By Kevin Smith
When Bob DeNovo turned 90 years old last year, the Palos Park Village Council honored the lifelong village resident with a proclamation read by Mayor John Mahoney paying tribute to his many years of community service improving the health and public safety of Palos Park.
Born June 6, 1921 in what is now the library of the house in which his daughter, Kathy Williams, still lives, Robert C. DeNovo, a founder and lifetime member of the Palos Fire Protection District, was mourned last week by family, friends and grateful public servants across the village following his death on April 14.
“The Palos Police Department mourns the loss of Palos Park’s first, First Responder, Bob De- Novo,” Police Chief Joe Miller wrote last week. “It was Bob who founded the Palos Fire Protection District after a child died in a fire in Palos Park and it was Bob who would often impart his sage wisdom on those of us in public service. Bob set the standard for public service.”
As vice president of the Palos Historical Society, “Bob always made sure we understood the evolution of public service and public safety in Palos Park,” Chief Miller continued. “Bob always said that being a first responder was a higher calling. We will miss his wise counsel.
“Bob DeNovo: Back in quarters April 14, 2012,” Chief Miller ended his tribute.
Mr. DeNovo is remembered as a giving man with great respect for nature and wildlife. He was an active board member of the Palos Historical Society and served as Health Officer for the Village of Palos Park. As owner of the Palos Landscaping and Nursery Company, he possessed a lasting commitment to the betterment of his community.
Mr. DeNovo was married to his wife Geraldine “Dollie” DeNovo since 1944, raising Kathy and Bob DeNovo Jr., in Palos Park, Also active in community service, Dollie DeNovo died in July 2006.
Mr. DeNovo’s daughter Kathy Williams lived next door to him and looked back on her father’s many accomplishments with admiration.
“My folks met at Itzel’s Hobby House, [which is now the] Plush Horse, and spent lots of time at Rini’s Drug Store in the Heights.” Williams said. “The toboggan slides were another spot they frequented and then enjoyed hot chocolate after several chilly runs down the slides. They both agreed that there was no better place but Palos to grow up in.”
“Daddy was quite a unique fellow; independent, honest and strong,” Williams said. His love for the community had a great influence on her life and is something she hopes her own children will be inspired by.
Mr. DeNovo helped to found the Palos Fire Protection District in 1953 with four other citizens after a 14-year-old tragically died at her home in Palos Park before any of the neighboring municipalities could respond. The men took it upon themselves to work within the legal framework and develop the district into a functioning body, said Palos Fire Chief Steven Carr, who had worked with Mr. DeNovo since 1970.
Mr. DeNovo, a veteran of World War II serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps, served as a first responder since the Palos Fire Protection District’s inception.
“My brother Bob and I grew up knowing at any moment Dad could be running out of the door to answer the fire alarm. It could be in the middle of the night, during a dinner party or even a Christmas celebration. We became very accustomed to it,” Williams recalled. “The fire department was VERY important to Dad, above everything.”
Mr. DeNovo went on to lead the firefighter cadet program, in the late 1970s and early ’80s, as instructor, Carr said. It was there that he trained 16- to 21- year-olds to become successful firefighters both locally and in neighboring communities.
Although Mr. DeNovo’s commitment to the Palos Fire Protection District was enduring, he withdrew from some of his duties in 1983, yet continued his service as an honorary member, Carr said. Most of his work was with vehicle maintenance, and he remained on-call for service when the district needed his assistance.
Carr respected Mr. DeNovo for the tremendous impact he had on the community. Not only was Mr. DeNovo instrumental in the conception and development of the Palos Fire Protection District, but he was also responsible for much of the area’s landscaping after taking over his father’s business, Palos Landscape and Nursery Co, which Carr described as a “mainstay of the Palos area.”
“He was very involved in Palos community as well as the major projects,” Carr said.
Mr. DeNovo is survived by children Kathy Jo Williams and Dr. Robert C. Jr. (Nancy) DeNovo; grandchildren William B. Williams Jr., Robert C. (Jaime) DeNovo III, Robert F. (Katie) Williams and Kathryn M. (Jacob) Grant; greatgrandson Robert C. “Charlie” DeNovo IV; sister-in-law Nancy Beadle; and several nieces and nephews. Mr. DeNovo was the most cherished friend of Jagoda Rawa (caregiver) and all who love Palos Park.
Visitation was held April 20 at the Schmaedeke Funeral Home in Worth. A funeral Mass was offered April 21 at Our Lady of the Woods Church in Orland Park.
The family request that in lieu of flowers memorials may be made to the Dollie and Bob DeNovo Shelter Medicine Scholarship Fund at the University of Tennessee college of Veterinary Medicine, c/o Development Office, 2407 River Drive, Knoxville, TN 37996-4550.