In memoriam Notable deaths in DuPage County

  • Rev. Billy Graham

    Rev. Billy Graham AP file photo

Daily Herald report
Posted1/2/2019 6:00 AM

As we look forward to the year ahead, it's fitting we also look back, with no shortage of sadness, at those we lost in 2018.

It was a year in which we lost two men who were legendary mayors in their communities -- Naperville's A. George Pradel and Elmhurst's Charles Weigel Jr.

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We bid farewell to the Rev. Billy Graham, a man with DuPage connections but who truly belonged to the world.

We said goodbye to a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, Leon Lederman.

And there were many others: musicians and volunteers and lawmakers and, yes, even children.

They all made their little corner of the globe a better place. They all will be missed, but, more importantly, they all will be remembered.

Here's a look at some of the year's notable deaths in DuPage County:

Rev. Billy Graham, 99

The best known evangelist of the 20th century, the Wheaton College graduate preached to millions as his crusades took him around the world. He frequently met with presidents, from Truman through Obama. Known to some as "America's Pastor," he was remembered as a man devoted to spreading the Gospel and living his life at home as he preached it in stadiums, with a personable humility and an unwavering focus on the Bible.

A. George Pradel, 80

A. George Pradel
A. George Pradel - Daily Herald file photo

For five decades, he personified Naperville. The city's longest-serving mayor, he was a lifelong Naperville resident who first gained fame as the police department's "Officer Friendly." He was elected mayor in 1995 and served until 2015, when he was named mayor emeritus. He was honored countless times. On Washington Street sits a sculpture depicting him as a police officer greeting children. A street and a park are named in his honor. His face is on several murals. Restaurants named rooms and gardens and sandwiches after him. A radio station named him the area's sexiest mayor. There was even a bobblehead sold in his likeness. He was always proclaiming himself "so proud!" of all things Naperville, with an unforgettable, booming and energetic emcee's voice. He opened nearly every event by saying -- no, shouting -- "Welcome to Naperville!" He died one day short of his 81st birthday.

Tom Weisner, 69

Tom Weisner
Tom Weisner

He served as Aurora's mayor for nearly 12 years before his health forced him to step down at the end of October 2016. He first was elected to head the state's second-largest city in 2005 and took the initiative on projects such as construction of RiverEdge Park and the expansion of Chicago Premium Outlets. He spent nearly 20 years working for the city before being elected mayor, overseeing a variety of operations, including emergency management, public properties and organizational development. Before becoming active in the city, he and his wife, Marilyn, served in the Peace Corps, assisting rain forest dwellers in the highlands of Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. Mayor Richard Irvin said Weisner led with passion, persistence and professionalism. "Without question, Tom Weisner will forever be synonymous with Aurora, Illinois," he said.

Leon Lederman, 96

Leon Lederman
Leon Lederman - Daily Herald file photo

He was a Nobel Prize winner. He was a political advocate for science education who proposed what would become the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (and which he eventually led). He was the guy who gave an enduring nickname to the Higgs boson -- the God particle. Oh, and he was one of the driving forces behind creation of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy.

Charles Weigel Jr., 93

Charles Weigel
Charles Weigel

He served as mayor of Elmhurst from 1961 to 1973 after four terms as a 5th Ward alderman. He was remembered as a World War II veteran who never stopped working, never stopped caring and never stopped giving. During his tenure as mayor, the city undertook a large-scale public works project to separate its storm sewers and sanitary sewers, saw the expansion of Elmhurst Memorial Hospital, passed a fair housing ordinance and established an industrial park on the north side of the city.

Meghan Liddy, 25

Meghan Liddy
Meghan Liddy - Courtesy of the Liddy family

The Wheaton woman first went to Africa at age 18 as part of a church mission and returned on a permanent basis five years ago to work with a group helping children. She was fostering two young girls in Ghana when she contracted a severe case of malaria that took her life.

Al DeCarlo, 69

The Addison musician's virtuoso guitar playing galvanized the 1970s progressive rock trios Bangor Flying Circus and Madura and won the admiration of legends such as Janis Joplin and Frank Zappa. His high-energy jamming style can be heard on such songs as Madura's "Free From the Devil," which he wrote, as well as the group's cover of "Johnny B. Goode."

Frank Slocumb, 72

The longtime executive at BMO Harris Bank was known as an exceptional businessman, a mentor for those who worked with him and a community activist in Naperville where he served on the boards of Edward Hospital and St. Patrick's Residence, was a longtime member of the Rotary Club and was a founding board member of the Naperville Parks Foundation.

Mary Hayes, 78

Mary Hayes
Mary Hayes - Courtesy of Northern Illinois Food Bank

Her most-lasting image was as a Glen Ellyn mom driving around the suburbs in her white Nissan in the summer of 1999, trunk full of coolers, delivering sandwiches, milk and fresh fruit to hungry kids. A single mother of five, including "Will & Grace" actor Sean Hayes, she worked at the Northern Illinois Food Bank from 1983 to 2008 as its first employee. Friends say she had a clear love of helping people and directed that positive energy toward serving the hungry.

Brady Daniel Doherty, 7

The second-grader at St. Petronille Catholic School in Glen Ellyn died two days after a freak accident at the My Gym play center in Wheaton after apparently falling off a ride called "space flight."

Tom Johnson, 73

The veteran state lawmaker from West Chicago had a reputation in Springfield as a moderate voice for the Republican Party and as an advocate for criminal justice reform. An Army veteran who served in Vietnam, he spent time in both chambers of the General Assembly. A former DuPage County prosecutor, he first was elected to the Illinois House in 1992. After a decade in office, he chose not to seek a sixth term in a newly drawn House district and, at one point, considered running for secretary of state.

Janice Barnstable, 76

Killed in a fire, the Addison woman was a pioneer of a global classroom initiative that connects teachers all over the world. Her passing brought an outpouring of sadness from educators across the globe.

Oronzo Peconio, 67

One of Bensenville's most active residents, he was serving as president of the Fenton High School District 100 school board when he suffered a heart attack. He and his wife, Concetta, were making plans to celebrate their 48th anniversary at the time. He also served as president of Bensenville Fire Protection District from 2007 to 2009 and was elected in 2009 as a village trustee. He was one of three candidates for village president in 2013.

Patricia Jeanne Fee, 62

The ultimate volunteer, she spent much of her adult life building friendships in Aurora and Barrington. A Republican precinct committeewoman who became involved with both the Illinois Federation of Republican Women and the National Federation of Republican Women, she ran In 2012 as a Republican for the 84th District state House seat, using the help of many local Republicans. The seat went to Democrat Stephanie Kifowit, but Fee stayed involved, taking friends on trips to Washington, D.C., and remaining a frequent campaign volunteer.

Barbara Honeyman James, 60

The Warrenville woman was remembered for her grit, positive attitude and efforts to rescue horses from slaughter. She co-founded two equine rescues, Casey's Safe Haven in Elburn and 3 Amigos Equine Rescue Project in Waxahachie, Texas.

Helen Muha, 89

Bartlett's "Purple Lady," Helen Muha, colored life for family, friends and the community with her panache and love for others. A member of the Red Hat Society, she won numerous honors, including the Cook County Sheriff's Senior Medal of Honor Award for her Spirit of Volunteerism.

Terrence "Terry" Jelinek, 70

The Naperville man was committed to everything he did as a Navy veteran, a firefighter, a father and a community volunteer. He retired from the city's fire department in 2005 as a battalion chief. Serving aboard the USS Oklahoma City during the Vietnam War led him 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, he helped plan and organize the city's traditional Memorial Day parade.

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