Hundreds gather to say goodbye to former Calumet City mayor

2014-04-21T20:00:00Z 2014-04-22T13:50:10Z Hundreds gather to say goodbye to former Calumet City mayorGregory Tejeda Times Correspondent
April 21, 2014 8:00 pm  • 

CALUMET CITY | Calumet City said goodbye Monday to Robert Stefaniak, the city's former longtime mayor.

The cards for the service at St. Andrew the Apostle depict Stefaniak on an election night, standing in front of a board with vote totals. The look on his face, clenching his right fist, show him winning one of five terms he served from 1973-93.

The Rev. Martin Michniewicz returned St. Andrew to preside over the funeral service for “Mayor Bob.” Michniewicz said Stefaniak's interest in politics was for the benefit of people of Calumet City.

Recalling how Jesus Christ washed the feet of his apostles as a gesture of serving, Michniewicz said Stefaniak’s work in government was his service.

“When you think about it, that’s what Mayor Bob basically did,” Michniewicz said. “He shared himself with many other people ... He served his town very well, he always fought for what was best for the people of Calumet City.”

Among the roughly 150 people in attendance for funeral and a tribute outside City Hall was Frank Giglio, a former state legislator. He called Stefaniak a “great mayor.”

“He was helpful to a lot of people, which is why he kept getting re-elected,” Giglio said.

Guy Eveland, who worked for Stefaniak, said it helped that Stefaniak went out of his way not to exclude people who had run against him once the elections were over.

“Even after he defeated someone, he would keep them close at hand and make them feel like they were still a part of Calumet City,” Eveland said.

His widow, Berni, said of her late husband, “He liked being mayor. He was always a people person.”

Since retiring from public office in 1993, Stefaniak spent much time in Florida, where he died April 13. But he had been living in Crown Point where his nephew, Thomas, is a Lake County judge.

1st Ward Alderman Eric Schneider, who was in elementary school when Stefaniak stepped down as mayor, said the name is familiar to younger people in Calumet City because of the many civic groups he was involved with.

“He was a larger-than-life character,” Schneider said. “If you ever heard him give the pep talk to the kids who played in the old St. Andrew vs. St. Victor’s youth football game, you’d realize how inspiring he could be.”

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