On Dec. 6, 1958, John Donald Trilik went to the Mayo Clinic and was diagnosed with atrophy of the optic nerve. He lost his vision. Later in life, he lost his hearing, as well.
On March 15, 2012, Mr. Trilik, 82, died at home in Oak Park.
"I would like people to remember John for his generosity, his curiosity about the world around him, the wonderful smile he had for everybody, and the fact that he was never ashamed to talk to people about his disabilities," said his wife, Marie Trilik, 85.
Born in Chicago to Lithuanian immigrants, Albina (nee Rudis) and John Alex Trilikauskis on Dec. 30, 1929, John Trilik graduated from Crane Tech High School in 1947. He went on to earn a degree in architectural engineering from the University of Illinois at Navy Pier (Now UIC) in 1951 and served in the National Guard from 1948 to 1956 while attending school.
At 22, he launched John D. Trilik and Associates, landing scores of commissions to designing commercial buildings and custom homes across metropolitan Chicago.
The 6-foot, 170-pound Lithuanian Catholic met his future bride, a Swedish Lutheran originally from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, when he "crashed" her company's Christmas party in 1955.
"His arm comes through the door with a bottle of wine, and then he sits down on the couch next to me and we start talking," recalled Marie. "We both loved music. I loved to draw and paint, and he was doing it because of his architecture. He was so brilliant with that."
They married on Nov. 11, 1956. Six months later, when Marie was expecting their first child, John's eyes unexpectedly failed.
Penniless, but refusing to give up, in 1958 the couple launched Banqueteers, a catering, invitations and event planning business, which they operated for the next 40 years, often managing large-scale affairs, including events for President Jimmy Carter, Mayor Daley, the pop star David Cassidy and United Airlines, to name a few.
"John had total recall, so he did all the phone calls with a secretary to get the waitresses assigned to different jobs and set up the truck schedules, while I worked in the kitchen with my cooks," Marie said. "We had him doing everything he could, including peeling eggs and chopping celery. He was so proud of that."
The success of the business brought the young family to Oak Park in 1965 and enabled the couple to travel the world, Marie said.
An amateur opera singer, Mr. Trilik was a longtime member of the Grant Park Opera Company. He was also a frequent featured tenor at Grace Episcopal Church in Oak Park. In addition, for 22 years, he was the "Oak Park Troubadour" during the Scoville Park Memorial Day tribute. Annually he would belt out "God Bless America," sans microphone, Marie recalled with a smile.
"For me it was a love affair for 55½ wonderful years," she said, "and if God ever put angels on earth, he was one of them."
John Trilik was preceded in death by his sister Albina and his daughter, Diana (Guerrido). He is survived by his wife, Marie (nee Bergman); his children, John and Pauline (Sharpe); six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Private services have been held. Donations to the Lighthouse for the Blind are appreciated.