* 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.
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.