Riverside Township Supervisor Richard Tuscher capped a two-year process and his own career as the leader of the township board on April 8, unveiling a 24-by-14-inch bronze plaque and formally dedicating the auditorium of the Riverside Township Hall in memory of Judy Baar Topinka.
The late Topinka, a resident of Riverside and pioneering state legislator, was the longtime Republican committeeman of Riverside Township. The plaque, which cost about $4,000, specifically mentions her role in state government as a representative from 1981-84, as a senator from 1985-94 and as Illinois treasurer (1995-2004) and Illinois comptroller (2011-14).
“The years she had served were many, and we thought she deserved something,” said Tuscher, who bows out as township supervisor next month after a 10-year run, at the ceremony. “So we’re dedicating the auditorium, which is the biggest and nicest in the town hall.”
Topinka, 70, died from complications of a stroke on Dec. 10, 2014. Her son, Joseph Topinka, was present for the plaque unveiling. The retired U.S. Army major led the Pledge of Allegiance prior to Tuscher’s remarks.
In a phone interview with the Landmark, Joseph Topinka thanked Tuscher and the township board, in addition to newly elected township trustee Michael Dropka, whom he credited with the initial idea to name the entire township hall in Judy Baar Topinka’s name.
“We wouldn’t have even gotten to this point without [Dropka],” Topinka said.
While the township board decided against that suggestion, Joseph Topinka said he hopes the township board might supplement its plaque with another one currently in development courtesy of the Klein family, which owns the Award Emblem Manufacturing Company and remains a close Topinka family friend.
The Kleins, said Topinka, have offered to donate a plaque telling more of his mother’s story.
“It would be great to have something that gives a summary of who Judy Topinka was,” her son said.
Joseph Topinka said he’s working on other ways to honor his mother’s legacy. A children’s book telling the story of his mother’s life of service is in the works and may be published later this year.
He continues to look for a venue to display some of the many artifacts from his mother’s long career in government.
“My intent is to do anything I can to use my mom’s legacy to teach children about public service,” Topinka said.