James (Jay) Michael Champelli, 80, a longtime resident of Oak Park and a longtime Ascension parishioner, died from cancer on Nov. 20, 2022. The son of Ethel (O’Toole) and Joseph B. Champelli, he was born in Chicago on Oct. 27, 1942.

The friendships Jay formed in high school at Quigley Preparatory Seminary in Chicago lasted through life. While his faith called him to the priesthood, Jay determined his love for God was best expressed through marriage to Joyce Marie Williams, whom he met while both were students at DePaul University.

He raised his family in Oak Park and devoted countless hours to community service as chairman of the Parking and Traffic Commission, the Village Manager Association, and the Great American Lightshow Association — for which Jay persuaded many a friend and acquaintance to solicit donations for the annual 4th of July fireworks show. A passionate fan of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture, he loved being a docent with the Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio. An admirer of talented storytellers, he volunteered with the Hemingway Foundation, giving tours of the Hemingway Birthplace Museum. He also served as a board member with the Unity Temple Concert Series.

As a member of St. Edmund and Ascension parishes, he directed the guitar choirs and relished singing with the Ascension Choir. He enjoyed planning liturgies and his role as a Eucharistic Minister, often bringing communion to people in the hospital. He was an active participant in small faith groups and the close friendships he formed with other members helped sustain him spiritually.

Music was a form of prayer for him and a central part of his life since childhood. He played the guitar, banjo and accordion and was an avid photographer who documented many a Door County sunset on family vacations and was happy to host slideshows.

He enjoyed cooking and delighted in creating homemade pizza, meatballs, dolmades, gumbo, pumpkin pies and peanut butter cookies for family and friends, often topped off with a glass of homemade limoncello.

His creative talents balanced his logical, curious mind, which was nourished by crossword and sudoku puzzles, and magazine articles from Scientific American, Consumer Reports and Natural History. His travels, whether to Italy, Ireland or Indiana, would begin with extensive research.

He started his professional life in banking before becoming a computer programmer and systems analyst. When he retired from the Oak Park Regional Housing Center, he continued to support the nonprofit as a volunteer. His concern for the welfare of people living in poverty motivated him to volunteer with Tri-Village PADS, which provided overnight shelter to people experiencing homelessness. His support continued after it evolved into Housing Forward.

Married to Joyce for 56 years, they shared their love for music and dancing, camping, stories, and games with their children Lisa Marie (Christopher), Joseph William (Christine), Jon Robert (Angelique) and Theresa Susanne (Michael). He was the older brother of Mary Kathleen (Kay) Keating, who predeceased him in 1987 and was both nephew of and caretaker for his father’s sisters: Mafalda, Ida and Pearl. He was the grandfather of Kira, Peter, Audrey, Lucy, Adeline, Alex and Zach. His grandson Ethan predeceased him.

A visitation was held on Nov. 25, at Peterson-Bassi Chapels, 6938 W. North Ave., Chicago, https://www.petersonfuneralhome.com. A funeral Mass was celebrated on Nov. 26, at Ascension Church, 808 S. East Ave., Oak Park, IL 60304.

To help honor Jay’s commitment to community service, please consider donating to Housing Forward, https://www.housingforward.org.

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