CALUMET CITY | Former Calumet City Mayor Robert Stefaniak created a legacy that endeared him to people long after leaving office nearly 22 years ago.
"Everybody knew him as Mayor Bob," said his nephew, Lake Juvenile Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr. said Monday. "It didn't matter if you were in Illinois, in Indiana, or wherever. He knew a ton of people."
The former mayor, 78, who lived in Crown Point, died Sunday while wintering in Florida.
"He treated so many people like family and was so loved," said his stepdaughter Deborah Mascarello. "By that, I mean city workers, the city residents. He really had an open door."
At the time of his 1992 announcement to not seek re-election to a sixth four-year term the following year, the then-57-year-old politician said he planned to shift his energies to his family, his home health care businesses and to travel.
In his 20-plus years in office, Stefaniak said then that the only thing he had failed to accomplish was the construction of a new City Hall. He cited the resolution of flooding problems, the Success Center, the slow climb out of the city's financial hole and economic development as his key accomplishments.
"He was very well-liked and very well-respected," said Thomas Stefaniak Jr., who as a youth passed out campaign material for his uncle.
"I am hearing from a lot of people whose lives he touched that he always took the time to speak to people," whether it be adult or child, Stefaniak said.
Robert Stefaniak came from a politically prominent family and said when he was in office that he had aspired to be mayor of Calumet City since the sixth grade. His father was Court Clerk Casey Stefaniak and before that in the early 20th Century another relative, Paul Kamradt, was mayor of what was then West Hammond from 1915 until 1925.
Being in politics can be tough on families, notes Thomas Stefaniak, who said his uncle always took the time to say positive things to him about his own career. It also is something that is in your blood, Stefaniak said.
Visitation for Robert Stefaniak will be from 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Geisen Funeral Home, 606 E. 113th Ave., Crown Point. For more information and directions, visit the funeral home website Tuesday at www.geisenfuneralhome.com.