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Tributes flood in for JBT

Wednesday, Dec 10, 2014

* I posted a few tributes in the wee hours of the morning which you can see by clicking here (Rauner, MJM, White, Rutherford, Simon). I’m going to list the rest in the order they were received. Gov. Pat Quinn…

“Today is a sad day in the state of Illinois. I am heartbroken to hear of the passing of my friend, Judy Baar Topinka.

‪ “As the first female Treasurer of Illinois and a longtime public servant, Judy was a trailblazer in every sense of the word.

“Never without her signature sense of humor, Judy was a force of nature. She left her mark on the state she has called home her entire life. Her leadership improved Illinois and paved the way for countless women in politics.

“My deepest sympathies go out to Judy’s son, Joe, daughter-in-law Christina, granddaughter Alexandra, her family, friends and devoted staff.

“Today the entire state mourns the loss of one of the greats. Judy Baar Topinka will be incredibly missed.”

* Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton…

“We have suffered a great loss with the passing of Judy Baar Topinka. She was loved and will always be remembered because she was outspoken, independent and completely dedicated to the state.

“It was a special honor to serve with her during her time in the legislature. Her fierce advocacy and bipartisan leadership as a legislator and constitutional officer will continue to be a model for women and men entering public service in Illinois.”

* US Rep. Rodney Davis…

“Words cannot express how much Judy Baar Topinka meant to the state of Illinois, how much we will miss her, and how much we will miss her leadership. Her constant professionalism, passion for serving the people of Illinois, honesty, and sense of humor truly set her apart from all other elected officials. Judy was one of those legendary, all-time greats, and will be impossible to replace. Shannon and I offer our deepest sympathies and will keep her family, friends and staff in our thoughts and prayers.”

* Rep. Mike Zalewski…

Last night, Illinois lost one of a kind. As a constituent, mentor, neighbor and friend, Comptroller Topinka espoused a no-nonsense governing approach that I and my colleagues would do well to emulate during these difficult times. We came from different political parties, but she made sure those differences never mattered when it came to serving the people of our area and our state. Our thoughts are with her family, friends, and staff during this difficult time.

* State Sen. Michael Connelly…

“Comptroller Topinka was a very special woman and Illinois suffered a great loss today. My family would like to express our sympathies to her family and friends. She was a trailblazer that always fought hard for suburban communities while serving as a legislator, Treasurer and Comptroller,” Connelly said. “We will miss Judy’s kind heart, and bigger-than-life personality. Judy loved Illinois and Illinois loved her back. She will sorely missed.”

* IL GOP Chairman Tim Schneider…

“Illinois lost a legend today.

“Over the course of more than three decades in Illinois politics, Judy Baar Topinka was a trailblazer, a leader, and a treasure to Illinoisans, and all who knew her.

“Her common-sense leadership was a breath of fresh air during some difficult times for our state, and Judy’s energy lit up any room she was in. As Comptroller, as Treasurer, as Chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, and as Riverside Township Committeeman, Judy was a groundbreaking, one-of-a-kind leader.

“She had a heart of gold. She cared about our state saving money and families saving money; she was an advocate for animals, for the military. And she loved her family, including the staff and volunteers she treated like family.”

* Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois…

The people of Illinois today lost a true original. Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka brightened every room she entered with her engaging laugh, and LGBT Illinoisans were included in her warm embrace.

As a Republican statewide officeholder, Comptroller Topinka was a leader in supporting issues important to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Illinoisans and demonstrating that equality and fairness were bipartisan concerns. She endorsed the freedom to marry during last year’s debate and civil unions before that. At the signing ceremony for the marriage bill, she even offered to serve as a flower girl at any same-sex wedding that would have her.

When Equality Illinois held its regular lobbying days in Springfield, Topinka and her office opened their doors to the delegation to make them feel that the Capitol was truly our home, too.

