's first woman mayor, who stood against discrimination even when her life was threatened. Shirley Ketter, who broke down barriers as Itasca's first woman mayor. Barbara Murphy, who led the DuPage GOP when there was no stronger Republican bastion in the country.
We lost others far too early: children such as Hunter Krzysik and Cameron Simmons.
We said goodbye to educators and clergy members and coaches and musicians and even the owner of a popcorn shop.
We mourned them and we miss them, but they all live on in our hearts and memories as a reminder of who we were, who we are, and who we can become.
Richard "Rick" Bullis, 73
He and his wife, Rev. Elizabeth Ann "Betsy" Bullis, co-founded the Agape Family Church and Outreach Center in Wood Dale in 1980. They quickly became known for taking the homeless into their own home, caring for the sick and elderly and serving as an outreach resource for Wood Dale police.
Sister Rosemarie Burian, 83
The idea came to her in a flash during morning meditation: DuPage County needed a food bank to help feed the poor. It didn't matter that she had no experience in such things -- it had to be done. So Sister Burian founded the Bethlehem Center Food Bank, which later became the Northern Illinois Food Bank. Now headquartered in Geneva, it provides more than 66 million pounds of food each year to those in need.
Joe Devlin, 97
Known for his interest in public works, the longtime Roselle official played a key role in one of the most important projects in DuPage County history: bringing Lake Michigan water to the suburbs as part of the DuPage Water Commission. A two-term mayor, he also served eight terms as a village trustee in a 40-year career of public service.
Paul Gamboa, 46
The president of the Indian Prairie Education Association led the teachers union in the district of 27,400 students for the past five years, helping achieve a contract that brought teacher salaries closer to those paid in nearby districts. He was a graduate of District 204 and Illinois State University.
Ron Gibson, 78
His career in Naperville Unit District 203 spanned 38 years and his influence on the district remained long after he retired in 2004. Peers said he had a knack for recognizing potential, whether in students, teachers or administrators and he put it to good use in solving problems both large and small. He began his career as a student teacher and moved through the ranks until being named in 1982 as associate superintendent of education -- a job he held until retirement.
Lawrence Golden, 77
The longtime superintendent in Marquardt Elementary District 15 added to his legacy when he changed his mind about retiring in 1995 and stayed for another six years. He joined District 15 as a teacher in 1967 and later became a guidance counselor and then a principal. The day after his retirement in 2001, the district renamed its Marquardt Middle School Sixth Grade Center the Lawrence J. Golden Sixth Grade Center.
Marget "Margy" Hamilton, 104
The trailblazer became Wheaton's first female mayor in 1969. As the city's first councilwoman, she worked with the NAACP to introduce a comprehensive fair housing ordinance prohibiting racial discrimination in home purchases -- despite threats against her life. A defiant Hamilton and supporters prevailed when the city adopted the ordinance -- the first of its kind in Illinois -- in 1967 after a yearslong effort. During World War II, Hamilton was raising her four young sons outside Barrington when she read that the Barrington Park District would not allow Japanese American children to use the local swimming pool. Hamilton called a few of her League of Women Voters friends, and the next day they picketed the pool. In 1955, she founded the Wheaton chapter of the League of Women Voters, which conducted a study concluding the city should hire a city manager. About 10 years after her husband's death, Hamilton agreed to lead the College of DuPage Older Adult Institute, staying nearly a quarter-century until she turned 93.
Michael Kasper, 46
The CEO of the Downers Grove-based DuPage Medical Group helped the organization reach across the suburbs as one of the state's largest independent physician practices while maintaining its autonomy in an era of mergers between doctors groups and larger hospital systems.
Rev. Leroy Kennel, 88
Along with his wife, Pauline, he founded the Lombard Mennonite Church in 1954 and led its community for 11 years before leaving to become a professor of preaching and worship at Bethany Theological Seminary in Oak Brook. In 2000, the couple bought a former dairy farm in Schaumburg and spent three years converting the large barn into a church.
Shirley Helen Ketter, 90
A longtime leader and the first female mayor of Itasca, she was a voice for a changing time. She served as a village trustee for 12 years and then mayor for another 12, from 1973 to 1997, and stayed involved even after stepping down. While in office she was involved with the Hamilton Lakes office project, saw the expansion of the library and Springbrook Nature Center, and helped bring curbs, gutters and sidewalks to modernize some neighborhoods.
