Chester J. “Chet” Rybicki, age 96, former Mayor of Naperville from 1975-1983, Rotarian and longtime member of St. Raphael Catholic Church, at rest Wednesday, March 6, 2013. A native of Chicago, he was born March 25, 1916, the son of the late Paul and Estella (nee Olenik) Rybicki.
Beloved husband of 61 years to the late Lillian “Mickey” (nee Jaburek), loving father of Michael (Mary) Rybicki of Naperville, John (Susan) Rybicki of Texas and Cheryl (Raymond) Forster of Falls Church, VA, adored grandfather of William “Bill” (Asra Syed) Rybicki, James “Jim” (Anna) Rybicki of Eau Claire, WI, Dennis Martens of Florida and twins, Michael Forster of Falls Church, VA and Elizabeth (Jim) Grasmeder of Arlington, VA, cherished great-grandfather of Ada and Henry Rybicki of Eau Claire, WI, dear brother of the late Marie (the late Elmer) Majewski, fond uncle of many.
In his youth, Chet enjoyed mastering the violin. As the years progressed, he considered his favorite pastime to be “meeting new people, communicating and exchanging ideas.” He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps on March 26, 1942 and served during World War II until he was discharged in 1945, just before Thanksgiving. Shortly after the war, Chet entered the job market and began his marketing career in Chicago in 1947.
Chet came to Naperville with his family in 1960. He commuted to Chicago, moving up to a new office in the Sears Tower upon its completion in 1973 and staying there to his retirement in 1975. He served two terms as Mayor of Naperville from 1975 to 1983 and was a member of the Rotary Club of Naperville since 1986.
Chet will be remembered as the mayor who served during Naperville’s Sesquicentennial celebration in 1981, a time when the city’s downtown survival was being challenged by large indoor shopping malls. Under his watch, Naper Settlement established strong roots to educate the community and visitors about “Yesterday’s Naperville” today. His special pride and joy was the public/private partnership that he developed with the City Council, business leaders and the citizens of Naperville to establish the Riverwalk that revitalized downtown Naperville. Today, the award winning Riverwalk not only enhances downtown, but keeps downtown Naperville thriving and attracting new business development. Chet’s crowning joy was to be part of Naperville’s growth and development – especially during the 1970’s and 1980’s – helping to build a great place for families to raise children.
Naperville pays final tribute to former mayor Chet Rybicki
By David Sharos For The Sun March 16, 2013 3:16PM
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.”