By Bob Uphues
Mark Camasta, a member of the Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 Board of Education since 2008, died March 8, 2016 at the age of 59.
Camasta, a Lyons resident whose second full term on the District 103 school board was set to expire in the spring of 2017, reportedly was diagnosed with cancer in late January.
Joanne Schaeffer, who served with Camasta during his entire tenure on the school board, said Camasta had talked about running again in 2017 and was already sketching out ideas for campaigning when he received the news of his diagnosis.
She said she last talked to Camasta just prior to a February school board meeting. At the time he told her he wasn't feeling well.
Camasta was appointed to the school board in January 2008 after board member Wendy Pelletier moved out of the district. He was elected to a four-year term in 2009 and re-elected in 2013.
He was, along with Schaeffer, part of a three-person minority on the school board that was created when a four-person slate of candidates backed by Lyons Village President Christopher Getty won election and immediately changed the board from one that largely was apolitical to one that was highly connected politically.
According to Schaeffer, Camasta was not someone who believed the school board ought to be politicized.
"He was not into the political realm," Schaeffer said. "That was just not part of him."
An attorney, Camasta brought legal expertise to the school board, said Schaeffer. In 2013, he backed hiring an auditor to delve into cost overruns related to the renovation of George Washington Middle School. The auditor the district hired later found that school administrators didn't follow proper bidding procedures.
Outside of his work on the school board, Camasta was a longtime volunteer and troop leader with Boy Scouts of America. He was involved with Troop 90 in LaGrange Park and later started a Cub Scout Pack headquartered at Robinson School in Lyons.
"It was a huge part of his life," said longtime friend Doreen Voorhees. "He was part of Boy Scouts for 20 years."
Voorhees met Camasta when the two had daughters in kindergarten. The two girls became best friends, said Voorhees.
"He was a great guy," she said. "He was a great parent to his kids and a great parent to my kids. He was like my brother."
The D103 school board has 45 days to appoint a replacement for Camasta.
Camasta's wife, Ronnette Belser, died in 2004. He is survived by two children, Michael and Marinna.
A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 12 at St. Mary Church, 126 Herrick Road in Riverside. Memorial donations to benefit the Camasta children's college fund are appreciated to Karen Camasta Willey, c/o Kuratko-Nosek Funeral Home, 2447 Desplaines Ave., North Riverside, Illinois 60546.
Immediately following the funeral Mass, there will be a luncheon at George Washington Middle School, 8101 Ogden Ave. in Lyons. Attendees are asked to bring a side or a dessert.