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*** UPDATED - Arrangements announced *** Gene Callahan

Monday, Aug 4, 2014

* From a Cheri Bustos press release…

Congresswoman Cheri Bustos’ (IL-17) office released the following statement upon the passing of her father, Gene Callahan:

“Early this morning, Congresswoman Bustos received word that her beloved father passed away overnight at his home in Springfield. Congresswoman Bustos and her family thank everyone for their thoughts, prayers and the outpouring of support on this difficult day.”

Gene was one heck of a man. A true gentleman. And he always made it a point to return all his calls, no matter how mighty or tiny the caller.

From his bio

For over 40 years Gene Callahan worked in the political arena, first as a journalist with the Illinois State Register (Springfield) from 1957 to 1967, then as assistant press secretary for Gov. Sam Shapiro, and Lt. Gov. Paul Simon’s press secretary until 1972. In 1974 he began his long association with Alan Dixon, when Dixon served as Illinois state Treasurer, then Illinois Secretary of State. When Dixon moved to the U.S. Senate in 1981, Callahan became his chief of staff and most trusted political advisor. After Dixon lost a reelection bid to Carol Mosley Braun in 1992, Callahan worked for several years as the chief lobbyist for Major League Baseball, fighting to preserve its exemption from the Sherman Antitrust Act. His long friendship with Senator Dick Durbin dates back to the days when both worked for Lt. Gov. Simon.

First Al, now Gene. We’re witnessing the end of an era.

I’ll update this post today with what I’m sure will be a flood of statements.

* Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka…

“Illinois lost a true statesman this morning with the passing of Gene Callahan. Gene was passionate about public service. Although he worked in government and politics for decades he was able to rise above partisanship and work with anyone for the good of the order. He was truly one of the good ones. My thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time.”

* Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon…

“Illinois will miss Gene Callahan. And the Simon family in particular has lost a dear friend.

“Gene served as chief of staff for my dad, a mentor for my brother, and a trusted advisor for me. He was always focused on what was best for the people of our state, not short-term political advantage. His ethical standards were the highest – standards I try to live up to daily.

“My thoughts and prayers are with Gene’s family and all whose lives he touched.”

* Gov. Pat Quinn…

“Gene Callahan was one of those rare fixtures in the political world – a true gentleman who could work with anybody, any time, to get things done.

“It is hard to believe the 40-plus-year ‘Callahan era’ has come to a close. Few of us can remember a time when Gene was not involved in public service. Thankfully, he has instilled those same values in his daughter Cheri Bustos, who has taken his ethic of hard work and honesty to the U.S. Congress.

“Illinois has suffered two huge losses recently – first former Senator Alan Dixon, and now the Senator’s long-time friend and advisor, Gene Callahan. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and the thousands of people whose lives Gene touched during his long and storied life.”

* US Rep. Rodney Davis…

“Gene Callahan was truly a role model for anyone involved in government or politics. His work ethic was the stuff of legend, including his first rule: always return your phone calls, no matter the caller. Gene was most certainly a proud Democrat, but he also is one who believed that in order to accomplish great things, we need to work across the aisle to get things done. His passing is truly a loss for the state of Illinois and our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Ann, and his family, including my friend and colleague Congresswoman Cheri Bustos.”

* Class move by Bobby Schilling, who’s running against Bustos…

“Illinois lost a great statesman today. Gene Callahan admirably dedicated his life to public service and had a positive impact on the State of Illinois. My prayers go out to Congresswoman Bustos and her entire family.”

*** UPDATE *** From the family…

Era Eugene “Gene” Callahan, 80, of Springfield, formerly of Washington, D.C., passed away Monday, August 4, 2014, at his residence. Gene was born November 5, 1933, in Milford, IL to Joe and Helen Meyer Callahan. Joe Callahan, an active Democrat and Illinois state representative, introduced Gene to politics and his way of life. Gene served his country in the U.S. Army, stationed in Germany from 1956-1957. He was a graduate of Illinois College in Jacksonville, where he played baseball and met his future wife. On October 26, 1957, Gene married Antoinette “Ann” Hammond. He was preceded in death by his parents, brother, Fran, sister, Jody Pruitt, and son, Daniel “Coach Cal” Callahan.

