Naperville pays final tribute to former mayor Chet Rybicki
By David Sharos For The Sun March 16, 2013 3:16PM
Pall-Bearer's carry the casket of former Naperville Mayor Chester "Chet" Rybicki to his final resting place on Saturday, March 16, 2013 at St. Peter and Paul cemetery in Naperville IL. | Terence Guider-Shaw~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 18, 2013 7:06AM
It was a gray and somber day on Saturday as people came to pay their last respects at the funeral for former Naperville Mayor Chester “Chet” Rybicki.
Funeral services were held early Saturday afternoon at St. Raphael Catholic Church at 1215 Modaff Road in Naperville. Interment was at Ss. Peter and Paul Cemetery in Naperville.
The former mayor, who served from 1975 until 1983, passed away over a week ago on March 6. He left a legacy of development here in Naperville during the city’s population boom that included laying the foundation for the Riverwalk, Safety Town and more.
The wake for Rybicki was held Friday night at the Friedrich-Jones Funeral Home in downtown Naperville. Hundreds came out to honor the former mayor.
Mayor A. George Pradel spoke Friday about the former mayor, who he said “loved Naperville from the start once he moved here.”
“Chet was 96 years old, but he still had a keen interest in what happened here in downtown Naperville and the city,” Pradel said. “He and his wife were a team, and together they played a big part in the things that have happened here. He had a lot of insight into what to do, and what to do next. He had a love and the vision for where he lived.”
Cars gathered in the light drizzle as the wake began and many of the early visitors talked about their own history with the mayor from years ago. Naperville resident Roy Grundy said he has lived in the city for 50 years and that as mayor “Rybicki always did the best he could.”
“He has been one of my favorite mayors we’ve had in this town, and it was always his wish to live and be buried here,” Grundy said. “He helped the city survive during the huge growth in Fox Valley. He kept us going fiscally.”
John Houston, another long- time Naperville resident who said he has lived here since 1972, recalled Tuesday morning breakfast meetings with the former mayor at a local restaurant.
“We always had something to talk about, as both of us flew B-17 aircraft when we were in the (Army) Air Force,” Houston said. “Chet did a lot to bring business and develop the infrastructure here in town, and Naperville owes a lot of what it is today to him. He helped make us a premier town.”
Many in town recalled that Rybicki worked for the company formerly known as Sears Roebuck and Naperville’s Oliver Burrows said that he and the former mayor were work colleagues.
“I remember many years ago when we were both working during our years with Sears Roebuck and I was transferred one day and didn’t come back for nearly 30 years,” Burrows recalled. “Anyway, when I was transferred back here, I walked in, and there he was on the very first day. I knew when I saw him that I was home. We became close friends.”
Nina Menis said she knew Rybicki from her work with the Rotary Club. She said that Rybicki “was a genuine person who always cared what others were doing.”
“I wanted to pay my respects here for all that he’s done for Naperville,” Menis said. “A lot of people admired him.”
Mike Rybicki, 66, son of the late mayor, said that the family has received tremendous support from the community that has continued to celebrate his life.
“Since Chet’s passing, there has been an outpouring of sympathy and well-wishes from the community, coupled with offers to help and stories about the callers’ experiences with my Dad,” Rybicki said. “Time after time, we have been told that Chet was someone who really made a positive difference for Naperville and everyone who lives here.”
Rybicki also reflected on the passing of his mother.
“While we will certainly miss him, Chet lived a long and rich life, one filled with public service for the community he loved,” Rybicki said.“He passed peacefully and now is with his beloved wife Mickey, who he missed like the devil. I am certain my Dad would be deeply touched by the community’s showing of warmth and affection towards him.”