Equality Illinois will always remember her regular presence at our annual galas, where Comptroller Topinka regularly received rousing receptions from the appreciative crowd. She was a welcomed presence at Chicago’s Pride Parade, and many other LGBT events.

Judy Baar Topinka demonstrated that political labels should not be a barrier to reaching out to all citizens. We will miss her.

* Illinois Business Immigrant Coalition…

“Comptroller Topinka never minced her words. She cared about immigrant families and valued immigrants’ enormous contribution as workers, consumers and residents to our state and country,” said Raul Raymundo, IBIC Co-Chair and CEO of the Resurrection Project, “She didn’t just show up at ribbon cutting ceremonies in immigrant communities, she championed difficult legislation and rallied her party behind her, winning policy changes like the immigrant driver’s license that keeps our roads safe and families together.”

“Comptroller Topinka paved a way for Republicans who see the business impact of inaction and trauma inflicted by the current system on families to come forward,” said John Rowe, IBIC Co-Chair and Exelon Chairman Emeritus, “And many followed her lead.”

* Mayor Rahm Emanuel…

“I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. Judy had a passion for serving the people of Illinois that equaled her passion for life. For more than three decades, she brought a relentless work ethic, a determination to attack our state’s fiscal challenges, and a sense of humor and smile that brightened the day of anyone in her path. As the first woman to serve as Illinois Treasurer, she will always have a special place in the history of our state.

“The thoughts and prayers of the City of Chicago are with Judy’s son Joseph and her staff members, and her many friends during this difficult time.”

* US Sen. Dick Durbin…

“The Illinois political scene lost its Polka Queen last night and I lost a friend. Judy Barr Topinka was one of a kind,” said Durbin. “In a political world of cocker spaniels she could be a bulldog taking a bite out of both Democrats and right-wing Republicans without missing a beat. She was a blue-collar, immigrants’ kid who lit up the room with her quick wit and boundless energy.”

* Rep. Tom Cross…

​Illinois lost one of her finest public servants today, and I lost a good friend. Judy Baar Topinka loved serving Illinois and Illinois loved her.

​Throughout her 30 year career in public service Judy brought passion, honesty and humbleness to every office she held. She was a model for all of us in public service to follow.

My deepest condolences go out to her son Joe and her family.

* Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno…

“Judy Baar Topinka was one of the first politicians I ever became aware of - she was my state Senator before I came into politics. She was beautiful, funny and an independent thinker. I was always in awe of her. She had the qualities we admire in our friends and public officials. She was articulate, sincere and had a wonderful sense of humor. She was smart, practical, tolerant and honest. She wasn’t afraid to take strong positions and stand to defend them. Judy will long be remembered by the people of Illinois.

“My family and I extend our condolences to her family and many friends.”

* US Sen. Mark Kirk…

“My friend and mentor’s sudden passing is a shock and very saddening. Her death is a loss to all who knew her and to our great state. My prayers are with her family today, especially her beloved son Joseph.”

* Cook County Commissioner John Daley…

I am deeply saddened to hear of the loss of Judy Baar Topinka this morning. Judy was a champion of women’s rights, human rights, and fighting for working people.

I had the honor and privilege of serving with Judy in the Illinois Senate. She brought common sense principles and a strong work ethic with her to every public office she held. Illinois has truly lost a state treasure today.

* Rick Garcia…

“Judy Baar Topinka stood out in the Republican party as a consistent and firm supporter of gay rights,” said Rick Garcia a gay rights activists for over thirty years. “Even when attacked by members of her own party for her gay rights support she never wavered. She was a solid friend and ally.”

“Illinois has strong civil rights protections for gay people including marriage rights and Topinka played a pivotal role in that., Garcia noted. “During the marriage debate in the House Topinka was on the floor working every Republican member to squeeze out every necessary vote.”

“I will always cherish the memory of dancing with Judy whether at a national Repbulican convention or at a gay rights event. She was one of a kind”

“Topinka was old-school Republican - she did not believe in labels she respected everyone and believed in fairness above all. Illinois lost a great leader. May her example be a guide for elected officials from both sides of the aisle,” Garcia said. “Her candor, bluntness and common-sense attitude will be sorely missed.”