Gene began his career as a political reporter for the Illinois State Register, the predecessor to the State Journal-Register. He wrote a daily political column called Callagrams for many years. He left journalism to become deputy press secretary to Governor Samuel H. Shapiro and later Governor Otto Kerner; eventually serving to Lt. Governor Paul Simon. He was director of communications for City Water Light and Power (CWLP) for the city of Springfield. He was U.S. Senator Alan Dixon’s Chief of Staff during his years as Illinois State Treasurer, Secretary of State and U.S. Senator. Senator Dixon just passed away last month. Gene also integrated his passion for baseball and was the director of Government Relations for Major League Baseball. In retirement, Gene served on the board of trustees for Southern Illinois University, where his late son, Dan, was the head baseball coach for 16 seasons. It was his and Ann’s passion to follow Dan’s baseball career. He remained active politically throughout his lifetime, although behind the scenes as advisor to many. In fact, his family is pleased that on his last day of life, he was at a political event at Norb Andy’s Tavern for his daughter, Cheri Bustos, a Congresswoman representing the 17th district for Illinois. Almost his entire immediate family was all together. Gene had many friends and enjoyed life to its fullest.

He is survived by his wife, Ann, of Springfield, IL; daughters, Lynn (Al) Riddley of Springfield and Cheri (Gerry) Bustos of East Moline; daughter-in-law, Stacy Callahan of Carterville; grandchildren, Brad and Chrissy Ruppert, Tony, Nick and Joey Bustos; Alexa, and Carly Callahan, sister Neta (Myron) Erdman of Chenoa.

Gene wanted his family and friends to celebrate his life, not mourn it. A party, complete with Gabatoni’s pizza, in Gene’s honor will be held at Norb Andy’s, 518 East Capitol Ave., Springfield, on Friday, August 8 from 2-6pm.

Staab Polk Memorial Home, 8855 State Route 4, Chatham, IL 62629 is serving the Callahan family. In lieu of flowers, please vote on November 4th.

Please visit www.staabpolk.com to offer your condolences. [Emphasis added.]

“In lieu of flowers, please vote.” Heh.

* More

Springfield lobbyist Tim McAnarney, a longtime friend, said Callahan’s final day was spent doing what he loved.

“He was in a saloon talking politics, surrounded by his family,” McAnarney said.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


30 Comments
  1. - Marty M. - Monday, Aug 4, 14 @ 11:40 am:

    I knew Gene from when I lived in Springfield. Really nice guy. My thoughts are with the Callahan-Bustos family.


  2. - Because I say so... - Monday, Aug 4, 14 @ 11:42 am:

    My husband and I had the pleasure of sitting next to Gene and his wife at a political dinner a number of years ago. I hadn’t met him before. He was so friendly and fun and treated us like old friends. I could see how much my husband was enjoying his conversation with Gene. At some point in the evening, my husband grabbed me while out of ear shot of Gene and his wife and said,”DO YOU KNOW WHAT HE DOES FOR A LIVING?” He proceeded to show me his business card, Lobbyist, Major League Baseball. Gene was talking about retiring. My husband said that’s what he wanted to do when he retires.
    I’m sorry to hear of his passing.
    Rest in peace Mr. Callahan.


  3. - Tommydanger - Monday, Aug 4, 14 @ 11:43 am:

    I dealt with Gene a few times over the years. A true gentleman and a class act. He will be missed.


  4. - Gregg Garmisa - Monday, Aug 4, 14 @ 11:48 am:

    We have lost a giant. I could not have asked for a better mentor, guide and friend. When Senators Paul Simon and Alan Dixon represented Illinois at the same time, Gene was often referred to as Illinois’ Third Senator, not just because he served as a top aide to both men, but equally because Gene fiercely protected our state’s interests throughout his time in our nation’s capital.

    In 1981, he wrote a letter to the editor when the Washington Star ended its run in the capital. Pithy as always, he wrote (and I’m pretty sure this is close to a direct quote): “I understand, but I grieve. Oh, how I grieve.” The same can be said today by hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands, of people whose lives Gene touched.

    I owe so much to Gene and will always be grateful for his friendship. Rest in peace, ol’ pal.


  5. - Vote Quimby! - Monday, Aug 4, 14 @ 11:53 am:

    He will certainly be missed. I didn’t meet him until after Senator Simon passed away, and he helped in the process of honoring Paul. I know there will be many others who remain that will honor Gene.


  6. - Keyser Soze - Monday, Aug 4, 14 @ 11:57 am:

    Gene was one of a kind………..a good friend to everyone he knew. He is already missed.


