Veterans advocate, parade organizer, Naperville's Jelinek put everything into his work
As a Navy veteran, a firefighter, a father and a community volunteer, in everything he did, Terrence "Terry" Jelinek was committed.
Jelinek, a Naperville native who retired from the city's fire department in 2005 as a battalion chief, died Dec. 23 after an illness. He was 70.
Serving aboard the USS Oklahoma City during the Vietnam War led Jelinek to get involved with both American Legion Post 43 and Judd Kendall VFW Post 3873 in Naperville upon his return to his hometown. At various times, he served in each organization's top post as commander. And for roughly 30 years, fellow volunteers say, he helped plan and organize the city's traditional Memorial Day parade.
"When Terry got into something, he was committed," longtime friend and fellow Vietnam veteran Wayne Fischer said. "That's the way he was."
Jelinek, a father to three boys with wife Susan Jelinek and a grandfather of nine, was the kind of down-to-earth, dependable guy who always showed up with a smile. That's why, as some of the earlier leaders of the Naperville Memorial Day parade stepped down, moved away or died, Naperville Municipal Band Director Ron Keller said Jelinek's skills were a big help.
"Terry stepped in and took over a lot of those duties," Keller said, "and he was very organized."
He made an impression on those around him as a sunny personality, a positive thinker, an avid gardener and a supporter of youth.
Jelinek organized appearances by veterans for students in Naperville Unit District 203 and helped put on the annual American Legion Illinois Premier Boys State program, a weeklong introduction to government for high school students hosted each year at Eastern Illinois University.
"Terry didn't have a big ego," Fischer said. "He just loved being involved and doing things to support his fellow veterans, the community and obviously the fire department."
Firefighting was Jelinek's career after his service in the Navy. After he retired from Naperville's department at the rank of battalion chief, he got a gig helping with training within the neighboring Warrenville Fire Protection District.
His firehouse days served him well during his involvement with the Judd Kendall VFW Post, Keller said, helping him form a group of culinary companions to feed others among the organization of retired military members.
"They called themselves the Kendall Cooks," Keller said. "They were all retired firemen, and believe me, firemen -- they know how to cook."
A funeral Mass was held Saturday at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church and internment was at Ss. Peter and Paul Cemetery in Naperville with full military honors.
Instead of flowers, Jelinek's family asks that memorials in his name be made to Naperville Responds for Veterans, 201 S. Washington St., Naperville, IL, 60540.