Randall J. Czajka, a North Riverside village trustee for 22 years, died on Jan. 9, 2016 at the age of 59 after a seven-year battle against multiple systems atrophy (MSA), a progressive neurodegenerative disorder.
Mr. Czajka was born on Dec. 19, 1956 in Chicago and raised in Berwyn. He attended Morton West High School and Morton College before embarking on a career in information technology. He worked for the Jewel and Dominick’s grocery store companies before moving to the Arthur J. Gallagher insurance company, where he was IT director.
He met his future wife, lifelong North Riverside resident Debbie Piekarski, on a blind date and the two were married in 1982. The couple bought their first home on Lathrop Avenue, facing the North Riverside Park Mall.
That decision turned out to be Mr. Czajka’s entrée into the world of North Riverside politics.
Mr. Czajka headed a committee advocating for a landscaped berm to shield the mall from the residential neighborhood to the west. As a result, he became acquainted with the chairman of the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals at that time — future Mayor Richard Scheck — along with trustees like Guy Belmonte, who later would be named village administrator.
“We had a lot of catching up to do, and Randy was at the forefront of that,” Scheck said. “He cared about people and spent a lot of his own time doing that.”
Impressed with Mr. Czajka’s mild manner and willingness to listen to people, the VIP Party slated him as a trustee candidate in 1991.
“Randy always said, ‘You’ve got to listen to the people,'” said Debbie Czajka. “He always wanted the people to voice their opinion. He got along with everybody. He never had an agenda.”
He won election that year and held onto the seat until 2013, when MSA took away his ability to continue with the job.
Debbie Czajka was appointed to replace her husband on the village board in 2013. She was elected to the board in 2015.
Even though signs of MSA had started to present themselves by the time he last ran for election in 2011, Mr. Czajka decided for a final run despite it all.
“He never walked away from doing what he felt was his duty to the people of North Riverside,” Scheck said.
When Hubert Hermanek Jr., now North Riverside’s mayor, was elected to the board as a trustee in 2009, Mr. Czajka was already a seasoned veteran and helpful to the newcomer.
“I sat right next to him and he helped break me in,” Hermanek said. “He was a very good trustee who always had kind words about people, even if he disagreed with them.”
Mr. Czajka is survived by his wife, Debbie Czajka (nee Piekarski); his sons, Jason, Joshua and Jacob Czajka; his sister, Judy Sotir; and his nieces and nephews, Heather, Tyler, Chandler, Alexa, Danielle and Zachary.
Visitation will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 12 from 3 to 9 p.m. at Kuratko-Nosek Funeral Home, 2447 Desplaines Ave. in North Riverside. A funeral Mass will be celebrated on Wednesday, Jan. 13 at 10 a.m. at Mater Christi Church, 2431 10th Ave. in North Riverside, followed by interment at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside.