Gary Chase, former Mokena trustee, dies
By Susan DeMar Lafferty email@example.com January 27, 2012 9:52PM
Updated: March 1, 2012 8:22AM
A longtime resident and a village trustee during Mokena’s formative and boom years, Gary Chase was a man who cared deeply about his community.
He served on the village board from 1963 to 1966 and also from 1983 to 1997 during a time of rapid growth. He was instrumental in bringing Lake Michigan water to town, negotiating the first union contract with the police department and planning many infrastructure projects.
A Mokena resident for 54 years, Mr. Chase died Jan. 24 after a long illness. He was 78.
Ron Grotovsky, a former mayor and trustee, served with Mr. Chase and became a close friend.
“He was a wonderful, wonderful person, who cared about his community and knew everything about his community. I loved him dearly,” Grotovsky said. “He was one of the best trustees. He always did his research. He made my job easier because he was so knowledgeable. I wish we had more leaders like him.”
During board meetings, if Mr. Chase did not agree with him, “he would look at me and say, ‘Mr. Mayor … and I knew I was in trouble,” Grotovsky recalled. “If he thought I was wrong, he would tell me.”
Mr. Chase was the type of trustee who would go out in the pouring rain to check on flooding, which was a common problem in Mokena at the time. He was a mild-mannered guy who stuck to his views and knew how to push buttons to achieve his goals, his colleagues said.
Mr. Chase was active with the Lions Club and the United Methodist Church of New Lenox and was employed by the Rock Island Railroad for 40 years.
“I learned a lot from him,” village administrator John Downs said. “He was the foundation of the community. He was really active in everything.”
Downs described Mr. Chase as a “tough old guy” who loved the outdoors and was a very good fisherman. He was respectful of people and not afraid to have a difference of opinion, he said.
“He always had a good reason for what he did,” Downs said.
“We lost a really good guy,” former Mayor Bob Chiszar said. “We called him Senator Chase because he had an authoritative air about him. The moniker stuck. When there was a contentious discussion (on the board), he was the guy who could bring everything into perspective. He had an old folksy spirit about him. He always had the best interests of Mokena in mind.”
As mayor, Chiszar started a scholarship fund to honor both Mr. Chase and Grotovsky.
“It’s a way to keep his presence felt so people would not forget him,” Chiszar said of Mr. Chase.
Friends and colleagues said Mr. Chase’s health had declined in recent years, as he suffered congestive heart failure and required dialysis treatments.
Visitation was from 2 to 8 p.m. Saturday at Vandenberg Funeral Home, 19604 Wolf Road, Mokena. Funeral services are Sunday at United Methodist Church, 339 W. Haven Ave., New Lenox. Visitation is from 2 to 3 p.m. at the church, with the service beginning at 3 p.m. Interment will be private.
Mr. Chase is survived by his wife, Louise; daughters Tracy and Melinda, five grandchildren and a brother, James. Donations in his name may be made to the Mokena Lions Club or the Mokena-Marley FISH organization.