Josh Nemeth was the kind of guy you could count on.

Whether you were his sister or his student at Cristo Rey High School in Pilsen, he was always available.

“When I was in college, I got a flat tire downtown and I panicked,” said his sister, Amy Nemeth-Craig. “He came from Oak Park and was there in 20 minutes.”

That’s just the kind of guy he was, Nemeth-Craig said. If you needed help, he would drop everything to be there.

But help didn’t come quick enough for Nemeth on Wednesday morning, Sept. 15, when the 33-year-old teacher died of an asthma attack while he was jogging in Oak Park.

A passerby found Nemeth around 6 a.m. face-down and unresponsive in the parkway on the 700 block of South Ridgeland Avenue in Oak Park. That person called police.

Oak Park police arrived at the scene, soon followed by the Oak Park Fire Department and attempted unsuccessfully to resuscitate Nemeth with CPR and a defibrillator.

Nemeth was transported to Rush Oak Park Hospital, where he was pronounced dead of natural causes at 6:42 a.m. Wednesday, according to police.

His family said he died of an asthma attack.

Nemeth was a chemistry teacher at Cristo Rey High School in Pilsen, where he had worked since 2002.

An e-mail sent to Cristo Rey’s board members by the school’s director of development, Peter Beale-DelVecchio, said students were informed of Nemeth’s death Thursday morning at an assembly.

“He was a fantastic guy,” Beale-DelVecchio told Wednesday Journal by phone. “He was really well-liked by his fellow teachers and the staff here, as well as the students.”

As a chemistry teacher, he taught Cristo Rey’s entire junior class each year – a role that made him a popular pick for college recommendation letters.

“We’ve already seen a lot of messages going around from our alumni on Facebook,” Beale-DelVecchio said. “There’s a lot of talk about how much he really believed in them and helped them.”

Nemeth was nothing, if not devoted.

He was always available to his students. He often doled out his personal phone number to students and encouraged them to call him any time.

As a lifelong White Sox fan, he stuck with the team through thick and thin. He was a deeply religious person, as well: When his family went to his apartment to gather his things, they found an open bible on his bedstand.

“He had an incredible moral compass,” said his sister, Courtney Wiseman. “He always knew where he was going, and he expected the best of all our siblings and pushed us to be the best in every way.”

Two years older than her brother, they grew up in Wheaton. But when Nemeth moved to Oak Park in recent years, Wiseman would come to visit him, and they’d go drink pumpkin spice lattes in the café at Borders.

“He found joy in the details,” she said. “We’d talk about all the aromas, all the flavors. He taught me to look at all of them. It was the whole theme of just looking for the little things.”

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Ben Meyerson

Ben was Wednesday Journal's crime, parks, and River Forest reporter, until he kept bugging us enough to promote him. Now he's managing two of Wednesday Journal's sister papers in the city, Chicago Journal...