JoAnne Kosey, a lifelong Riverside resident who served for decades as a volunteer and leader of numerous local organizations, an elected official, and a newspaper columnist for the Riverside-Brookfield Landmark and Suburban Life for decades, died Oct. 1. She was 81.
Since early January, she had been under medical care at MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn and at Cantata Adult Life Services in Brookfield. Although she missed a couple of weeks, she faithfully continued — insisted is more like it — to write her weekly column in the Landmark.
Her final column, which appeared in print on Aug. 16, informed her readers that she was finally coming home from Cantata. She did not tell readers it was to enter hospice care, but she hinted at it.
“Trust me,” she wrote, “it hasn’t been an easy 6½ months, spending time at MacNeal Hospital, The Woodlands at Cantata and the rehab center at Cantata.”
That column capped a 26-year run in the Landmark, one that gloried in Riverside, her family and her many friends and acquaintances, in Aunt Diana’s Old-Fashioned Fudge and the Chew Chew, and her various musings on current events, holiday traditions and her beloved Chicago Cubs.
Her first column in the Landmark ran on Sept. 25, 1997, just a month after the paper was purchased by Wednesday Journal Inc., which is now Growing Community Media NFP. Until the hospitalization in January, Kosey reckoned she had only missed one week since that first column.
“Writing a column each week is hard. Making that column just as local as can be makes it harder still,” said Dan Haley, publisher of the Landmark’s parent company, Growing Community Media. “The Landmark, though, was blessed to have JoAnne Kosey as our lead columnist for so many years.”
“She was so fully connected to Riverside, its people and its rhythms, that she was an essential read for our subscribers,” he said. “We will miss having her pieces as much as our readers will miss this authentic hometown connection.”
Kosey was a Landmark booster, making sure to sing the newspaper’s praises during the Riverside July 4 parade, the Riverside TV broadcast of which she co-hosted for several years with Jacob Palka, and which she missed this year due to her health.
“I’m lucky [the parades are] recorded. That way I can watch it back whenever I miss her,” Palka said. “She wasn’t able to do the telecast for this year’s parade and called me immediately, very upset. After all, it was JoAnne’s show. I was just the sidekick. We were all just her sidekicks.”
While she enjoyed the notoriety writing a weekly newspaper column brought her, she made far more impact as a community volunteer, not content with just being a member of an organization, but also as being its leader.
As Mrs. Riverside, there were few organizations Kosey wasn’t part of.
“She’s a force of nature,” said Joseph Ballerine, the former longtime Riverside parks and recreation board president, village trustee and village president whom Kosey enlisted to help form the Friends of the Fourth in 2009 after village funding for the annual concert in the park and parade were stripped from the budget.
“That’s really where we became friends because [Riverside’s July 4 traditions] were so important to her,” Ballerine said. “She was special.”
Kosey was involved in the Riverside Junior Woman’s Charity, serving as its president from 1974-75. She was also the longtime president of the Riverside-Brookfield Education Foundation, which raised money via an annual telethon on RBTV to fund special initiatives and opportunities for teachers and students at Riverside-Brookfield High School.
She also served as a board member of the parent-teacher organizations at Blythe Park School and Hauser Junior High, was treasurer of the RBHS Booster Club, president of the RBHS Patrons Council, and for many years led the committee that annually awarded RBHS Alumni Achievement Medals to notable graduates of the high school.
Kosey served in various capacities as a local official, as well. She served on both the Riverside Economic Development Commission and Riverside Historical Commission, was a member of the Des Plaines River Basin Steering Committee and was co-chair of the committee that organized Riverside’s 125th anniversary celebration.
She served two terms as an elected official on the Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 Board of Education and was a longtime Cook County election judge, a fixture each Election Day at Blythe Park School’s polling place.
Long before Riverside established its current farmers market, Kosey was instrumental in establishing a farmers market, which ran for two years in the 1990s. After Riverside Little League expanded to include girls softball, Kosey served as a coach.
For decades, she was an active volunteer at St. Mary Parish, now St. Paul VI Parish, in Riverside, serving on its pastoral council and as an officer of the parish’s Council of Catholic Women. She also taught religious education, helped establish the parish school’s alumni group and co-wrote the parish’s mission statement.
