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First black Homewood trustee dies

Former Homewood village official Ralph DeWitt

Former Homewood village official Ralph DeWitt

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Updated: December 3, 2012 6:45AM



Friends and family on Thursday remembered former Chicago police officer, Homewood trustee and Cook County state’s attorney investigator Ralph DeWitt as a dedicated civil servant.

Mr. DeWitt, 63, died Saturday after falling ill due to an infection earlier this year, according to his wife, Cynthia DeWitt. A memorial service in his honor is to be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Nov. 10 at Ravisloe Country Club in Homewood. Interment will be at Arlington National Cemetery.

“He was always concerned and involved in public service,” Cynthia DeWitt said. “He believed in that. He dedicated his whole life to public service. He was about giving. He was a very kind and generous person who cared deeply for people.”

Homewood’s first black trustee, Mr. DeWitt was born in Chicago on July 1, 1949, and grew up in the city’s Hyde Park community. He served in the U.S. Army’s First Cavalry Division during the Vietnam War from 1969 to 1970, earning a Purple Heart and other medals.

Mr. DeWitt married Cynthia in October 1971. They have one child, Lauren, 29.

Mr. DeWitt earned a criminal justice degree from Chicago State University, and a master’s in public administration from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1991.

Mr. DeWitt made a name for himself in the Chicago Police Department. He started in 1971 and rose to the rank of lieutenant before leaving in 1991 to work in investigations under then-Cook County State’s Attorney Jack O’Malley.

In his role as an investigator, Mr. DeWitt rose to bureau chief and oversaw the creation of a narcotics strike force. He also reorganized the investigations bureau, creating an all-sworn, 180-member, full-service investigations unit.

After moving out of Chicago’s Beverly community and into Homewood in 1998, Mr. DeWitt ran for public office. He was elected as a village trustee in 2001 — becoming Homewood’s first black trustee — and was re-elected in 2005, serving until 2009.

Mr. DeWitt volunteered on the Homewood Board of Fire and Police Commissioners Board, the Homewood Veterans Committee, the Homewood 911 Emergency Board, and the Adler School of Professional Psychology board.

Mr. DeWitt retired from the Cook County state’s attorney’s office in December 2011 to be the Homewood village manager. He held the position until March 2012, when he stepped down due to his illness.

“He’s a wonderful man, an absolutely wonderful man,” Homewood Mayor Rich Hofeld said. “Everyone loved him.”

Mr. DeWitt also loved to read, play golf, watch the Bears, and learn about the Civil War.

“He was warm, funny, very caring,” Cynthia DeWitt said.



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