* Treasurer-elect Mike Frerichs…

“Judy Baar Topinka was a one-of-a-kind public servant known for her integrity, her frankness, and her bipartisanship. We all mourn her passing, and I have the deepest sympathy for her family, her friends, and her current and former staff.”

* Julie Cellini…

Rich, I read with sadness your announcement of Judy Baar Topinka’s death and wanted to add something few people besides Judy knew. It was Judy’s generosity and knowledge of history that helped launch the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Many years ago a newspaper story appeared bemoaning the lack of a secure display vault for the state’s priceless Gettysburg Address manuscript hand written by Lincoln . It wasn’t an accurate story but it caught Judy’s attention and since she loved history– and had played a major role in getting the burial vault for President Ulysses S. Grant restored– she scratched together about $65,000 and sent it over to the Illinois Historic preservation Agency admonishing us ( I was board chairman at the time ) to take better care of Mr. Lincoln’s artifacts. I explained that the display case holding the document was actually a very good one and the story was erroneous, but since she had scratched together that money what would she think if we used it for something else–to launch an impossible dream to build a place where a worldwide audience could experience the whole of Lincoln’s remarkable story in his hometown of Springfield. She loved the idea and in typical Judy fashion said “spend that money, honey, and do right by Lincoln.” It would take years to realize the dream– and many setbacks along the way– but it began with Judy ’s support and enthusiasm for something almost no one else thought could be done. With that modest amount we put together a small presentation that we used to sell the project to anyone who would listen. She was so much more than the straight talkin’wise crackin ‘ gal that the media portrayed. She knew history and its value to inform and inspire. I thought of that this morning when I read your column. I thanked her many times over the years. Wish I had the chance to do it again, one last time.

* House Republican Leader Jim Durkin…

“I am deeply saddened by the loss of my good friend, Judy Baar Topinka. Judy was supportive of me from the time I ran for school board in the western suburbs in the early 1990’s to now as House Republican Leader. She was a mentor and a tireless campaigner for so many of us. Whenever she entered a room all attention shifted to her because she was larger than life, and could always make us laugh. When it came to governing, Judy was a straight shooter who called it like it was. You knew where she stood on any issue, and could always take her at her word. She loved public service and wanted only the best for Illinois. She will be greatly missed.”

* Todd Maisch, Illinois Chamber President and CEO…

“Illinois has lost a great advocate in Judy Baar Topinka. Her no-nonsense approach let citizens know what was really going on in state government. Topinka’s legacy will be that of honesty, hard work, and humor. She respected her office, she respected the taxpayers, and she respected the good of the state of Illinois.”

* IFT President Dan Montgomery…

“Judy Baar Topinka was one in a million. She was an undeterred pioneer, a friend to working families, and an advocate for all Illinoisans. Judy believed and showed that doing what’s right has no political party. She was guided instead by her principles and when she came before our Executive Board earlier this year, we laughed together as Judy told stories in her own candid, inimitable way. She loved serving the public and did so with honor, grit, and integrity. We join so many others this morning in shock and grief, and extend our sincere condolences to her family, friends, and colleagues. Judy will be deeply missed.”

* US Rep. Tammy Duckworth…

“I express my deepest sympathies to the family, friends and staff of Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. For more than thirty years Judy honorably served our state as a State Representative, Senator, Treasurer and Comptroller. Judy’s courage and leadership helped pave the way for women in Illinois to serve in office. We honor her commitment to public service and our state.”

* DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin…

“Judy was a feisty, funny, courageous politician who valued service to the citizens of Illinois above all else. We will miss her sense of humor, her intelligence and her commitment to moving Illinois forward. It’s a personal loss, as she was a good friend from my days in the Illinois legislature. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and her devoted staff, many of whom spent decades working with Judy.”

