In 2003, Dennis Sadilek was honored as Riverside’s Person of the Year, the culmination of a life devoted to service to community and others. But he wanted to make it clear that his many contributions were dependent on others looking out for him many years earlier.
“My story could not have happened without the nurture, support, and selfless volunteerism of so many people of this great nation, which has no equal in generosity, compassion, and acceptance,” Mr. Sadilek said in accepting the award that night 13 years ago. “God bless these United States of America.”
Professional success and personal fulfillment did not initially seem to be in the cards for Mr. Sadilek, who died Aug. 10, 2016 at the age of 85.
“He always felt a great commitment because so many people helped him,” said his wife of 37 years, Mary Ann Sadilek. “He came over here with nothing, so he felt a strong obligation and duty to do whatever he could for other people.”
Mr. Sadilek was born in Prague on Dec. 22, 1930, the son of Vaclav and Ludmilla Sadilek. His father was a director of the National Bank of Czechoslovakia. In 1939, when the Nazis marched into the Czechoslovakian capital, the bank’s directors were working to have the nation’s gold reserves shipped away for safekeeping.
One night there was a knock on the door — it was the SS looking for Mr. Sadilek’s father. Vaclav Sadilek’s last words to 9-year-old Dennis were, “Take care of your mother and sister.”
The Nazis told the Sadilek family that Vaclav took his own life while in custody. The family refused to believe the story.
In 1947 at the age of 16, Mr. Sadilek was one of two teens in the entire country selected by the American Field Service to be foreign exchange students in the United States.
Mr. Sadilek finished his high school education in Vermont at the Putney School, a progressive college prep boarding school. In 1948, however, communists in Czechoslovakia staged a coup d’état, so Mr. Sadilek decided to stay in the United States rather than return home.
He was granted asylum and won a scholarship through the Jewel Tea Company to attend Northwestern University. For two years, he lived with the Perkins family (of Perkins and Will architecture fame) before joining a fraternity and graduating in 1952 from Northwestern.
After that, Mr. Sadilek earned his law degree from Yale University before landing a job with Jewel. He married Marie Giammanco, a Riverside resident, and raised three children while working as vice president of Central Can Company, owned by his wife’s family. The couple later divorced.
Mr. Sadilek also was vice president of special investments for Northern Trust Bank and later, executive vice president of the CM Realty division of Chicago Metallic Corporation, managing the company’s real estate development.
He married Mary Ann Novak in 1979 and was active locally both as an elected official and through charitable and church groups. Mr. Sadilek won election to the Riverside Board of Trustees in 1989 and served two consecutive terms before an unsuccessful run for village president in 1997.
Two years later, in 1999, he was elected to a third term as village trustee. He also served a term on the Riverside Public Library Board of Trustees, one of those years as president of the board.
Mr. Sadilek was an active member of the Riverside Township Lions Club, serving as the organization’s president. He also served as an elder and trustee at Riverside Presbyterian Church, where more than three decades ago he co-founded a men’s support group that still meets once a week.
“He would be encouraging people to get involved and to be kind,” said Mrs. Sadilek when asked about her husband’s legacy. “He had high moral standards and ethics.”
He and his wife enjoyed the Lyric Opera of Chicago and Chicago Symphony Orchestra and was an active skier, tennis player and golfer who enjoyed spending time with his family at their vacation retreat in Fontana, Wisconsin.
Dennis Sadilek is survived by his sister, Eva (Vaclav) Kures; three children from his previous marriage to Marie Giammanco, Bruce (Gail), Laura (Larry) Bourne and Cynthia (David) Ridings; two stepchildren, Peter (Marita) Salkowski and Joan (Daniel) Robbins; six grandchildren, Christina Bourne, Bryan Bourne, Julia (Josh) Bourne Terpstra, Michael Ridings, Sarah Ridings and Laura Ridings; four step-grandchildren, Tim Robbins, Sam Robbins, Luke Robbins and Madison Salkowski; one great-grandchild, Philip Terpstra; and two nephews, Peter (Maureen) Kures and Michael Kures.
Visitation will be held on Friday, Aug. 19 at 10 a.m. at Riverside Presbyterian Church, 116 Barrypoint Road in Riverside, followed by a memorial service at 11 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, contributions in Dennis Sadilek’s name are appreciated to the Riverside Presbyterian Church.