A look back at notable residents and former residents of the Landmark coverage area who died in 2018
Merrill Becker Jr., 89
A U.S. Army Ranger who also served in the Army National Guard for 40 years, attaining the rank of colonel, he was a successful real estate broker, owning Merrill Becker, Knoll & Associates in Oak Park and served on the Triton College Board as well as the Riverside Economic Development Commission. Jan. 27.
Donald Doneske, 85
Riverside’s longest serving police chief, Mr. Doneske ushered in initiatives such as advanced training for his patrol officers, using portable radios and squad car computers, instituting a field training program for rookie officers, a crime prevention unit and evidence technicians and creating a tactical unit for investigations. He retired after in 1994 after 41 years. June 13.
Carl Dropka, 63
A lifelong resident of North Riverside, he spent 34 years as a North Riverside firefighter, first as paid-on-call and later as a full-timer, reaching the rank of deputy chief and retiring in 2011 as a lieutenant. Aug. 16.
Dean Eastman, 78
The former director of Argonne National Laboratory and physics professor at University of Chicago left a lasting legacy in Riverside by painstakingly restoring, alongside his wife Ella Mae, the public wing of the Coonley Estate – the pinnacle of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie-style period – and rescuing and restoring the estate’s coach house. March 4.
Ruth Freeark, 92
A sculptor in her own right, Ms. Freeark’s legacy remains the Riverside Arts Center, established in 1993. Ruth and Robert Freeark donated the building to the organization and their financial support helped maintain the center through tough financial times in the 2000s. The couple’s home, an island of modernism in a sea of Victoriana, designed by John Vinci was also named a local architectural landmark. Oct. 7.
Sister Margaret Halligan, 90
Raised in Brookfield and in St. Barbara Parish, Sister Margaret entered religious life at 20 and taught at a half dozen schools in the Chicago area before returning to St. Barb’s in 1972. She founded and was director of the St. Barbara Food Pantry for 34 years before retiring in 2014. She also established the parish’s Pastoral Care of the Sick, the Seaton Group and the parish’s Medical Lending Closet. Jan. 14.
Dan Hull, 75
A Brookfield legend, Mr. Hull was most celebrated for managing Brookfield’s Little League softball team to a World Series title in 1985, but that told just a fraction of “Handsome Hull’s” story. He served 20 years as a police officer in Brookfield, retiring as a lieutenant, and spent 14 more years with the Cook County Sheriff’s Department. He owned a successful Brookfield Avenue tavern and coached women’s basketball and softball at Triton College, including coaching the 1993-94 basketball team to second in the NJCAA Division III national tournament. Following his death a softball field at Ehlert Park was dedicated in his name as was the annual women’s basketball tournament at Triton College. March 29.
Chester Kendzior, 83
After starting his career in local government in 1962 and spending more than a decade jumping from Glencoe to northwest Pennsylvania to Oxford, Ohio, to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, “Chet” Kendzior found a home in Riverside. He was hired as village manager in 1976 and remained in the position for 22 years until his retirement in 1998. Aug. 27.
Leroy LeGros, 81
Retiring from a 39-year career at ComEd in 1991, “Lee” LeGros embarked on a new career — as Santa Claus. Alongside his wife, Marie (as Mrs. Claus), the couple were mainstays at Brookfield events, both village sponsored and at churches. Until recently the couple would fly into Brookfield’s Ehlert Park in a helicopter to usher in the holiday season. July 17.
Marjorie Lewe, 94
A lifelong resident of Riverside, Ms. Lewe was a tireless local volunteer – with the Riverside/North Riverside Covenant of Churches, St. Mary Church, the Wellness Support Center in Hinsdale, PeopleCare, the Riverside Presbyterian Church Woman’s Group, the Riverside Garden Club, Loyola Hospital, the British Home and Scottish Home, the Riverside Township Radio Players and the Riverside Public Library. In 2005, she was named Riverside Person of the Year. May 27.
James Marousek, 98
Mr. Marousek was the first person to advocate for a bike path connecting North Riverside to Riverside-Brookfield High School along First Avenue, pitching the idea, as a member of the Komarek School District 94 board, to Cook County Board President Richard Ogilvie in 1968. In 2017, he finally saw his dream become reality and helped cut the ribbon on a path that does just that. At the time of his death on June 30, he was still a member of the North Riverside Zoning Board of Appeals, with whom he’s served for 50 years.
Edward Meksto, 94
The only person to serve three terms as Riverside village president, Mr. Meksto spent 17 years as an elected official in the village, served as the village board’s liaison to the Riverside Centennial Committee and was Riverside Person of the Year in 1989. He had a 33-year career as a pilot with United Airlines after learning to fly bombers during World War II. March 20.
Frank Nadile, 61
A versatile vocalist and drummer who played in numerous bands going back to the 1970s but made his mark with the band R-Gang, Mr. Nadile was perhaps best known as co-owner of Tipster’s Village Pub in North Riverside where every Saturday night, he hosted one of the best karaoke nights in the area. April 5.