* US Rep. Adam Kinzinger…

“Judy was an amazing public servant and friend - she will be deeply missed,” said Kinzinger. “In a business where political expediency is the norm, Judy always stuck to her guns and did what she thought was right. She was a great example to so many people for so many years, and Illinois simply won’t be the same without her.”

* US Rep. Peter Roskam…

“I am saddened by the passing of my friend and colleague Judy Baar Topinka. Judy was a tenacious and dynamic leader who dedicated her life to public service and the people of Illinois. She was a trailblazer, a fighter and a total sparkplug. She will be dearly missed and Elizabeth and I join her family and many friends in mourning her passing.”

* US Rep. Robin Kelly…

“Judy was a vibrant and exuberant spirit who always spoke the truth throughout her career as a public servant. As a strong advocate for women across Illinois, she shattered the glass ceiling for generations to come. She was an ardent believer in bipartisanship who willingly worked across the aisle for the betterment of the state. Her great love of animals moved her to start several pet adoption programs during her tenure in office, including Treasured Pets and Comptroller’s Critters. My sympathy goes out to her beloved son Joseph and to her entire extended family, including her friends and devoted co-workers.”

* Illinois Education Association President Cinda Klickna…

The Illinois Education Association today mourns the loss of a great public servant, Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka.

Throughout her long and illustrious career, Judy Baar Topinka was a great friend to the students and to the public education employees of Illinois.

As a legislator, state treasurer and state comptroller, Judy worked tirelessly to improve our schools, repeatedly crossing party and ideological lines to rally support for education. Party affiliation mattered far less to her than what was best for the people of Illinois.

She never hesitated to speak out on education, calling throughout her career for more support for students and schools. Judy Baar Topinka believed in public education and in unions. It was an honor to support her in her most recent election.

Illinois will miss Judy’s leadership, her insight and her wonderful sense of humor.

* Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle…

I was saddened to hear this morning of the passing of Judy Baar Topinka. Judy was truly one of a kind. I admired her feisty, outspoken nature and her passion for good government. She had a track record of standing up for what she believed in, regardless of party lines.

As the first woman to be elected treasurer in Illinois, she was also a pioneer and an inspiration for other women in public service. My heart goes out to her family and friends throughout the state.

* Auditor General Bill Holland…

Judy Baar Topinka was an outstanding public servant, a person of whom Illinois could be consistently proud throughout her many years of service. If you had the privilege of meeting Judy, you would know of her intelligence, her wit and her honesty in all matters, large and small. I have been honored to call her my friend. I will miss her.

* Attorney General Lisa Madigan…

“Today our state has suffered a great loss. Judy Baar Topinka was a trailblazer, a true public servant and a friend to all. Always jubilant and straight-talking, Judy spoke her mind on every issue. Even during tough political times, Judy always worked across party lines to get things done and brought humor and joy to everything she did. My thoughts and prayers are with her family.”

* President Barack Obama via the Tribune

President Barack Obama, in a statement released by the White House, called Topinka “an institution in Illinois politics.”

“Judy was a fierce advocate for her constituents, which I got to see firsthand when she was State Treasurer – the first woman to hold that office,” Obama said. “She was blunt, pragmatic, unfailingly cheerful and energetic, and always willing to put politics aside to find commonsense solutions that made a difference for the people of Illinois.”

* Former Comptroller Dan Hynes…

I had the great fortune of working alongside Judy Baar Topinka for 8 years, when she was Treasurer and I was Comptroller. From day one, she became a friend and treated me as such (and not like a politician from another party). Every time our paths crossed, whether in a private meeting or at a public event, she would heap praise on me and upon my father, with whom she also served. It was not the usual, empty compliments typically thrown around by a politician. It was heartfelt and to the point – usually something like “Dan Hynes is one of the good guys…” This was how she judged people—were you a good guy or a bad one, were you genuine or were you a phony? If you were decent and genuine, you had a partner in Judy Baar Topinka. Simple as that.

