Late Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka was remembered Wednesday as a tough, honest leader with a signature sense of humor.
Crowds filled the Operating Engineers’ Local 150 headquarters in Countryside to pay respects. Individuals included the state’s top leaders, lawmakers, local leaders and Illinoisans who knew her for more than 70 years.
Rauner noted the irony of appearing in a union hall after a campaign in which he vilified public employee unions by saying Topinka was observing from heaven and “chuckling about me standing in the Local 150 union hall.”
“We’ve got to remember a good life always ends too early. A good life always ends too soon,” said Rauner, who added, “Judy was all about working together and solving problems, and I loved her for it.”
Auditor General William Holland called Topinka “an undeniable, smashing success” who earned the “approbation of honest citizens.”
“There are many important people here today. Then there are the important people who are not here today. They are those who shook Judy’s hand at the State Fair, heard her speak at an ethnic festival or walked with her in a parade,” Holland said. “I have no doubt that today, throughout Illinois in bungalows, farmhouses and town houses, these people whose names are unknown to us here are grieving, just as we are for the loss of their good friend Judy.”
“She was always known for telling the truth, a truth teller, and standing up for important issues no matter what her party might say. No matter the conventional wisdom of the day, Judy spoke from her heart,” Gov. Pat Quinn said during Topinka’s memorial at the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 headquarters in the western suburb of Countryside.
Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner, former Gov. Jim Thompson and Mayor Rahm Emanuel were among the political heavyweights who filled the union hall to capacity Wednesday. Topinka’s beloved Scottie dogs, Jack and Nora, also made an appearance.
“Judy led the ultimate life,” Rauner said. “She was a true public servant . . . She cared deeply for the families of Illinois. She worked her tail off to try to make a better life for all of us here.” […]
“We all feel a tremendous sense of loss because she filled every square inch of a room, every square inch of our hearts,” Kimme said. “She was hilarious. She was loyal to a fault sometimes, frustrating as all get out and simply the best person I’ve ever known. Rest well my friend. We love you.”
* Suburban Life Media…
Topinka was a frequent guest for Roe Conn and the Chicago radio show he hosted for years.
“She was a total truth screamer. … She warned us in 2006 about Rod Blagojevich. She was right,” Conn said.
Thompson offered a call to action.
“If we really respected [Topinka] … we could all take a vow to work just a little bit harder for the people of this state.”
* Herald News…
A serious and recurring theme throughout the ceremony was best said by former Gov. Jim Thompson, who spoke of Topinka’s ability to work with people of all walks of life, her commitment to making the state better for its residents and the necessity for all sides to work together to accomplish that goal.
Thompson called on those in attendance to find ways to compromise and work together to solve the lengthy list of issues before the state.
“So if we really respected our departed friend and really want to do something in her memory at this memorial, we could take a vow to work together … to move the people forward,” Thompson said. “Or, as Judy might say, ‘We got them here, lock the doors, order the pizzas, we’re gonna start now.’ ”
* ABC 7…
Praise came from both sides of the aisle. Several Illinois lawmakers, including Governor Pat Quinn, former Governor James Thompson and Governor-Elect Bruce Rauner, spoke at the memorial, which was held at IUOE Local 150, located at 6200 Joliet Road in Countryside.
“She’s probably chuckling a little bit to see me standing, talking in local 150 hall,” Gov.-Elect Rauiner said.
“She didn’t care whether it was a Republican sponsored bill or a Democratic-sponsored bill. If it had value to the people, she was there,” Secretary of State Jesse White, democrat, said.
“Partisanship has no place for her. She’s really just a good government person who likes to work with the people,” Former Il. Comptroller Dan Hynes, democrat, said.
“All of us have lost that middle voice that’s really lacking in this country,” Jim Sweeney, Operating Engineers Local #150, said.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Topinka’s staff and family for asking me to speak yesterday.