It was all set. Guy Belmonte, who had served as North Riverside’s village administrator for nearly two decades, officially was retiring on March 6. The village’s Neighborhood Services Committee planned to honor him by presenting him with an “Angel Award” at their meeting that month and the village board would give him a sendoff as well.

But, life throws you curveballs.

Belmonte became seriously ill and was hospitalized, delaying the ceremonies – and then the COVID-19 pandemic arrived and, well, the retirement party would have to wait.

On Aug. 3 – five months late – the day arrived. That night’s meeting of the village board largely was given over to celebrating Belmonte and his career as both an elected and appointed official in North Riverside.

Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. stood in for the Neighborhood Services Committee, presenting Belmonte with their award. He followed that by reading a proclamation from Illinois Senate majority leader Kimberly Lightford, who has represented North Riverside for years as a state senator, and also awarded Belmonte a plaque recognizing his years of service from the West Central Municipal Conference, whose executive director was in attendance.

Police Chief Carlos Garcia also presented a plaque honoring Belmonte, with Hermanek capping off the ceremony with the presentation of a watch and a shadowbox containing a key to the village.

Belmonte, assisted by a cane and accompanied by his wife, Cathy, joked that he wouldn’t get emotional since he’d been retired for five months already. But, just a few seconds into his brief comments following the presentations and through the standing ovation that followed, he couldn’t hold back.

“I owe it all to former Mayor [Richard] Scheck,” said Belmonte, through his tears, referring to the former longtime mayor who appointed him as administrator in 2001 after Belmonte served two terms as a trustees alongside the mayor. 

“I enjoyed every minute I was here.”