The area lost some giants in 2016, longtime public servants, characters and even a beloved resident of the Brookfield Zoo. Here’s a look back at those who passed away in the past 12 months.
Mark Camasta, 59
An attorney who was very involved as a Boy Scout leader and volunteer, the Lyons resident served for eight years on the Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 Board of Education, to which he was re-elected in 2013. March 8.
Cookie the Cockatoo, 83
Cookie, a Major Mitchell’s cockatoo, was a part of the Brookfield Zoo’s collection from the day it opened in 1934 until the day he died. Celebrated in 2014 as the world’s oldest parrot, Cookie received star treatment from visitors and staff alike. In 2013, Dr. Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji, a holy man/healer who founded a parrot sanctuary in Mysore, India, made a special pilgrimage to Brookfield Zoo to see Cookie. Aug. 27.
Randall Czajka, 59
Czajka first got involved in North Riverside politics in the 1980s as a resident concerned about the impact of the North Riverside Park Mall on his east side neighborhood. In 1991, he won election as a village trustee and served in that capacity for 22 years, several of them battling a debilitating neurodegenerative disease before leaving the village board in 2013. Jan. 9.
Harold Fitzsimmons, 82
“Fitz” was a Boston native who spent a long career in law enforcement, serving as a police officer in Riverside and Oak Park, where he became deputy chief. He also served as police chief at Brookfield Zoo and for the village of Lisle before retiring after a stint with the DuPage Metropolitan Enforcement Group. March 30.
James Greene, 87
Greene worked as an electrician, but the Riverside resident’s time serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War spurred a lifetime of service to veterans’ causes, including 55 years as a volunteer at Hines V.A. Hospital. Nov. 3.
Schofield “Scuffy” Gross, 88
Gross was perhaps best known in town as being Riverside Township’s assessor for 40 years, retiring from the job in 2009. But he was omnipresent in Riverside as a member of the Lions Club, as a businessman, one of the founders of the Riverside Swim Club, an elder at Riverside Presbyterian Church and as a repository of historical knowledge. July 4.
James Keen, 85
Keen grew up on a farm in South Dakota but made his mark as a research chemist for General Mills, registering 20 patents. The father of 11, Keen also had a strong interest in education and was a critic of education policy. He served on the Riverside-Brookfield High School board for 12 years. July 30.
Charley Krebs, 59
A Riverside man about town, Krebs was the award-winning editorial cartoonist for Suburban Life newspapers for 30 years. His distinctive style graced the pages of Chicago Jazz Magazine, Copley Newspapers and the web pages of Patch.com. Riverside Arts Center displayed a retrospective of his work last summer, prior to his death on Nov. 10.
John Kunka, 83
A longtime member and leader of the Frederick Law Olmsted Society, Kunka served on the Riverside Forestry Advisory Committee and led the first research-based restoration of the Riverside landscape in keeping with Olmsted’s plan. He also helped organize the Olmsted Society’s first housewalk and, along with his wife, Jane, was named a Person of the Year by the Lions Club. Nov. 10.
Dr. Harold Lindahl, 89
A chemical engineer and adjunct professor of chemical engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology for more than 40 years, Dr. Lindahl also was elected to the Riverside Elementary School District 96 Board of Education, serving as president. Oct. 19.
Joseph Lis, 87
Lis famously got his job in 1956 as a science teacher at S.E. Gross School in Brookfield after getting lost on his way to Brookfield Zoo and stopping at the school for directions. For the next 37 years he was known as “Mr. Lis the Scientist” retiring in 1993. Oct. 15.
Martin Mitera, 63
After serving in the U.S. Marines, Mitera embarked on a career in law enforcement, serving as a Brookfield police officer for 30 years until his retirement in 2011. Sept. 5.
Clyde “Moose” Moravec, 73
A Riverside native with big ideas, Moravec was a world traveler and renaissance man whose jobs included being a restaurateur, working at the Chicago Board of Trade, remodeling homes, managing property in Los Angeles and building wood hot tubs from scratch. Moravec was the life of the party, whose “Moosefest” gatherings were highlights of his RBHS class’ high school reunions. Feb. 20.
Chris Stach, 64
A beloved local figure who dubbed himself “Brookfield’s Greatest Historian,” Stach was a prolific collector of documents and items related to local history, helped author the book Brookfield, Illinois: A History and wrote about local history regularly for the Riverside-Brookfield Landmark. Aug. 10.
Dennis Sadilek, 85
A Czech immigrant whose father died at the hand of the Nazis during World War II, Sadilek earned a law degree from Yale University and worked for Jewel, Northern Trust and in commercial real estate. Locally, he served as a member of the Riverside Village Board and the library board. He was also president of the Lions Club and was an elder at Riverside Presbyterian Church. Aug. 10.
James “Sully” Sullivan, 80
A former Marine who worked as a maintenance manager for a transport company, Sullivan was best known in Brookfield as the manager of the Brookfield National Little League softball team that won the Little League World Series in 1986. Nov. 23.
Lois Verdon, 80
A former longtime Brookfield resident, she was the “Lo” in Dav N Lo’s Chicken, which churned out box after box of fried chicken for hungry residents for 20 years, from 1976 until 1996 on Ogden Avenue. Feb. 3.