Longtime Jefferson Park scoutmaster Russ Gremel passes away a few months shy of his 100th birthday
by BRIAN NADIG
Longtime Jefferson Park resident and scoutmaster Russ Gremel died Sunday morning, April 22, at his home, just a few months shy of his 100th birthday.
Under Gremel’s direction, more than 150 Boy Scouts achieved the rank of Eagle. He was a leader for Boy Scout Troop 979, which is sponsored by the Congregational Church of Jefferson Park.
On social media, 19-year-old Eagle Scout Tom Lawlor posted the following tribute to Mr. Gremel:
“We’d talk for hours on end about baseball, life and pretty much anything two people can talk about. He taught me so many things about life that have shaped me to be the person I am today, and I am forever grateful to have had that opportunity.
“Russ Gremel never stopped believing in you, he’d push you to do your very hardest, always had a smile on his face, and he will be remembered by everyone he met.”
Last year the Illinois Audubon Society named a new wildlife sanctuary in Lee County, about 100 miles from Chicago, in honor of Mr. Gremel. The society established the sanctuary in part through a $2.1 million donation of Walgreen’s stock which Mr. Gremel had purchased more than 60 years ago for about $1,000.
For decades Mr. Gremel was very active in the community, according Northwest Chicago Historical Society researcher Frank Suerth. Mr. Gremel was an attorney, and at a zoning board hearing in the early 1950s he represented residents who were objecting to a proposed printing and bindery shop with 35 employees at 5237-5301 W. Lawrence Ave., said Suerth, who now lives in a house located behind the site.
“The area in which we live is primarily residential and small businesses,” the Chicago Tribune quoted Mr. Gremel. “The neighborhood has no objections to progress, but there’s no operation such as the one in question in the area.”
In his final days, several of Mr. Gremel’s friends spent time helping to care for him at his Jefferson Park home.
Funeral services are tentatively scheduled for next week at Malec and Sons Funeral Home, 6000 N. Milwaukee Ave., but plans were not finalized by press time.