Remembering Chester Rybicki

Former Naperville Mayor Chester Rybicki saw Naperville’s population almost double during his two terms in office and also helped create Naperville’s crown jewel: the Riverwalk. After his recent passing, many community members are remembering him and the legacy he left behind.

Countless visitors travel to the Riverwalk each year and pass by his statue. To some, it’s just a sculpture, but to Naperville Mayor George Pradel, it’s a reminder of a mayor and mentor that came before him.

“He gave me a chance and he listened, and yet he was firm in his development and what he wanted to do,” said Pradel when asked about his relationship with Rybicki. “He also gave people a chance and he was always looking for ways to help the city and formation of our city as you see it now. He gave me the chance, and I’ll remember that forever.”

Chester “Chet” Rybicki was mayor from 1975 to 1983, coming into office just as the city had suffered the loss of the newly developed Fox Valley Mall to Aurora. Determined to strengthen Naperville’s downtown, he oversaw the creation of the Riverwalk, where he is immortalized today.

“A group of people approached me with various projects which they wanted to have as a commemoration of our 150th birthday,” Rybicki said in a 2006 interview. “They said ‘Riverwalk’ and I said, ‘that’s it.’ I wanted the Riverwalk for 2 reasons: one, to clean up the river, and have a beautiful park which has become a jewel in Naperville.”

Rybicki’s vision saw the city through one of its largest periods of growth and development.

He began his public service in 1962, serving on a number of boards and commissions, both before and after he was mayor, including the Heritage YMCA board and Naperville Public Library Board.
In 1994, he took the lead once again, becoming the Commander of the American Legion.

“He wasn’t afraid to make a decision,” said American Legion member Wayne Fisher,who became a commander after Rybicki. “He wasn’t afraid to provide his input and direction, yet I think he was always pretty open to everybody’s thoughts and ideas. That’s basically how this post succeeded with guys like that.”

Rybicki took pride in serving his country but it was his public service that propelled the city into what it is today.

“I love Naperville,” said Rybicki in the 2006 interview. “I’m very proud of how this city has turned out, I’m very proud that I had a part in it turning out that way. Naperville is my home, it will be my home until my end.”

Chet Rybicki died March 6th just shy of his 97th birthday. Even until his recent death, Rybicki was still attending Legion meetings and sharing his opinions on the latest city business.
All city flags were flown at half-staff in honor of Rybicki’s contributions to Naperville.

Rybicki’s wake will be held at Friedrich-Jones Funeral home on Mill St. in Naperville from 4 to 9 p.m on Friday, March 15.

Funeral services will follow on Saturday, March 16 at St. Raphael Catholic Church at 10:30 a.m.

Instead of flowers, memorials are requested to Loaves & Fishes Community Food Pantry in Naperville.

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