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Thaddeus S. "Ted" Lechowicz, 1938-2009: Cook County commissioner, Illinois legislator
Democratic Party committeeman represented Northwest Side in Illinois General Assembly, Cook County Board

Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Chicago Tribune
by Trevor Jensen and Hal Dardick

Thaddeus S. "Ted" Lechowicz, who rode the Northwest Side's large Polish vote to seats in both houses of the state General Assembly before serving a 12-year stretch on the Cook County Board, died of heart failure Monday, Jan. 5, in his Cragin home, said his daughter, Laura Lechowicz Felicione.

Mr. Lechowicz, 70, was also a longtime Democratic committeeman in the 30th Ward, where he got his start in politics in the 1960s as a precinct captain.

"He was always someone who was never afraid to express an opinion and was a continuous fighter for what he saw as his constituents' needs," said Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston), a lawyer and lobbyist who knew Lechowicz from his days in Springfield. "He certainly was a voice for the ethnic Chicago communities."

Mr. Lechowicz was elected to the state House in 1969, moving up to assistant majority leader, and then in 1983 won a seat in the state Senate.

In 1990, he made an unsuccessful bid for Cook County Board president, losing in the Democratic primary to Richard Phelan. But he received enough votes to become a commissioner, for a couple of years holding that post along with his Senate seat.

He remained on the board until losing a re-election bid to Forrest Claypool in 2002.

County Board President Todd Stroger said in a statement that Mr. Lechowicz was a close ally of his father, the late Board President John Stroger, sharing "a rock-solid commitment to access to quality health care for all county residents."

"Cook County would not have been able to build the state-of-the-art facility [Stroger Hospital] that serves so many each year without Ted Lechowicz's support," Stroger said in his statement.

Commissioner John Daley (D-Chicago) served with Lechowicz both in the Illinois Senate and on the County Board. In each case, he said the older man was a helpful guide.

"I found him always to be a great listener, a man who really understood state government, who really understood a budget," Daley said. "Even though he was really big, and had a strong voice, he had a soft heart for the people who were truly needy."

Mr. Lechowicz was also a longtime ally of former U.S. Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, and like Rostenkowski could count on the city's substantial Polish population for backing.

Commissioner Peter Silvestri (R-Elmwood Park) recalled that he had Mr. Lechowicz's backing on the first piece of county legislation he sponsored, a resolution urging the General Assembly not to eliminate Columbus Day and Pulaski Day as state holidays. It was a position that played well with the ethnic constituencies of both men.

"Ted was certainly a very well-known individual on the Northwest Side in government and politics," Silvestri said.

After leaving the County Board, Mr. Lechowicz was appointed to a temporary position with the Illinois Labor Relations Board by then-Gov. George Ryan. The move raised some eyebrows as it resulted in a $20,000 annual boost to Mr. Lechowicz's already substantial state pension benefits.

Mr. Lechowicz spent all of his life on the Northwest Side. His parents were both factory workers who were born in Chicago but spent their youths in Poland before coming back to the city and starting a family, his daughter said.

After graduating from Weber High School, he worked in a butcher shop to put himself through college, receiving an associate's degree from Wright Junior College and then a bachelor's in economics from North Park College in 1960.

He went to work as a systems analyst for the Cook County Circuit Courts, at the same time earning his stripes in the Democratic Party by working the streets as a precinct captain.

Mr. Lechowicz is also survived by his wife of 44 years, Sue; a son, Edward; and four grandchildren.

Visitation is set for 3 to 9 p.m. Thursday in Pietryka Funeral Home, 5734 W. Diversey Ave., Chicago. Mass will be said Friday, at a time to be determined, in St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr Catholic Church, 5352 W. Belden Ave., Chicago.


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