Judy’s instinct was always to work WITH the other person, not to find a way to outsmart, outmaneuver or outflank them. When I read Rich Miller’s post this morning about her ill-fated run for Governor, it struck a chord with me. At the time, a race for Governor just seemed out of character for her, because a high level race like that in this day and age requires you to get mean and nasty. And that is just not Judy. She was above what big time politics has become.

That is why it was so great that she made her comeback, because in a sense her re-emergence was a reminder that good people, and old-fashioned politics are still viable. In the TV commercial of her last campaign, I’m pretty sure she recycled some of the old footage of her at the flea market. How fitting is that? Why try to remake an original, authentic scene for political purposes….why not just go with the real deal.

* Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael T. Carrgian…

“The working women and men of Illinois lost a friend in Judy Baar Topinka.

“She was driven by serving the greater good for all of Illinois. In this age of ideologues and politics driving policy, she was a beacon of statesmanship.

“She always called it like she saw it and had a heart as big as the state she represented.”

* US Rep. Jan Schakowsky…

“For decades, Judy Barr Topinka has been an energetic, down to earth leader on the Illinois political scene. I can’t remember a time seeing her on the campaign trail or at work that she was not cheerfully interacting with voters or colleagues, a smile on her face. She seemed particularly at ease with the many immigrant groups in our diverse state, coming herself from an immigrant background. Judy will truly be missed.”

* Jim Edgar via the AP

Former GOP Gov. Jim Edgar noted that Topinka was among a shrinking number of moderate Republicans and “gave folks who are not traditionally Republican in recent years someone they could talk to and relate to.”

“There’s not going to be another Judy Baar Topinka,” Edgar said. “State treasurer, comptroller for the most part people don’t know those offices. Judy had a personality that people knew her and remembered her.”

* AFSCME Council 31 executive director Roberta Lynch…

AFSCME mourns the passing of Judy Baar Topinka, a great friend of our union and working people across Illinois.

She was a good and decent person who always said and did what she thought was right, not just what was popular. She was dedicated to the public good, served with integrity, deeply respected all those in public service and demanded that every elected official do the same.

Judy believed in unions, and often proudly said she was a card-carrying member of two. She told the truth about the hard challenges facing our state and didn’t let anyone of either party get away with falsely blaming them on working people, especially those in the public service.

Though Judy Baar Topinka is no longer with us, her standard of decency, sincerity and respect for working people is needed more than ever and should inspire us all.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Lou Lang - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 12:31 pm:

    Judy will be missed by all of us in government, and on both sides of the aisle. She had heart and guts. A rare public servant. Illinois is better because she was with us.

  2. - Johnnie F. - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 12:34 pm:

    Judy always seemed to be respectful toward Illinois public servants. A very rare thing seen in our state’s politicians/leaders of today. She will be missed as a voice of common sense in a crowd of the extremes.

  3. - Rhino Slider - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 12:47 pm:

    Honor her memory by finally combining Treasurer and Comptrollers offices. She spoke of this many, many times.

  4. - anon - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 12:53 pm:

    I second Rhino Slider’s motion, but the Speaker may still disagree.

    One of the biggest mistakes voters ever made was rejecting JBT in 2006. I say that as a Democrat who voted for her, both in ‘06 and this year.

  5. - Wordslinger - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 1:04 pm:

    Maybe its just me, but I don’t know that I’ve seen so many politicians eulogizing another as a “friend.” That ain’t cookie-cutter stuff written by staff.

  6. - Tommydanger - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 1:04 pm:

    Nothing from MJM?

  7. - Ken_in_Aurora - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 1:08 pm:

    Tommydanger, MJM’s quote was in part 1 earlier.

  8. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 1:09 pm:

    MJM react is on the other thread.

  9. - ??? - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 1:13 pm:

    Wordslinger, I also noticed how many referred to her as a friend. It seems that usually when a politician passes, a few refer to the deceased as “friend,” while most others pay tribute to their “colleague.” It seems JBT was both to many.