  7. - Observing - Monday, Aug 4, 14 @ 12:01 pm:

    Gregg Garmisa is right about Callahan’s role in Illinois affairs. I have known him for 40 years and worked in the Secretary of State’s office During the Dixon years. Gene was a tough advocate; a loyal, loyal friend; and he was the best Number 2 man in Illinois politics and government since he left his press career and entered government. Big loss. Big shoes. Condolences to his family and his many friends.


  8. - wordslinger - Monday, Aug 4, 14 @ 12:22 pm:

    Never heard anyone say a word against him. Universally liked in a pretty tough racket.


  9. - Wally - Monday, Aug 4, 14 @ 12:29 pm:

    A great, great guy!


  10. - suburban viewpoint - Monday, Aug 4, 14 @ 12:31 pm:

    Very good man who cared. I once consulted him about an issue. One year later, he called me out of the blue to offer me further thoughts on it. Quite frankly, I thought he had forgotten about the issue and me by that point. That gesture said a lot to me about him.


  11. - downstate hack - Monday, Aug 4, 14 @ 12:34 pm:

    Gene was a great guy, a truly wonderful individual. He will be missed.


  12. - Give Me A Break - Monday, Aug 4, 14 @ 12:37 pm:

    RIP Gene. You were a class act and mentor to many of us. You taught many people public service could be honarable.

    Prayers to Ann and the Callahan family.


  13. - Jim S. - Monday, Aug 4, 14 @ 1:10 pm:

    Gene Callahan gave me my start on Capitol Hill. He hired me in a bar - the most excellent and since shuttered Joint Committee in DC. He was a wonderful boss and a great unheralded asset to the State of Illinois. I learned a whole lot about being a public servant from Gene. His kindnesses were many. He paid attention to the details, never forgot where he came from, and he always remembered a birthday. Thanks Gene, for giving me my start. I will always try to continue your good example. My prayers for Ann, Cheri, Lynn and all the Callahans. Rest in Peace.


  14. - Commonsense in Illinois - Monday, Aug 4, 14 @ 1:18 pm:

    I was working on an issue with Gene and towards the end of putting the finishing touches on a piece of legislation he said, “you’ve got commonsense - something we need more of in Illinois.” Hence my nickname…

    Rest in peace my friend…you made a difference to all you met.


  15. - Steve Brown - Monday, Aug 4, 14 @ 1:25 pm:

    A sad day
    Our prayers for comfort and strength in these sad times go out to Ann and the family.
    Gene was one of a kind and one of the best. Whether it was the birthday calls, the regular bits of advice on politics, life, baseball or just an every day situation; Gene was someone to listen to when he spoke. I know I paused more than once to wonder how Gene might approach the event.
    Since the Daily Herald days Gene was a source, adviser, critic, booster and great friend.
    I was very happy when SIU finally finished the ball park he had worked so hard to fund. I was happy to see Sen. Dixon finish his book although the editing sessions were great. I was happy to watch his daughter run a top notch winning campaign.
    Since early this morning I have had an image of Gene, Alan, Paul Simon and Bill O’Connell sitting down to discuss current events. I can only guess about their comments, but what a get together.


  16. - MBD-S - Monday, Aug 4, 14 @ 1:50 pm:

    The world lost a gem today, and many of us lost a dear friend. Ann, Lynn and Cheri, thank you for sharing Gene with us. I will his stories, his laugh and his counsel. My life is better having the Callahans in it.


  17. - Windy City Mary - Monday, Aug 4, 14 @ 2:15 pm:

    Gene was a great man. He was a great friend of my father and was always there with a great quip and the most hearty laugh!!!As others have commented, noone ever had a bad thing to say about Gene! He was a true advocate for our state!


  18. - Concerned Observer - Monday, Aug 4, 14 @ 3:11 pm:

    Gene was great. Just great. I didn’t know him as a politician as much as I did as an SIU BOT member and big friend of Saluki Baseball…and I loved saying hi to him each time I saw him. He’ll be missed.


  19. - Publius - Monday, Aug 4, 14 @ 3:42 pm:

    Gene was a good guy, only met him a few times but he truly was a statesman. I’m glad to have known him


  20. - Decaf Coffee Party - Monday, Aug 4, 14 @ 3:42 pm:

    Gene was truly one of a kind and a mentor who will be greatly missed by all who knew him or were touched by him in some way. Spoke to Gene just last week to let him know how his daughter Cheri Bustos went well out of her way to greet my 6-year-old granddaughter when we ran into Cheri on the steps of the Capitol in Washington. Prayers and our heartfelt sympathy to Ann, Lynn, Cheri and the whole Callahan extended family.


