Ken Maraballa, a foundation of the village of Mundelein, passes
A prankster, a family man, and a father figure to others.
Ken Marabella was all of those, but he also was deadly serious when there was work to be done.
It all came to bear as Mundelein's first village administrator, from January 1975 until April 2005.
"A lot of what you see in Mundelein is based on what Ken Marabella's efforts were," said Ray Rose, Mundelein's chief of police from 1992-2013 and currently chairman of the Mundelein Fire and Police Commission, as well as vice president of Mundelein Elementary District 75.
"He's responsible for pretty much everything that's happened in Mundelein," Rose said. "His focus was on upgrading, if you will, Mundelein -- making it a better community, making it a diverse community that contributed to the success of Mundelein. The subdivisions that were being developed, how they were developed -- and developed appropriately" happened under his purview.
Marabella, 72, of Wadsworth, died Friday. He is survived by his wife, Sheila, and sons, Mike, Tim, Patrick and Danny.
Visitation will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday at Marsh Funeral Home, 305 N. Cemetery Road, Gurnee. Interment will follow at 1:30 p.m. at Ascension Catholic Cemetery, 1920 Buckley Road.
Comments about Marabella's impact on Mundelein, just two years after earning a master's degree in public administration from the University of Denver, and plaudits came in early and often.
"Mr. Marabella hired me back in 1995 and is a legend in Mundelein," said Cynthia Peart, once an assistant to Rose and now assisting Mayor Steve Lentz and current Village Administrator Eric Guenther. "We are standing on the shoulders of giants like Mr. Marabella."
Census figures show Mundelein's population roughly doubled during his time as village administrator, nearly up to its most recent figure of about 31,560.
"Ken's legacy is not only the creation of new brick-and-mortar structures and subdivisions, but the heart and soul of the community that focused on a community that was safe, a community that enjoyed professional services, and he always talked about a community that was a great place to work, live and raise your family in," Rose said.
Still, Mike Flynn, Marabella's assistant village manager from 1988 to 2005, said Marabella reflected the thinking of the era in focusing on infrastructure improvement. During his tenure two fire stations were built, including the department's headquarters at 1000 N. Midlothian Road, and a new police station at 221 N. Lake St.
"He really was in a kind of period of moving the public investment into police and fire (departments), greatly improving our capabilities," Flynn said. "That was a very difficult thing to do. Mundelein is not a very rich community with a huge tax base, but he was able to guide the board and work with the board to get those much-needed investments made."
Marilyn Sindles, who worked with Marabella first as a member of the village board then as mayor from 1989 to 2005, recalled their work at meetings with other Lake County mayors to bring a double-track railroad and Metra station to the village.
"We were kind of like the representatives from the Lake County area," she said. "We started going to these meetings when people thought it was a crazy idea. And lo and behold we have a beautiful train station in Mundelein, and so do other communities."
Lentz noted the residential development that came on board during Marabella's tenure: Fields of Ambria, Cambridge Country, Cambridge North, and Cambridge West.
"He oversaw the growth of Mundelein to a huge degree," the current mayor said. "Several neighborhoods were built under his watch, hundreds and hundreds of homes."
North Barrington Village Administrator John Lobaito, hired twice by Marabella -- first in 1985 for the building department and again in 2002 as community development director -- believed Marabella's work as a founding member of the Joint Action Waterway Agency, which gained access to Lake Michigan water supply for Mundelein and other municipalities, "kind of defined his career."
That and expanded wastewater treatment facilities under Marabella's leadership helped facilitate growth.
"Without those two things Mundelein wouldn't be the community it is today," Lobaito said.
Remembering his start with the village at age 25, Lobaito called Marabella "somewhat of a father figure, too."
He joined several others in recalling Marabella's humor and, like Flynn said, his "hearty laugh" filled village hall.
"Ken always found ways to make work more enjoyable and I've really never forgotten that part of him. He had a great sense of humor. That makes me laugh today," Lobaito said.
Sindles added, though Marabella was dedicated to the village, "his number one priority was as a father and a husband. I'm still in shock."