Kosey was a longtime member of and booster for the Riverside Township Lions Club, serving in various leadership capacities, including president from 2017 until 2020.
Long involved in the Lions Club’s Riverside Person of the Year, which for many years was co-sponsored by the Riverside Chamber of Commerce, Kosey was named Riverside Person of the Year in 2008 and then served as the chairwoman of the award’s nominating committee from 2012 to 2022.
In 2009, both Kosey and Ballerine were honored by the Illinois Humanities Council with the Studs Terkel Award for their efforts to preserve local history and traditions through the Friends of the Fourth. Kosey kept the medal presented to them at a village board meeting for safekeeping.
The League of Women Voters of the LaGrange Area and the LaGrange-Chicago Business Women’s Club presented Kosey with their Person of Impact Award in 2014.
Kosey’s children, Tina Duve and Mike Kosey, said the fact that their mother was involved in so many organizations was simply part of growing up in Riverside.
“We assumed everybody did this,” said Mike Kosey. “It was a testament to how much she loved this town … Mom was on the phone all the time. It was just one committee after another.”
According to Duve, Kosey was especially proud of her work with the RBEF and the Friends of the Fourth. She welcomed the spotlight and eagerly advocated for programs and initiatives that benefited Riverside children.
“She liked to see people happy, and if she could be a part of providing people some joy and happiness, that’s really the essence of it,” Duve said. “Then there was the serious side. If you need a voice, I can be that voice to help with the cause or our common cause.”
Kosey made a conscious effort to forge a reputation for making a difference in Riverside and for being a community leader. Her relationship with the village was as tight-knit as it was with her own family, but publicly she preferred keeping her family ties in the background.
Born at Oak Park Hospital on May 11, 1942 to Joseph P. and Lena (nee Pierini) Glimco, she attended St. Mary School and Nazareth Academy before heading off to Marymount College in Kansas where she trained to be an elementary school teacher.
She worked full-time as a teacher for a short time at Mater Christi School in North Riverside before getting married to Joseph Kosey, a North Riverside resident, who at the time was serving in the U.S. Air Force.
During JoAnne’s childhood and even into adulthood, her father’s name was frequently in Chicago’s daily newspapers. As the head of Teamsters Local 777 whose ties to the Chicago Outfit drew plenty of interest from federal investigators, Glimco’s every run-in with the law was publicly chronicled.
The Chicago Tribune saw fit to send a photographer and reporter to the wedding of JoAnne Glimco and Joseph Kosey on April 24, 1965, headlining the item “Glimco’s daughter weds” and making sure to note in the final paragraph that Joseph Glimco was awaiting trial on labor racketeering charges.
After living for a short time on the Air Force base in Omaha, Nebraska, the newlyweds moved into the home of JoAnne’s parents and lived there until the younger of their two children, Tina, was born. The Kosey family then moved into a house about 100 yards away on Selborne Road.
“It was always just family. All along, that’s been first and foremost,” said Duve.
Kosey’s turn as a newspaper columnist started with the Suburban Life, encouraged by her friend, fellow Riversider and state legislator Judy Baar Topinka, said Duve. When Wednesday Journal Inc. bought the Landmark, she pitched her column to the newspaper, which leapt at the chance.
She was the wife of Joseph E. Kosey Jr.; the mother of Michael C. (Pamela) Kosey and Christina M. (Eric) Duve; the grandmother of Stephanie M. (Tyler) Duve-Sylvester, Elena Duve, Max Duve, Parker Kosey and McKenna Kosey; the great-grandmother of Henrik Sylvester and Keller Sylvester; the sister of the late Joseph P. (the late Maggie) Glimco Jr.; the sister-in-law of the late Russell (Elaine) Kosey; and the aunt of many nieces and nephews.
Visitation is Tuesday, Oct. 3 from 3 to 8 p.m. at Ivins-Moravecek Funeral Home, 80 E. Burlington St., Riverside. A funeral Mass will be celebrated Wednesday, Oct. 4 at 11 a.m. at St. Mary Church, 126 Herrick Road, Riverside.
In lieu of flowers, donations are appreciated to the Riverside-Brookfield Education Foundation or the Riverside Township Lions Club.