Gus Kostopulos, architect and former Oak Park village trustee, dies

In memoriam

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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

Gus Kostopulos treasured architecture, practicing it and appreciating it, and did so for the past half century. The former Oak Park village trustee was still working on a couple of projects at the age of 81, with no intention of calling it quits.

"He loved architecture, and he said, 'What else am I going to do? I'm not going to sit home,'" said Patricia Kostopulos, his wife of 57 years, whom he met on a blind date.

Gus Kostopulos died Wednesday, July 6, from longtime heart problems. He had a pacemaker and recently had a procedure to correct his heartbeat.

"I guess his heart just said enough already and that was it," said his wife, who is 78.

Kostopulos lived in Oak Park for about 50 years, serving as a village trustee from 1997 to 2005, in addition to a stint on the plan commission and as president of the Oak Park Housing Authority board. In 2007, the Senior Citizens Center of Oak Park and River Forest gave Kostopulos its Ulyssean Award, honoring active seniors who have made a difference, according to his wife.

The longtime Oak Parker was in architecture for the past half century, running his own practice for 40 years, after he studied at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Most often, he worked in designing strip malls and the interiors of restaurants, Patricia said. Those included a recent redesign of Papaspiros Greek Taverna in Oak Park, and Delia's Kitchen on Lake Street, which was formerly Maple Tree Restaurant.

He and his partners also worked to save the historic Niles Building at the southwest corner of Marion and South Boulevard. Kostopulos seemed happiest when he was working to solve a problem.

"That was the best part of being an architect," Patricia Kostopulos said.

Current Oak Park Trustee Ray Johnson served his first two years on the village board with Kostopulos, starting in 2003. The two would have breakfast from time to time, and the elder trustee always seemed willing to share advice. He had his finger on the pulse of the community, since he lived and worked here, Johnson said.

The time they shared on the board was fraught with controversy — including Oak Park's smoking ban, the Oak Park and River Forest High School garage, and the Whiteco apartment tower at Harlem and Ontario. Through it all, Kostopulos would "tell it like it is" and make decisions using his gut, according to Johnson.

"There was not a lot of fluff. Gus didn't like to hear himself talk. Gus just spoke his mind," he said. "When he said something, you knew it was from his gut and from his heart, and that he had thought about it."

On OakPark.com, reader comments poured in last week, praising the life of the former architect and village trustee, with words such as "kindness," "decency" and "gentleman." River Forester Daniel Lauber served as an advisor to the plan commission in the 1970s, and still remembers Kostopulos' thoughtfulness.

"No matter which way he voted on an issue, he gave both sides careful consideration and heard everybody with respect. His decency and kindness will be sorely missed," Lauber wrote.

Gus Kostopulos is also survived by six children (Elaine, Margaret, Greg, Terese, Peter and William), along with four grandchildren (Kara, Jack, Maximilian and Katherine).

Visitation and a funeral mass were held this past weekend at Drechsler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home and Ascension Church, respectively. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to the Honor Flight Network.

Reader Comments

17 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

Donna Ogdon Chen from Tampa, FL  

Posted: July 25th, 2011 9:29 PM

We are sad to hear of the Kostopulos family's and Oak Park's loss. Gus was a fine man whose commitment to his community and his wickedly fun sense of humor we will always fondly remember. Our condolences, Donna and Mike Chen

Mark Arbeen from Burke, Virginia  

Posted: July 8th, 2011 6:11 PM

Gus was a great friend of my parents. You will be missed. Our prayers to Pat and the kids. Love all of you! Mark, Heather, Jake, and Sofie Arbeen

A Friend  

Posted: July 8th, 2011 9:35 AM

...your shoes are far too big, my darling friend, but I told you I would try to make you proud. Sincere thanks for inspiring and believing so much in me - we have sadly run out of time (regrettably without a proper farewell)... Family Kostopulos - may the peace which comes from the memories of love shared, comfort you now and in the days ahead. My thoughts and prayers are with you, and our beloved Gus.

Happy  

Posted: July 8th, 2011 7:15 AM

We can thank Gus for the New location of Al's Grill( May 2003) Lets all go in and have a sandwich and honor Gus. He was a well rounded person and dedicated to his family.

Chris Kleronomos from Oak Park,   

Posted: July 7th, 2011 11:28 PM

We shall remember Gus not only for his mastery of architecture,the landmark buildings which we see throughout OP but more so for his leadership,vision, kindness and his wonderful humanity. The Kostopolos family loss is indeed a loss for all OP but the celebration of his life is wonderfully manifest in his family. Memory eternal Kosta!

Daniel Lauber from River Forest  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 11:15 PM

Gus served on the Oak Park Plan Commission during the turbulent times of the late 1970s when, as Senior Planner, I staffed the Plan Commission. I remember well how thoughtful he was. No matter which way he voted on an issue, he gave both sides careful consideration and heard everybody with respect. His decency and kindness will be sorely missed.

Tom Lamm from River Forest  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 10:51 PM

Gus Kostopulos DEFINES what decency and leadership are about. He practiced it every day in OP when he was a public servant. This is a man, that even his opponents admired. For his approach and openness to life. OP is a much better place, because it was touched by the good hand and thoughtfulness of Gus Kostopulos. May God Bless his family at this great time of loss.

Galen Gockel from Oak Park  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 10:25 PM

Gus and I were elected to the Village Board in 2001 on the same slate. We agreed most of the time, and when we disagreed, (for example the garage next to the high school which he championed)it was a civil, respectful dialogue. The village needs more leaders like Gus.

Marge Greenwald from Oak Park  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 9:44 PM

I served for many years with Gus on the Residence Corporation. He was our chairman for about 9 years and we were well led. A good, decent, honest man, he was also a wonderful maker of whirly-gigs.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 8:28 PM

He'll be missed.

julie oak park  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 7:49 PM

Sorry Gus (and family) ... that's http://honorflight.org "you done well!"

julie oak park from oak park  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 7:48 PM

Gus was a class act. :) And that his memorial donation goes to Honor Flight Network, show his colors eve more. http://honorflightnetwork.org

Christine Vernon from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 7:34 PM

As someone with a family history of four generations in the loyal opposition, often in disagreement with VMA policies, I have to say that this is one person who was a pleasure with whom to have a talk or discussion. He was so decent, a good listener, respectful, always a gentleman. My condolences to his family on this loss. Gus was a wonderful public servant. We were fortunate to have him in public office here in Oak Park.

Nancy Markley from Oak Park  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 7:15 PM

Gus was our architect on a couple of home improvement projects. He was a very talented and wonderful man who loved Oak Park and its people. We will miss him very much. Our thoughts are with his family.

Gail Moran from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 7:03 PM

What sad news. I saw him just a couple of weeks ago. My condolences to his family, and my gratitude for his pubic service.

Ray Johnson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 6:47 PM

Gus gave a great deal to Oak Park in a number of public service roles and is to be commended for his time and commitment. He was always excited about making progress on the VOP board. My thoughts and sympathy go out to his entire family.

Patricia Koko from Oak Park  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 6:22 PM

What a wonderful man and what a great loss. I remember interviewing him in his little office on Lake St. after he had been chosen as one of the 2007 Ulysseans. He was very definite about continuing to work as long as he could. I am honored to have had the opportunity to know him. My sympathy to his beloved wife and great family.

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