Westmont remembers Gregg Pill's zest for life

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WESTMONT – A quick read-through of Roadfood.com offers more than just insight into the best hot spots across the United States. From fast eats to fine dining, the site – once a published guidebook before a digital platform – has become a vital reference, a trusted source among avid travelers and foodies. Beyond that, the site's users have the chance to connect, swap stories and trade tips, a boon of the internet age that oftentimes gets overlooked or taken for granted.

But, a recent forum thread reminded James Pfefferle of the true meaning behind community, friendship and loyalty. In fact, the title of the thread says it all: "The post no one wants to write. Gregg has passed away." Scrolling through a list of comments, tributes and photos unveils a loss that has left many in mourning.

Gregg Pill, of Westmont, died unexpectedly June 20, while on vacation in Quebec City, Canada. He was 64 years old.

In the pages of Suburban Life, he was the longtime writer behind the series of popular dining reviews celebrating the breadth of restaurants that call Westmont home.

Keepsake pictures of the late Pill show him in mostly jeans and a T-shirt, usually sitting at a table inside a newly discovered restaurant or standing next to friends – often caught in mid-laugh with a wide smile. On the thread, a photo of Pill in a hat shaped like a pie resurfaced, a simple summer image that now preserves his spirited personality.

"That photo was taken in my front yard," said Pfefferle, of Pewaukee, Wisconsin, who first met Pill on Roadfood's forums several years ago and later became friends with him. "We had a contest and the person who ate the most pies got the hat. And, he got the hat."

Fleeting conversations about food were more than enough to build a bond between Pfefferle and Pill. Though they only met in person once or twice a year – most of the time at one of Pfefferle's annual barbecues – they spoke to each other almost daily on social media, always catching up and cracking jokes.

"Nobody wanted to put this up there," Pfefferle said of the news about Pill's death. "Nobody wanted to believe it. Most of us don't."

As Pfefferle reminisced about Pill, he shared that Pill's passion for food was all about the people who ate with him.

"We all love food and we all eat too much," Pfefferle said. "But, Gregg was … kind of the biggest of the bunch. He ordered too much and shared it. He'd never finish it all, so he loved to share it."

That, alone, speaks volumes about Pill's character. Back in Westmont, Pill led another life, one complementary to his online persona. Among many things, he championed Westmont and constantly promoted his beloved west suburban town.

Pill was an active member of the village's planning and zoning committee, a manager at the Westmont Park District fitness club and a former president of the Westmont Chamber of Commerce. He also was known as a driving force behind the Race to the Flag 5K, an annual tradition that celebrated its 10th anniversary this past May.

Bob Fleck, executive director of the park district, and Larry Forssberg, executive director of the Westmont Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau, spoke about Pill's reputation as a pillar of Westmont. Pill's positivity, upbeat attitude and go-getter nature became an undeniable force, especially when it came to getting things done. He was proud of Westmont, and he wanted everyone around him to know it.

"He was bigger than life," said Patti Pill, Gregg Pill's wife of nearly 30 years, as she echoed Fleck and Forssberg.

She said he was the type of person who could command a room like no other. He loved parties and was the life of the party.

Still in shock, Patti Pill wrestled with the reality that she had to make funeral arrangements for her husband. She never would have guessed that the Quebec trip would be the last one the two of them would take together with their close friends. Nor did she foresee this outcome for her husband, who just marked 10 years of being cancer free.

Patti Pill called her husband the "main organizer." From planning weekend getaways to shows at Ravinia, he insisted on regularly making new memories.

"I don't know what it's going to be like," she said, as she flipped through family photos a few days before the July 2 funeral services.

For now, those pictures – the ones in her family albums, the ones up on social media and the ones on her friends' cellphones – mean everything.

"Gregg loves life," she said.

Pill, who was raised in Riverside, is survived by his wife, Patricia Pill (nee Schluntz); sons Michael Pill and James Pill; his mother, Irene; brother Kerry Pill (Deborah); and many nieces and nephews.

Visitation will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. July 2 at Sullivan Funeral Home, 60 S. Grant St., Hinsdale. Funeral Mass begins at 9:30 a.m. July 3 at Holy Trinity Church, 111 S. Cass Ave., Westmont. Interment is at Queen of Heaven Cemetery. For more information, call 630-323-0275 or visit www.sullivanfuneralhomehinsdale.com.

In lieu of flowers, memorials in his name may be made to Fenwick High School, 505 Washington Blvd., Oak Park, IL 60302 or People's Resource Center, 104 Chestnut Ave., Westmont, IL, 60559.