  10. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 1:13 pm:

    In the early days of this blog, back in 2004, I would often post pics of JBT here as caption contests. I did it because it made the far right bonkers. They loved to hate her, so it was my own way of poking the bear.

    This was in the days before Facebook and before photos were widely posted on the interwebtubes. At one point, I actually ran out of photos of her and had to post one of a Czech motorcycle racing star named Tomas Topinka.

    I still can’t believe she’s gone.

  11. - haverford - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 1:16 pm:

    Absolutely agreed, Rich. It doesn’t seem possible that she’s not around.

  12. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 1:22 pm:

    What all these tributes say to me is how well-respected and so very relevant to the discussions of governing Illinois Judy Baar Topinka was all through her career.

    The opinions and thoughts of Judy Baar Topinka not only helped shape politics and policy in Illinois, her opinion and thoughts were sought by members of both parties, at all levels of government, and the weight of her opinions and thoughts were trusted because her common sense approach had Illinois’ best interest at heart, not partisan ideology.

    Judy Baar Topinka was about people. As I read these tributes the personal stories how she influenced or touched these leaders aren’t buzz words strung together to make one thought. These are true feelings and real life stories that endeared Judy Baar Topinka by so many.

    She was able to connect to so many peers because Judy Baar Topinka made a career about people and relationships, no matter the party, office, gender, age, or where they fall on the political spectrum. Her gift was connecting to people at levels where trust was gained and respect was earned.

    Judy Baar Topinka connected to do many at such a personal level, her persona knocked down walls where others would build them. Her loss is felt personally, first and last, a trait abd gift few in any walk of life can claim when being eulogized by colleagues. It was about her, abd it was about you, and what together you both can make better. That’s powerful, and why it hurts so much. She was the epitome of the “governing of we” while making it personal to everyone, including her.

    Her personal touch made her reach so far beyond the usual, abd we are all better in Illinois for it.

  13. - Scooby - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 1:23 pm:

    I guess we all thought she was immortal. Rest in Peace Judy and give Molly a big hug.

  14. - Grandson of Man - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 1:25 pm:

    I just spoke with public union leaders who strongly praised JBT forcher stances on public employees and pensions. I can see that she was loved and admired by so many different people.

  15. - Soccermom - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 1:26 pm:

    OW — Thank you so much for your lovely tributes to JBT. You really convey what made her such a tremendous force for good in this state.

  16. - LincolnLounger - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 1:32 pm:

    Thanks for posting the Julie Cellini statement. All these years I knew her, and I had no idea.

  17. - Ginhouse Tommy - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 1:34 pm:

    Willy nobody can touch your tributes today. All others, even from state politicians, pale by comparison. They reflect JBT perfectly as a person and policitian. Well done sir.

  18. - Emily Booth - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 1:37 pm:

    Loved Dick Durbin’s tribute. I only voted for 2 Republicans in my life and she was one of them.
    God bless Judy Baar Topinka. RIP. My condolences to her family.

  19. - Wordslinger - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 1:42 pm:

    Some, for whatever reasons, like to run down Illinois.

    But in an era of hyper partisanship, I don’t think there are too many places in this country where you’d find a Dem gov who just lost a brutal election saying he was heartbroken at the loss of his friend, the former GOP chair, and know that he means every word of it.

    Says a lot about the lady, but perhaps, too, it means we should embrace the better angels of our nature, and strive to be Happy Warriors ourselves.

  20. - Wensicia - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 1:45 pm:

    President Obama’s statement included in Pearson’s article.

  21. - Pot calling kettle - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 1:50 pm:

    Rich: Can you post a video or two (or three) of Judy’s favorite music? I’d love to know what she liked.

  22. - Bogey Golfer - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 1:51 pm:

    I represented my boss at a fundraiser for her last year. What amazed was the broad spectrum of supporters. All professions, all ethnicities, all ages.
    Rest in peace.