  21. - Langhorne - Monday, Aug 4, 14 @ 3:58 pm:

    The best human being i have known in politics, or any area of life, in 40 years. Always honest and available to help if he could. My wife couldnt believe it when he called me at home on a sat morning bec he was with al and they had a question they thought i could answer. What a pleasure. Knowing gene made me very diligent about returning phone calls. God speed


  22. - Langhorne - Monday, Aug 4, 14 @ 4:00 pm:

    Saw him just a few weeks ago. In a bar, of course. My wife helped him w a problem w his phone. Same old gene.


  23. - Langhorne - Monday, Aug 4, 14 @ 4:01 pm:

    They better put a bar and a couple porta potties in the IML lot. Norbs cant handle it


  24. - Give Me A Break - Monday, Aug 4, 14 @ 4:17 pm:

    Those of you who knew Gene well will understand this; In honor of Gene, we should all call each other and see how long it takes to get a return call.


  25. - red velvet - Monday, Aug 4, 14 @ 4:43 pm:

    Thank you Gene for all you did for me and my family over the years. Rest in peace buddy. Godspeed.


  26. - 47th Ward - Monday, Aug 4, 14 @ 4:51 pm:

    “In lieu of flowers, please vote November 4th.”

    I hope it’s 100 years from now, but I’m stealing that line for my obituary.

    RIP Gene Callahan. Iroquois County produced no one finer.


  27. - olddog - Monday, Aug 4, 14 @ 4:58 pm:

    I didn’t know Gene well, and I didn’t always follow his advice. But he taught me to always return a phone call. Always.


  28. - Rick Jasculca - Monday, Aug 4, 14 @ 7:26 pm:

    How do you adequately thank someone for giving you a life–a worthwhile career–the ability and opportunity to follow your dreams? Gene was so much more than just my lifelong friend and mentor. He was a surrogate father, ok maybe an older brother, after my dad passed away in ‘68 at the age of 59. Judy and I stayed at Gene & Ann’s in Springfield. They and their wonderful children attended our wedding. And, it seems wherever life led, Gene and Ann were part of it. I just was able to spend time with Gene and Ann in June at a dinner in Chgo, then again in July at Alan Dixon’s funeral. He never failed to tell folks that he bought me my first legal drink, always forgetting to add that he likewise bought me my last illegal drink. He taught me the importance of honesty (even with bad news), loyalty, hard work, thoroughness, strategy before action–and yes, always returning phone calls. He called on my birthdays and other important days; he sang Happy Birthday Baby Baby to Judy up until she passed away. When he was done with a conversation, he preferred no small talk, ending a conversation with, “Be good”–click. In short he was an American classic, and I will miss him the rest of my days. I’m hoping Judy and Danny will be waiting with your first beer in heaven


  29. - MBD-S - Tuesday, Aug 5, 14 @ 1:46 am:

    Rick Jasculca, even though it has been many years since I have seen you and you may not remember me, I love your comments. You are known to me because of Gene. I had the great privilege to have Gene and Ann in my home during AJD’s funeral. I may have come later in this Pals game than some (1984), but my love and admiration for this incredible Dixon-Callahan partnership could not be deeper.


  30. - Karen Chamberlain Greene - Tuesday, Aug 5, 14 @ 11:00 am:

    I think US Senate Alan Dixon said it best,

    There aren’t many people like Gene around, ever,” says Dixon. “At a time when honesty is in decline, civility is dying and honor is gone, Callahan is one of the last true noble men.”

    Gene was one of my father, Bill Chamberlain’s dearest friends. When he died, he watched out for my family- all four siblings and my mother. Gene gave me first job in high school and after college. That’s how I ended up in Washington, DC. I learned a lot about politics from him, and what can be good about it. Gene was funny, compassionate, non-judgemental, thoughtful and let’s not forget- impatient.

    My heartfelt sympathy goes out to his Cheri, Lynn and Ann and their families. Gene will be missed, but never forgotten.

    Our love to all of you,

    Karen “Chamberlain” Greene, Jon, Caroline and Drennan


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