Hunter Krzysik, 13
Known for his love of playing baseball, especially with his dad, the Bensenville teenager was killed when he and three others were handling guns in a friend's home. His death led hundreds to attend a memorial walk in his honor, starting at the diamond near his home where he would play.
Steven Mazzarella, 62
Friends and colleagues said the longtime Naperville North High School health teacher and diving coach had a simple purpose: to treat everyone with love and acceptance, to live life with passion and to show others how they could do the same. So when he died from a malignant brain tumor, it was no surprise that his family asked well-wishers to skip the flowers and instead perform a random act of kindness in his honor.
Barbara Murphy, 81
The longtime DuPage County Republican chairwoman never considered herself a trailblazer, but her contemporaries did. Known for her sharp and analytical mind, she climbed to the top of the then-male dominated leadership of the DuPage GOP at a time when the county was one of the most reliably Republican places in the nation. She felt the pinnacle of her career came in 1996 when she was elected as a delegate backing presidential candidate Bob Dole.
Ron Raglin, 58
A passionate advocate for students, he was Elgin Area School District U-46's assistant superintendent of educational support programs and alignment and received Elgin's 2019 Dr. King Humanitarian Award earlier in the year. He was known as a champion of educational equity who helped strengthen ties to community partners to promote student success.
George Randazzo, 77
Known for building relationships, he brought people together over his favorite topics: Italian culture and sports. The Bloomingdale resident was the founder of the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame. During the 41 years he ran the Hall, it inducted more than 270 athletes, from Joe DiMaggio to Mary Lou Retton.
Bonnie Klee Roberts, 75
The founder of the Naperville Men's Glee Club, she loved the deeper tones of male voices. She started the group in 1988 and led it nearly until her death. Singers remembered her as a creative thinker who created concert series that helped cancer patients connect through song, tornado victims rebuild with hope, or young performers share their talents.
Frank Rutledge, 56
The Aurora resident was regarded as the "poet laureate" of Batavia's Waterline Writers and known for hosting open mics across the area, sharing his poetry and encouraging others to write and express themselves. Friends recalled him as a kindhearted man who was genuine and brought out the creative side in those he encountered.
John Schuetz, 76
The longtime Naperville-area resident served 30 years with the city's police department before retiring as a sergeant. He later led the Naperville Park District police from 2000 to 2008. Former Naperville chief David Dial called him a "legendary sergeant."
Cameron Simmons, 10
The Addison boy died when the van he was riding in plunged into a detention pond off Interstate 90. He was a fourth-grade student at Black Hawk Elementary School. Cameron is buried in a special casket with the Air Jordan logo on it because of his passion for Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
Dick Stephens, 84
The former Elgin and Bartlett high school football coach was known as one of the game's most passionate coaches. A 1987 inductee to the Michigan Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame and a 2009 inductee to the Elgin Sports Hall of Fame, he coached Elgin to a 90-80-2 record, three Upstate Eight Conference titles and five playoff appearances in two stints over 18 years: 1969-1977 and 1987-1995. In 1997 he became the first head coach at Bartlett, where his teams went 27-22 in five seasons. Stephens stepped down as Bartlett coach in 2001 after a heart attack, but his love of the game continued unabated. Following a year off, he returned to the sideline at Western High School in Jackson, Michigan, and coached four more seasons.
Bill Wakefield, 67
The Wheaton man had many passions, but prime among them was the Little Popcorn Store on Front Street, a tiny shop squeezed between two buildings that he and his sister, Donna, purchased in 1979. The shop is scheduled to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2021. Another passion? The Grateful Dead, who he followed around the U.S. and even Europe.
Don Warren, 90
He founded the Rosemont Cavaliers and helped guide the drum and bugle corps to more than 20 national titles and seven world championships with Drum Corps International. A former resident of Wood Dale, he conceived the corps in 1948 as an activity for Boy Scout Troop 111 in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood. "It was basically a way to keep the boys off the street," former member Dan Currier said. "They wore their Scout uniforms and played bugles."