  23. - ??? - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 1:52 pm:

    high level source - I hadn’t heard that, but it would not surprise me in the least.

  24. - steve schnorf - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 1:53 pm:

    All due respect to Rick Pearson, I would say Judy began her political career in 1975 as part of a rump group pushing to elect Christy Berkos as Cicero Town President, successfully I might add. She was working for Kubik Sr at the time and my recollection is that Kubik Jr was part of the group, as was Al Cross

  25. - Mad Brown - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 1:55 pm:

    As many have said, (and best by OW) she was a true public servant and an inspiration for women. When my father was in the senate (I was a teen at that time) he’d let me on the floor once in a while and Judy’s smile, humor and presence was always a welcome part of those visits. She was always warm and kind and always had something funny to say. My dad always respected her and I’d like to hope that they’re sharing a laugh and political story in the great beyond. Illinois has lost a legend.

  26. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 1:56 pm:

    Very humbly, thank you.

    I know that this is an instance of subject shining so brightly and warmly, the words, and their own truth, make the speaker of them seem far wiser than he is.

  27. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 1:57 pm:

    The Illinois GOP lost one of their best statewide officials. Judy Barr Topinka gave her political party a real human heart. Voters saw her as one of them. She was approachable, lovable, huggable and our favorite elected aunt. Her longevity in public office was the result of a connection with Illinoisans that was both sincere and admirable.

    Judy laughed. Big. We knew that with her around, we’d have a brutally honest advocate that would tell us the hard truth, but when Judy laughed, we knew we’d be OK. She laughed at herself, she laughed at us, and she laughed with us. Judy laughed and it made us feel good.

    Judy danced. She didn’t just attempt it, she did it her way. Judy polkaed and reminded us that we all have funny ethnic roots we can’t explain. When she grabbed an old Republican guy too stiff for his own shoes, you almost prayed she could send some of her energy and color right into them. The old guys faked it, but not the Polka Queen.

    It is so telling that it was her Polka dancing that Blagojevich would abuse her over in his ads. Remember, Milorod polkaed as a little boy too, but Judy embraced her ancestry’s musical heritage while he turned his back to it. In 2010, after he was sentenced to rot in jail, Judy polkaed right back into public office, and we clapped along. Judy danced and we saw a woman who loved life as much as we do.

    Judy wore color and she wore funny better than anyone else. From her bright red hair which changed hues when necessary, to her comfortable work clothes, Judy looked like no other Illinois Republican. Her dogs. Her smokes. Her coffee. She publically loved what we loved, even when we were a bit less comfortable admitting it publically.

    The Illinois GOP lost a folk legend today. At a time when her party stood apart from the electorate and felt sorry for itself, Judy Barr Topinka ensured us that there was something good left in her party, even if it was just herself.

    She leaves behind a legacy few can match. Color left the Illinois GOP today. Sweetness just isn’t going to be in as much supply from the remaining stiffs. The GOP lost a lot today when it lost Judy.

  28. - vole - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 2:06 pm:

    Thanks to Judy for running against Rod B. She gave some of us democrats (lefty independents) a real choice in that election and not just a vote against Rod.

  29. - Pot calling kettle - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 2:17 pm:

    ==Thanks to Judy for running against Rod B. She gave some of us democrats (lefty independents) a real choice in that election and not just a vote against Rod.==

    I second that.

  30. - Norseman - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 2:22 pm:

    Rich, my wife recalls your frequent visits to Judy’s Senate office on 1st floor in early 90s. She recalls telling you that you should have your name engraved in the wooden chair by her desk because you spent so much time there.

    She also recalls bringing Judy coffee made of 1/2 regular and 1/2 decaf to keep her from getting to hyper from all the coffee she drank.

  31. - ash - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 2:25 pm:

    One of the few remaining good politicians who cared more about the state than personal power — she will be missed.

