Bob Kwas, 73, artist, Art League instructor, model railroad enthusiast

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Robert D. Kwas, 73, an Oak Park resident for 33 years, died on June 25, 2012. Born to Helen and Stanley Kwas in Racine, Wis., on Jan. 4, 1939, he first showed artistic promise as a boy, drawing at his grandmother's dining room table during World War II. At the age of 9, his parents provided him with private art lessons. He attended the University of Wisconsin and graduated from the American Academy of Art in Chicago, then worked for many years as a graphic designer and art director, but dedicated his later years to the fine arts. His paintings were known for their soothing colors and rural compositions of fields, farms and forests, reflecting the influence of working on a farm when he was 12, and hunting with his dad in the Wisconsin woods as a teen. His award-winning paintings have hung in many national, regional and local exhibits and are part of many personal and corporate collections.

Active in the Oak Park Art League (OPAL) for over 30 years, he also belonged to many other art organizations in the Chicago area. He taught art classes at OPAL, Triton College, and Cheney Mansion. For many years, he volunteered at Cheney Mansion, serving as a train conductor (and sometimes Santa) at the annual Breakfast, Lunch & Tea with Santa.

He was a member who served on numerous committees of the Oak Park Society of Model Engineers, a model railroad club, and was a huge fan of the Green Bay Packers and antique autos.

In 1963, he married Kathleen Kornack, and in 1965, their daughter Shawn was born. His second marriage was to Jean Jebe in 1975, and son Ethan was born in 1980. Bob and Jean shared their 37th wedding anniversary on May 31 in the Intensive Care Unit of Rush Oak Park Hospital. Three days later he was transported to Rush University Medical Center's ICU, where he died three weeks later.

Bob Kwas is survived by his wife, Jean; he daughter and son-in-law, Shawn Kwas and Robert Nordland; his son, Ethan Kwas; and his extended family and many friends. Cremated on July 5, his ashes will be buried in the family plot in Racine.

To honor a life well lived, family and friends are welcome to gather at the Oak Park Art League, 720 Chicago Ave. on Saturday, Aug. 4, from 2-4 p.m. to share their tributes and memories. In lieu of flowers, the Kwas family is accepting donations for the Robert Kwas Memorial Award Fund, which will provide monetary awards for future artwork exhibited at OPAL. To donate, please email

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