Schofield “Scuffy” Gross, who served as the Riverside Township assessor for 40 years before retiring in 2009, died July 4, 2016 at the age of 88.
Although in recent years he and his wife, Sue, lived at Plymouth Place in LaGrange Park, Mr. Gross was a dedicated, lifelong Riversider. Even after moving, he’d come visit Riverside regularly for as long as he could.
Born June 25, 1928, he grew up in a gracious Victorian home on Longcommon Road that once belonged to his grandfather. And, except for a couple of years while serving in the U.S. Army and a short stint across the street from the village on Desplaines Avenue in North Riverside, Gross called Riverside home.
Captivated by boats and the Great Lakes as a boy, Mr. Gross was in high school when he landed a job as a bartender’s assistant aboard the Lake Michigan tourist ship the S.S. North American.
“He absolutely fell in love with the Great Lakes,” said Sue Gross, his wife of 65 years.
Mr. Gross would wander the boat during the day and climb atop the ship to look at the stars at night. He would have stayed on the boat for good, but his parents felt it better that he attend college.
He endured two years before leaving the University of Illinois and joining his father in the insurance business. In 1950, Mr. Gross married Sue Coughenour, whom he had known since grade school.
At first she liked that he was tall and a good dance partner, but Sue Gross quickly learned what made Mr. Gross special.
“He was an interesting guy with a lot of friends and interests,” She said. “Scuff was always so polite, so nice. And it wasn’t artificial; it was engrained in him.
“I loved that feeling of being cared for.”
Mr. Gross kept up his love of sailing through the years, though he himself never owned a boat.
“He never owned a boat, but he sailed on everyone else’s,” said Sue Gross. “He was a great crew member.”
The couple lived with Mr. Gross’ mother on Longcommon Road early on, but Mr. Gross was drafted into the U.S. Army. He was sent to Camp Chaffee in Arkansas. Sue Gross joined him there after he completed basic training and was hired to work for her husband’s company commander. They spent the entirety of his enlistment at the camp, before returning to Riverside in 1954.
With his father dying prior to Mr. Gross’ marriage in 1950, his mother kept the insurance business going until he returned home. Mr. Gross eventually established the S.B Gross Insurance Company, which he operated out of the Arcade Building in downtown Riverside.
It was in 1969, while working in that Arcade Building office that Mr. Gross was approached about taking on the role as Riverside Township assessor.
“I had an office in the center of town and they had no room in the town hall,” Mr. Gross told the Landmark in 2009. “I think they wanted my space, not me.”
Mr. Gross was appointed assessor and then re-elected to the post for the next four decades. In 2009, at the age of 80, Mr. Gross chose not to run for re-election though he most certainly would have won if he had.
He was replaced by Fran Sitkiewicz, who joined the assessor’s office as a part-timer in 2001. Sitkiewicz learned firsthand about Mr. Gross’ capacities for generosity and persistence that were his hallmarks.
“He was very detail-oriented,” Sitkiewicz said. “If someone missed putting in their application for an exemption, he’d go after them until they got their exemption.”
After work every day, said Sitkiewicz, Mr. Gross would thank her for working there.
“He would go out of his way to do something for people,” she said. “He was such a gracious man.”
Mr. Gross was involved in many other local organizations and causes. He was part of a group of 10 who founded the Riverside Swim Club and served as its first board of directors. He was a deacon and elder at the Riverside Presbyterian Church, a proud member of the Riverside American Legion and was the oldest active member of the Riverside Golf Club and was very active in the Riverside Township Lions Club.
“He probably brought in more new members than anyone else did,” said Mr. Gross’ close friend Lew Heine. “He was Mr. Riverside in some ways.”
Dave Newman, another close friend, remembered Mr. Gross warmly welcoming him to the village in 1964 when he moved to town to work as an assistant for Ashley Guthrie, who was a close friend of Mr. Gross’ father.
“He took it upon himself to greet me and familiarize myself with the town,’ Newman said. “He was in the midst of everything and a big booster for the town. He loved Riverside.”
It was in 1962 that the Gross family moved into their home on Lawton Road; they remained there until about three years ago when Mr. Gross and his wife moved to Plymouth Place. It was a hard move.
“It was such a wonderful neighborhood; the children grew up there,” said Sue Gross. “It was such a grand place to live.”
Mr. Gross was the husband of Sue Carol Coughenour Gross; the father of Connie Sue (Michael) Schmidt, Cindy (Don) Sullivan and Christy (Marty) Muse; the grandfather of Sarah Schmidt, Dan Schmidt, Mike Nicastro, Robyn Nicastro, David Muse and Dexter Muse; the great grandfather of Rowen Nicastro; the brother of the late Dorothy Sprietsma and Constance Scanley; the uncle “Buddy” to Steve, Anne and Ellen Scanley, and Uncle Scuff to Michael, Jim and Laurie Coughenour, Karin Shurtleff Crain and Bob Shurtleff.
Friends and family are asked to gather at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 9, at Riverside Presbyterian Church, 116 Barrypoint Road. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. with a reception to follow. Private burial will be at Bronswood Cemetery.
Memorial donations are appreciated to the Support and Endowment Fund at the Riverside Presbyterian Church.
Ivins/Moravecek Funeral Home, Riverside, handled arrangements.