  32. - legal pad - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 2:29 pm:

    Man, how many times will we hear “only republican I voted for?” A testament to how she brought people together. Rest in Peace Judy Baar Topinka.

    Beautiful eulogies here.

  33. - Wordslinger - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 2:31 pm:

    And 10 percent of the electorate were morons like me who wasted their vote on Whitney in a childish protest against the excesses of the establishments of the major parties, even when we knew what that Blago was a psycho crook.

    I was sick that election night at how stupid I was. I haven’t learned all the lessons in life that I should, but that one stuck. Still get a knot in my gut thinking about it.

  34. - Toi - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 2:34 pm:

    I carried more than a few bills for her in the Senate and I had a ball every time. She always had time for legislators she liked and I’m so grateful that I got to really know her these last few years. She was one of the most encouraging and funny people I’ve ever met who always told me that she was proud of me. My Party didn’t matter to her, she shared her stories and offered to help me any way she could any time she could. Rest in peace Judy. There was no one like her. I can’t believe it.

  35. - Phil Bradley - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 2:35 pm:

    These tributes well deserved and not unexpected. But I was particularly touched by Julie Cellini’s graceful remembrance.

  36. - Pot calling kettle - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 2:51 pm:

    Not the “only Republican I would vote for,” but an example of the kind of politician many of us would like to see more of. Why? 1) Up front about what she stood for. Too many folks running for and holding onto office are constantly angling for what they perceive to be a popular position and pandering to their base. 2) Respectful of the opposition. 3) Got into an office and did the job. 4) Open door, open ear, & open mind. 5) Good sense of humor…

  37. - Jake From Elwood - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 2:55 pm:

    Hug your loved ones a little closer todays folks.
    Judy was one-of-a-kind.
    There will not be another like her.
    A good heart and a fighting spirit.
    God Speed Judy.
    Illinois has lost some good people in 2014.

  38. - door gunner - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 4:21 pm:

    You could walk across the isle and talk to her, she would listen not only out of respect but maybe you had a good idea, if so she would vote for it. A stand up broad in the finest tradition and the most respect. Would she help you if she could, sure would. These kind of people are AWOL in DC

  39. - Cheryl44 - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 5:26 pm:

    She was the only person on the ballot this year I actually wanted to vote for.

  40. - Newsclown - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 6:33 pm:

  41. - Capitol View - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 7:23 pm:

    Judy would have hated a long, difficult fight back from a serious stroke.
    Do not mourn her death. Celebrate her life.

  42. - Jim Tierney - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 7:30 pm:

    Judy Topinka lived by her own rules, not the rules of political party or others. Rare indeed for a politician who enjoyed so much success. Fortunately for all of us her rules were guided by a heart of gold. Incorruptible and incorrigible she possessed the art of persuasion that would bring the most disagreeable to the side of righteousness. Or maybe it was just the beatific smile that convinced you that you had to agree. She will be missed.

  43. - Little Egypt - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 7:42 pm:

    I truly hope that in my grandchildren’s lifetime, they will see a female politician who strongly resembles JBT. Not a clone - just a close second.

  44. - SICK OF IT - Wednesday, Dec 10, 14 @ 9:03 pm:

    She was such a lady…..she just lit up the room…..a class act…

  45. - Anon - Thursday, Dec 11, 14 @ 9:20 am:

    When Topinka made her transition into the Comptroller’s Office back in 2011, Judy and Nancy treated the Hynes folks with complete appreciation and dignity. I sincerely hope this same respect is afforded to the Topinka folks in Judy’s honor.

  46. - Former Hynes Staffer - Thursday, Dec 11, 14 @ 9:28 am:

    As Dan Hynes said above, he and Judy worked so well together as Comptroller and Treasurer it was like the two offices were already merged as one. Never did I recall that Hynes or Topinka ever crossed words. They represented a real bi-partisan alliance as Officers as well as their staffs. Judy was a Great Communicator of this spirit. God Speed Judy!

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