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Man visiting from India killed by hit-and-run driver

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Updated: June 6, 2013 7:35PM

Rajendrakumar Shah’s niece remembered him Thursday as a man who loved his large family and worked hard for political change in India.

“He could talk to anyone and everyone, and they will remember him,” Chandi Shah said. “He was just that kind of person.”

Shah, who was in the United States for a wedding and to visit family in Tinley Park, died Wednesday night — on his 61st birthday — after being struck by a pickup truck while crossing 159th Street at 80th Avenue in Tinley Park, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

The driver fled the scene, an official at the medical examiner’s office said.

The accident happened about 9:13 p.m., Tinley Park Police Cmdr. Patrick McCain said. Police on Thursday were interviewing a “person of interest” who they believe was the driver of the pickup, McCain said Thursday morning. Police did not respond to messages later Thursday, and no charges had been announced as of Thursday evening.

Shah, who was staying with family in the 16100 block of Kensington Avenue, died about 10 p.m. Wednesday at Palos Community Hospital, according to the medical examiner’s office.

Chandi Shah, of Tinley Park, said Rajendrakumar was in town from India for the wedding of her brother, Naitik Shah, who got married Saturday and celebrated at the Meadows Club in Rolling Meadows.

“He was just dancing and having a blast,” Chandi said of her uncle. “He was so happy.”

At the wedding, Chandi said, Rajendrakumar told her that he looked forward to her wedding because he would be able to walk her down the aisle as per Indian wedding tradition.

Rajendrakumar also told her it was important for him to be at the wedding because Chandi’s mother Nimisha, Rajendrakumar’s sister, attended his son’s wedding in India. He planned to stay in town another six days to spend more time with their family.

“He said, ‘I don’t want to go back until I’ve had enough time with you guys,’” Chandi said.

She said Rajendrakumar, who has 10 siblings, is from the town of Vapi, India. He worked in the country as a behind-the-scenes political operator, helping local candidates win office. Outside of work and family, he enjoyed Indian movies and traveling around the United States, throughout India, and to Africa.

“He was a really active man,” Chandi said. “He does a lot and he had a lot of aspirations. Unfortunately, a lot of them are incomplete now and we are going to miss him.”

Chandi said that Rajendrakumar was going on an evening walk Wednesday, as he always did. His family was about to get him a birthday cake — he turned 61 Wednesday — when they heard the tragic news of his death.

Chandi described the hit-and-run nature of her uncle’s death as “cowardly.”

“Anyone who has lost a loved one can agree that when someone leaves you, they may physically leave you but they will always be there in your heart,” Chandi said.

He is survived by his wife, Dipika Shah; his sons Nirav, Rushabh and Samkit; and one grandson.

Services will take place in India.

“It’s his home,” Chandi said. “He is so deeply rooted to his hometown that we just can’t take that away from him.”

Contributing: Sun-Times Media Wire, Bob Rakow

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