'Truly an outstanding individual': Former West Chicago mayor dies at age 97
Former West Chicago Mayor Richard "Dick" Truitt is being remembered as a man who served his country in multiple ways.
The World War II veteran was elected to several West Chicago government positions in the 1960s and '70s. Truitt also was a driving force behind the creation of the West Chicago Prairie Forest Preserve.
He died this past weekend at the age of 97.
"I have known Mr. Truitt all my life, and his passing brings me much sorrow," West Chicago Mayor Ruben Pineda said in a statement. "He was truly an outstanding individual that made an impression on me at a very young age. He was a mentor to me. He will be greatly missed by myself, as well as the entire West Chicago community."
In a 2006 Daily Herald interview, Truitt remembered playing as a child in fields with friends and "battling" with improvised spears made from tall stems of prairie dock near Industrial Road. As a young adult, Truitt would be faced with real weapons during World War II as part of the 3rd Armored Division, 83rd Reconnaissance Battalion.
Truitt served as a tank driver during the 1944 Allied invasion of Normandy and later fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Following the war, Truitt returned home to West Chicago, where he taught for the Waterman and Wheaton school districts.
Truitt also got involved with local politics, rising through the ranks of West Chicago city government. Truitt served as an alderman and the city clerk before becoming mayor. He was the mayor from 1971 to 1977.
But Truitt's lasting legacy will likely be his environmental push to create the West Chicago Prairie Forest Preserve. The restored prairie now encompasses 316 acres southwest of Route 59 and North Avenue and is home to more than 600 native plants.
But the former industrial stockyards were initially owned by developers, who fatefully didn't build on the land due to flooding concerns. Truitt pushed for West Chicago and the DuPage County Forest Preserve District to jointly purchase the initial 115 acres of land in 1979.
In 2006, a sizable portion of the prairie was designated an Illinois Nature Preserve, which mandates the land be kept in its natural state in perpetuity. This portion was named the Truitt-Hoff Nature Preserve, which honors both the former mayor and the late Melvern C. Hoff, a founder of the West Chicago Prairie Stewardship Group.
When he was 95, Truitt was honored by West Chicago when he was named the Grand Marshal of the 2019 Railroad Days Parade.
"Our family knows we are very fortunate that my pops lived on this earth 97 years, but we will still greatly miss him," said daughter Bridget Cortez in a Facebook post. She added that visitation information will be shared when it is finalized.