Judy Baar Topinka – 1944-2014

Chicago: Nearly 1,000 hundred friends, public officials, lobbyists, staffers, community activists and family members attended the memorial service gathering for Judy Baar Topinka at the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 headquarters in Countryside, Illinois on Wednesday, December 17, 2014.


Photo: Teresa J. Potasiak


Democrats, Republicans, friends came to pay tribute and to remember Comptroller Topinka as a competent journalist, 'truth teller’ and a dedicated public servant for over three decades in Illinois.
Number of speakers like former Governor James Thompson and others encouraged powerful Illinois and Chicago politicians to work for a common good of people in Illinois and follow Topinka example.
Outside the auditorium, a crane draped with funereal crepe dangled the United States and Illinois flags. Dozens of old Topinka campaign signs were displayed along the sidewalks. State Police and Local Police directed huge traffic around the facilities.

Judy Baar Topinka, the Illinois State comptroller, died on Dec. 10 of complications from a stroke at age 70.

Former Republican Gov. James R. Thompson made an appeal to politicians in both parties to work together and resolve issues for the benefit of Illinois.


Photo: Teresa J. Potasiak


Among many who attended memorial service were: Governor Pat Quinn, Governor Elect Bruce Rauner with his wife Diana, Senator Mark Kirk, Jesse White , Secretary of State, Lisa Madigan, Attorney General of Illinois, Dan Rutherford, State Treasurer, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel along with several suburban mayors, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and several commissioners, several past and current members of the General Assembly and Illinois congressional delegation.

U.S. Senator Mark Kirk

Speakers on stage included Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn at one side and incoming Republican Governor Elect – Bruce Rauner with his wife Diana on the other, Thompson noted that last month Illinois voted for “divided government” similar to when he governed as a Republican for several years with Democrats in the majority in the legislature. He stated that they work together for a common good in Illinois.


Photo: Teresa J. Potasiak


“If we really respected our departed friend and we really want to do something in her memory at this memorial, we could all take the vow to work just a little harder on behalf of the people of this state with more civility, more kindness, more recognition, more willingness to listen to each other and reach accommodation that will move our people forward,” Thompson stated.

Quinn called Topinka “a truth teller” known for “standing up for important issues” . “We’re all in this together when it comes to paying tribute to a special person who came our way,” Quinn said. “She’s done so much for all the people of Illinois. I think there’s a hole in the hearts of the people of this state.”
Quinn quoted Biblical passages from the Book of Isaiah about a special messenger and later on from the New Testament — St. Paul from the Letter to Corinthians who wrote about love. These terms were referred to Judy Baar Topinka, who exemplified these qualities, dedication for service and openness to all people.

Polish-American friends attended the Memorial Service:Frank Spula,  President of the Polish National Alliance and PAC,  Stanley Jendzejec, former Vice President of the Polish National Alliance, 

Rauner, Governor Elect, expressed his gratitude to Judy Baar Topinka for her friendship for last several years and presented her as the example of dedicated public service.
“We’ve got to remember a good life always ends too early. A good life always ends too soon,” said Rauner, and 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.”

Topinka’s jokes, love of resale shops, and enthusiasm for pets was well known. The audience applauded when her two dogs, Jack and Nora, were brought onto the stage at the beginning of the program.

Appellate Judge Joseph Birkett, who was Topinka’s running mate in her unsuccessful 2006 bid for governor, said, “I did whatever Judy asked, including taking her dogs out for a walk once in a while.”
Nancy Kimme, her longtime chief of staff, and a friend for 22 years issued a series of rules for Topinka that heaven should operate under.

While speakers mentioned numerous funny stories about Topinka, the event was full of sorrows, feeling of losing somebody that was a part of Illinois public life for last three decades. 

“I would ask you all to embrace the spirit of my mom” and “re-dedicate your lives to make Illinois a better place,” her son, Joseph Baar Topinka, a retired Army major, said in a tearful eulogy. “I urge the General Assembly and our statewide officials remember that compromise is a positive … not a negative word. Come together to bring our state back into a golden age.”

Major Joseph Baar Topinka, her son, gave a speech that was received with a standing ovation. 

Several speakers expressed condolences to staff members at the Illinois Comptroller Office.
Number of her close Polish-American friends attended the Memorial Service: Stanley Jendzejec, former Vice President of the Polish National Alliance, Frank Spula, President of the Polish National Alliance, Charles Komosa, Secretary of PNA, her former employee, Barbara Chalko, current employee in the Comptroller Office. Frank Spula said: “Polonia and Illinois lost a great person”.

Judy Baar Topinka had Czech background. Her forefathers immigrated to USA from Czech, which was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. 

During many interviews that we did with Judy Baar Topinka we learned many interesting facts vital for our audiences and many valuable lessons. We heard Judy Baar Topinka phrase when she was the Illinois State Treasurer: “I am the State Treasurer and I deal with finances. People are the real treasure”. She repeated them on many occasions. Her actions were based on such values.

 Jesse Clark White,Secretary of State of Illinois and Polish-American journalist, Andrew Mikolajczyk.

We are also grateful for recognition of our public and media work and certificates that we got from Judy Baar Topinka in 1999. She was an excellent journalist, a graduate of Northwestern School of Journalism. She used her writing and verbal skills for the benefit of people in Illinois. 

She was really a great, dedicated public servant.
The Memorial Service was dedicated to Judy Baar Topinka public service, sharing principles from her live for the future public service in Illinois. That’s a great legacy.

@ Andrew (Andrzej) Mikolajczyk

Senator Mark Kirk and Andrew Mikolajczyk

More photos at: https://www.facebook.com/polishnews

Kirk Statement on Passing of Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) today released the following statement on the sudden passing of Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka at the age of 70:

“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.”