Former director of Palatine nonprofit dies in boating accident 2½ months after retirement
After decades of work in the youth mental health field, Gregg Stockey and his wife retired last summer, on the same day, looking forward to doing lots more traveling with a shared love of the outdoors.
Those plans were shattered when the 66-year-old Stockey, of Ingleside, died Oct. 16 in a boating accident on Geneva Lake.
Known for his kindness and even temperament, Stockey had retired July 30 as executive director of The Bridge Youth and Family Services in Palatine. His wife, Bonnie Collins, was a case manager at OMNI Youth Services, based in Buffalo Grove.
"We had a great big ol' party. Outside we have a tiki bar, and all our friends and neighbors came over," Collins said. "We wanted to make some bigger trips -- Yellowstone, the White Mountains in New Hampshire, the Grand Canyon. We had a lot of plans."
"That's what makes me the saddest," she said. "That he didn't get his time."
The day he died, Stockey had gone fishing -- his No. 1 passion, his wife said -- with other members of the Libertyville Fishing Club. He was sitting on the deck of a boat that was T-boned by a larger boat moving at a higher rate of speed, she said. He died of blunt force trauma.
"I am just thankful he didn't have time to suffer, didn't have time to be afraid -- or think of how I was going to be (after his death)," Collins said.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources declined to answer questions about the crash, citing the pending investigation.
Stockey also leaves behind one son, Matt.
Stockey was remembered by colleagues for his devotion to helping youth and mentoring others.
"It really rocked our community," Kris Salyards, who succeeded him as executive director of the Palatine nonprofit, said of his death.
Stockey was instrumental in expanding mental health services to early childhood and committed to crisis intervention for youth. He also collaborated with local high schools to introduce substance use prevention and education services. "While his contributions are too vast to capture, his spirit and legacy are vibrant in the child welfare and mental health community," Salyards said.
Stockey was a pioneer in introducing trauma-informed care to the youth services system, said Andrea Durbin, chief executive officer of the Illinois Collaboration on Youth, where Stockey served on the board for more than 12 years.
"His insights in and commitment to trauma-informed care not only changed the way The Bridge practiced community-based counseling, but also shaped the way that the youth service field adopted a trauma-informed lens to care," she said.
He was always generous with his time, particularly when she sought advice in her new role, she said.
The timing of his death was particularly tragic, Durbin said. "When somebody works so hard and dedicates their life to something, you want them to have a chance to enjoy what life has to offer."
Stockey loved to play tennis, and go cycling and hiking, his wife said.
"Our jam was biking and 'brew-pubbing' -- we would try to find a bike path with a brewery where we could stop for a while and relax," she said.
The couple also played pickleball and golf, went dog sledding and even did "goat yoga" in Galena.
Stockey was a writer, having published in 2007 "Guests At The Buck Falls Club," a book of essays of his outdoor memories. At the time of his death, he'd been working on a novel about a teacher with a cabin in Wisconsin and the tension between locals and "weekenders," his wife said.
He was into photography and conscientiously made photo albums including -- already -- one for the couple's latest trip in early October to Hocking Hills, Ohio. He also was skilled at woodworking.
Most importantly, he was a stand-up guy whose word could always be counted on, Collins said.
"He was so kind to me, so loving. Always so complimentary," she said. "He loved me just so well. And I loved him beyond belief."
A memorial service will take place in the next few weeks.
The Bridge Youth and Family Services created an award in his memory that will be presented at the nonprofit's annual gala April 30.