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.