In memoriam: Notable McHenry County-area deaths of 2023

Judge Michael Coppedge talks to the attorneys during Nathan Rigg’s jury trial Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022, in the McHenry County courthouse in Woodstock. Rigg was charged with two counts of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child younger than age 13, a Class X felony. Rigg was accused of sexually abusing a 4-year-old child in 2019, according to court records. The case was investigated by the Woodstock Police Department, and a warrant was issued for his arrest in March 2020.

Here’s a look at some of those we lost in 2023 who made an impact in the McHenry County area.

Cristiano “Cris” Bimbi, June 9, age 55: Bimbi has recently served as chair of the McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce and had a 32-year career with State Farm, for which he was voted Best Insurance Agent in the Northwest Herald’s Best of the Fox Reader’s Choice awards multiple times.

Cristiano Bimbi

William “Bill” Bishop Sr., Jan. 27, age 76: Bishop, an Army veteran, was a former police officer in Chicago and Crystal Lake before becoming chief of Oakwood Hills. He later started Bishop and Son Landscaping.

Edward Buss, Feb. 23, age 93: Buss had a long career in politics, including as McHenry County Board chairman, and operating Buss Ford, the dealership his father started in McHenry. He began his political career in 1963 and ran as an independent for the McHenry County Board. He later joined the Republican Party and served on the county board for 25 years, retiring in 1988 after spending the last four as board chairman.

Ed Buss, 93, died on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023, at his McHenry home, following a long career as a McHenry County leader and operating Buss Ford, the dealership his father started in McHenry.

Michael Coppedge, Nov. 13, age 61: Coppedge was a highly respected judge in McHenry County who oversaw murder cases and also ruled on some of the first pretrial detentions hearings in the county following the enactment of the state’s SAFE-T Act. The former Crystal Lake attorney collapsed in his judge’s chambers on a Monday morning and was pronounced dead later that day.

McHenry County Associate Judge Michael Coppedge

Herbert “Herb” Franks, Oct. 31, age 89: The prominent lawyer and banker founded the Marengo law firm Franks Gerkin Ponitz & Greeley and practiced there for more than 60 years. He secured the first million-dollar judgment in McHenry County and co-founded the McHenry County Jewish Congregation. Franks was also a mover and shaker in Democratic politics and big names such as U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin were among the mourners at his funeral.

Patrick Gasienica, June 12, age 24: a U.S. Olympian ski jumper from Norge Ski Club in Fox River Grove, Gasienica died from injuries he suffered in a motorcycle accident while on his way to his McHenry home. Gasienica was one of three Norge jumpers who represented Team USA in the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.

Patrick Gasienica, of McHenry, soars through the air during the men's normal hill individual ski jumping trial round at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022, in Zhangjiakou, China.

Alice Howenstine, Dec. 25, age 93: An early and longtime member of the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County, the McHenry-area resident helped spearhead curbside recycling in the county and won awards for work over the decades.

Jacqueline Johnson, Nov. 4, age 89: Johnson, who moved to McHenry County in 1965, was the first food service director for McHenry County College, where she spent 24 years, according to an online obituary. She also operated Jacquie’s Catering for 18 years and was former president of the Illinois Restaurant Association.

Paul Judson, June 5, age 89: Judson and his surviving twin brother Phil were on Alden-Hebron High School’s famous 1952 basketball team, which won the state championship as the smallest school ever to do so back when schools weren’t split up in classes by size. A resident of West Dundee, he went on to play at Illinois with his brother and to teach and coach, including at Dundee High School, before it merged with Crown, and Hampshire High.

Joe Kersten, Dec. 15, age 75: Kersten, a veteran of the Vietnam War, spent decades working to help other former servicemen and women, including a long stint as the chair of the McHenry County Veterans Assistance Commission. He also was also active in the Woodstock American Legion.

The original Woodstock American Legion charter draped in memory of Joe Kersten at the McHenry County Board room Dec. 19, 2023

Rose Lillegard, May 1, age 85: Lillegard became village president of McHenry Shores in 1975 and was said at the time to be the first woman elected to lead a town in McHenry County, though McHenry Shores was later dissolved. She later opened the Some Other Nuts shop in McHenry.

Rose Lillegard, 85, died Monday, May 1, 2023. She was the first woman elected as a village president in McHenry County, winning the Village of McHenry Shores election in 1975.

Rocky Lopez, Aug. 9, age 53: Lopez, of Lake in the Hills, was killed in a motorcycle crash in West Dundee. Formerly of Elgin, Lopez was known as an actor and for his handmade tortillas, operating a tortilleria before the COVID-19 pandemic. He appeared in films including “Concrete Rose” and “Blood Bound.”

Gary Mayerhofer, March 7, age 57: Mayerhofer worked in the public sector for several Chicago-area communities, including his last 19 years as city manager of Crystal Lake, having just retired a few months prior to his death. “Without Gary’s leadership, Crystal Lake would not be the great place we enjoy today,” Mayor Haig Haleblian said.

Crystal Lake City Manager Gary Mayerhofer shares memories with attendees during a celebration of life honoring former Crystal Lake Mayor Aaron Shepley on Saturday, June 12, 2021 at Three Oaks Recreation Area  in Crystal Lake.

Frank Nunez, Jan. 22, age 34: Nunez, a recently married Itasca firefighter who lived in Crystal Lake, died after battling cancer for several years. Nunez had been taken home to begin hospice care, riding home in the ambulance he staffed for four years.

Frank Nunez and Christina Patel of Crystal Lake were married at 12:29 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. Nunez, an Itasca firefighter, has terminal cancer.

Marian Sanfilippo, Dec. 3, age 88: Sanfilippo, along with her husband Jasper, helped nonprofit organizations raise millions of dollars by hosting fundraisers at their famed Barrington Hills estate. The Sanfilippo Family Foundation supported many McHenry County charities, including Home of the Sparrow and the Pioneer Center for Human Services.