Friday, June 24, 2011

Longtime Chicago Republican activist and candidate Leonard Kaczanowski dies

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The 1980s seem so long ago, but time goes by quickly. I covered Chicago politics on the front line from 1976 until 1992, and then went in to column writing and media relations in the years since.

Back then, there was no Facebook or Google, so it's hard to piece together this story completely. Computers were still really new to the average person. As a reporter, I brought the first computer to the City Hall press room in 1979, first to turn in stories about the rapid fire news-making of then Mayor Jane M. Byrne. I still have notebooks from the Byrne years, but I don't have much else left. So it is sometimes hard to remember everything about good people that you have met over the years, especially going back more than three decades.

In 1982 and then again in 1984, Leonard Kaczanowski decided to run for office. He lived in the 13th Ward in Chicago and the man he chose to challenge, Michael J. Madigan, was one of the most powerful, and respected in the state. It was no easy race for sure and both times Kaczanowski lost his election bid.

A few years later, I moved from Burbank to Tinley Park and then in 1986 I moved to Orland Park. Imagine my surprise when "across the alley" (an old Chicago expression to describe the homes behind our home) Kaczanowski moved in with his wife.

He was older than I was, and we didn't have much in common besides politics and maybe the fact that we both served in the military, him during World War II and me during the Vietnam War. Generations apart. But he was always polite and friendly and kind. We'd say hello and chat about the old days of politics as we stood at the property line when all the backyards were wide open fields of beautiful grass. Since then, of course, the fences have gone up, fences that tend to keep neighbors in the suburbs from really getting to know their neighbors. Maybe in the suburbs of Chicago, most people who moved there didn't want to know their neighbors. I don't know.

But I remember Len had the spirit of politics. Had he settled in any other Chicago Ward, and run as a Democrat, he might have done well for himself. But he was conservative and a Republican. There was no chance to beat Mike Madigan, the Speaker of the Illinois House, who today is a good friend and someone I deeply admire.

Kaczanowski died this week. It was announced on Friday June 24th. Here's the Obituary that was published in the Chicago Tribune.

Leonard B. Kaczanowski, W.W. II Navy Veteran. Beloved husband of Mary, nee Bilas; loving father of Julienne (Wayne) Plestina and Bob (Tyna) Kaczanowski; dearest grandfather of John, Corey, Nichol and Danielle; devoted brother of Joseph (Shirley) and the late Roman (the late Adele) Kaczanowski; dear brother-in-law of Joseph (Mona) Bilas; fond uncle of many nieces and nephews. Visitation Friday, 5 to 8 p.m. Funeral Saturday, 9:15 a.m. from Lawn Funeral Home, 7732 W. 159th St., Orland Park to St. Elizabeth Seton Church. Mass 10 a.m. Interment Good Shepherd Cemetery. Funeral Info: 708 429-3200.

My condolences for myself and my family go out to his family and a memory of a man who I am sure did so much good for his family and his friends.

-- Ray Hanania 


  1. Wonderful article. Rest in peace, Uncle Len.

  2. And he always spoke highly of his neighbor, Ray. Thank you for your kind words.
    Julienne Kaczanowski Plestina