Richard Scheck, five-term mayor of North Riverside, dies at 78

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Richard N. Scheck, a self-taught businessman whose five terms as mayor of North Riverside transformed the village’s political landscape and bolstered its reputation as a commercial hub for the western suburbs, died on September 26, 2021 in the age 78.

Physically imposing with a personality to match, Scheck was the undisputed leader of North Riverside from 1989 when he was first elected mayor until 2009, when he retired. His VIP party dominated local politics during this time and beyond, until its disbandment in 2020.

Even after the VIP ceased to exist, his legacy lives on in the North Riverside United Party, which maintained the former majority of the VIP board with former VIP pillars who continued to receive support from Scheck until the end.

“Rich was just a fabulous guy,” said Guy Belmonte, who served as administrator for Scheck’s first decade as mayor before being appointed village administrator, a position he will hold until early 2020. “He was brilliant, a smart businessman who ran the village like a business.

Scheck grew up in Oak Park, graduated from Oak Park and River Forest High School, then enrolled in 1962 at Washburn Trade School as an apprentice pipe fitter, following in the footsteps of his father, Alfred, who was a union pipefitter.

He married Betty Bastyr and the couple had three boys, Mike, Rick and Chris. They will be married for 29 years until 1997, when Betty Scheck died of cancer. In 2003, Scheck married his second wife, Judith (née Tarantino), who survives her husband.

Judith Scheck and Richard were classmates at the OPRF, but they weren’t dating at the time. After Betty Scheck’s death, the two reconnected in 2000 when Scheck dined at the Tufano restaurant, where Judith worked as a waitress.

Scheck appointed Queenella Miller (left) village clerk in 2008 following the death of longtime village clerk Charmaine Kutt that year. | TO FILE

“He was a nice guy with a big smile,” said Judith Scheck. “It was the best 21 years of my life. I miss him terribly.

Richard and Betty Scheck founded Scheck Mechanical Corp. in a space rented from Unique Plumbing on 47th Street in Brookfield. Two years later, the business moved to a larger store in Justice, and Scheck gradually expanded the business.

In 1996, the company moved to its long-standing home on Plainfield Road in Countryside, then Westmont in 2016, two years after Scheck retired as president of the company. During his 32 years at the helm of the company, Scheck Industries has built a nationwide presence serving a variety of industries.

Scheck was elected for his first term as mayor in 1989, just before the economic boom of the 1990s, where he presided over the expansion of the village’s business base north of Cermak Road and passed that success on to the owners of North Riverside, especially to the elderly. , which benefited from innovative initiatives at the time such as the DIY program, the senior snow removal service, the low cost cyclist program and senior programming through the recreation department.

Boom periods also brought homeowners a two-decade property tax freeze, subsidized water and waste transportation services, and free vehicle stickers. He established the Mayor’s Scholarship Fund, which offers cash scholarships to high school graduates seeking to continue their studies at university, and has provided many local students with summer jobs as camp counselors and seasonal workers. public works.

Voters responded enthusiastically, re-electing Scheck to consecutive terms as mayor in 1993, 1997, 2001 and 2005.

“His crown jewel was exactly what he did for the residents,” Belmonte said. “He was watching the residents, especially the elderly in North Riverside. “

Scheck was adept at securing grants for large local projects – it was mainly through him that North Riverside and Riverside secured the funding to build the high-capacity fire hydrant in 2001 along 26th Street.

He also used federal influence in the form of then-MP Dan Lipinski to convince Canadian National to establish a quiet zone in North Riverside in order to stop the frequent and frustrating late-night whistles. at village level crossings as well as Riverside and Berwyn. .

One of Scheck’s biggest moves to the village was the 2004 annexation of the Illinois National Guard’s 30-acre Armory, bounded by First Avenue, 9th Avenue, Cermak Road and the right-of-way. of the National Railway of Canada.

Long after retiring as mayor, Scheck continued to play an advisory and financial support role for VIP and his successor, North Riverside United. Above, Scheck and former mayor Kivezh Krochmal (right) greet voters outside the villages in the village on election day, April 6, 2021. | Bob Skolnik / Contributor

The key was to annex a small triangle of land north of Cermak Road east of First Avenue, so that North Riverside shared a border with the Armory property. The village of Broadview sued in federal court, claiming the land actually belonged to that village, but a federal judge in 2006 disagreed, giving the village the option of redeveloping the land if the National Guard decided to leave.

“It was huge for North Riverside,” said Kathy Ranieri, Village Clerk of North Riverside, whose mother Charmaine Kutt served as Village Clerk alongside Scheck until her death in 2008. “I don’t think that a lot of people in town realize that. ”

As generous as Scheck was to the residents of North Riverside, he was just as generous to the village employees, who often came from the families of VIPs and supporters. Among the benefits granted to long-time village employees was the guarantee of post-retirement health insurance, with most of the premiums being offered by the village.

When Scheck chose Belmonte to become the village administrator in 2001, Belmonte had just retired from a 31-year career as a purchasing agent for the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“When he asked me to be the administrator of the village, I said I didn’t know,” Belmonte said. “He said, ‘You can learn. I want someone I can trust.

After two decades at the helm of North Riverside, Scheck announced he would not run for a sixth term and Kenneth Krochmal won the election as someone to replace a legend.

“This act can never be followed,” said Krochmal, who also highlighted the development of the ball fields at Veterans Park, Commons Park and Tot Spot as Scheck’s legacy for the village children.

Scheck’s timing turned out to be impeccable. The economic recession triggered by the collapse of the housing market in 2008 hit North Riverside’s retail sector hard and forced the village to rely on years of subsidizing village services, balancing budgets by not paying no pension contributions and by freezing tax deductions.

Starting with Krochmal and to a greater extent under Krochmal’s successor, Hubert Hermanek Jr., these advantages faded in the face of a new economic reality. Shortly after retiring, Scheck and his wife, Judith, would move to a new home in Oak Brook, although they would continue to play VIP roles, both financially and in the continuing role of Richard Scheck. as an advisor. Both often returned to North Riverside to attend village board meetings. Scheck recently attended the board meeting on August 9.

“Some people didn’t like it, but he had so much knowledge,” Ranieri said. “He knew the right people to talk to about the opportunities and the grants. People will ask him for advice, but he never ran the show [in retirement]. “

Scheck was also a philanthropist. He and Betty and Judith were passionate supporters of UCP Seguin. After embarking on the restaurant business as a partner of Rascal’s on Maple Avenue in LaGrange Park, Scheck donated the property in 2009 to Seguin.

The Betty Scheck Senior Center at 1136 N. Maple Ave. continues to provide services to seniors with and without developmental disabilities. In recognition of Scheck’s long-standing support for the agency, Seguin dedicated one of his group homes at North Riverside The Scheck House in his honor.

His name will also be forever associated with the North Riverside Village Commons located at 2401 Desplaines Avenue. Although it was not built by Scheck, his tenure as mayor has certainly influenced the services he provides to residents.

On the night he handed the hammer to Krochmal in May 2009, the village council passed an ordinance naming the building Richard N. Scheck Village Commons.

“I’m touched by that one,” Scheck said at the time.

Even in retirement, residents referred to Scheck as the “mayor” when addressing him.

“Her heart has always been in North Riverside,” said Judith Scheck. “For me, this is his greatest achievement, being mayor for 20 years. Everyone loved Rich, no matter where we went.

A memorial visit will take place on Thursday, September 30 from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Russo’s Hillside Chapels, 4500 Roosevelt Road, Hillside. A funeral mass will be celebrated on Friday October 1 at 10 a.m. at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 126 Herrick Road, Riverside, with interment in Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside.


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