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Beverly Fawell, prominent DuPage politician, dies at 82

Former state Sen. Beverly Fawell seen this 1997 phooutside Capitol building Springfield died Saturday. | AP

Former state Sen. Beverly Fawell, seen in this 1997 photo outside the Capitol building in Springfield, died Saturday. | AP

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Updated: July 26, 2013 6:21AM

Former state Sen. Beverly Fawell, a member of one of DuPage County’s most powerful GOP clans, died Saturday at Central DuPage Hospital at 82.

The Fawells were some of DuPage County’s original settlers. Ms. Fawell, who represented the Wheaton area, was the ex-wife of Bruce Fawell, a judge who was once in charge of that county’s court system. And she was the former sister-in-law of U.S. Rep. Harris W. Fawell (R-Ill.), who served seven terms in Congress. Her ex-husband’s father was the mayor of West Chicago. Her daughter-in-law, Blanche Fawell, is a DuPage County judge.

She was Beverly Landon when she grew up in Oak Park in the family that owned F. Landon Trucking Company. Through a friend, she met and married young Bruce, whose family was dubbed the “Fighting Fawells” for the Fawell brothers’ bench-clearing brawls in their young, baseball-playing years.

She dropped out of college so her husband could go to law school. They raised their family in West Chicago and Glen Ellyn. Later, she completed her education at Elmhurst College and became a teacher. She worked as a substitute because she was busy with her four children with Bruce Fawell.

After 30 years of marriage, he left his 50-year-old wife to marry a younger woman, she said in a 1997 interview that depicted her as the face of spouses who lost out on their husband’s public-service pensions after a divorce. At the time of their split, she said, she had no income or savings of her own.

But in 1981, about a year after her divorce, she was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives. Two years later, she was elected to the state Senate. Former Illinois Senate President James R. “Pate” Philip (R-Wood Dale) made her chair of the Senate Transportation Committee because of her background in the trucking business, said her son, Scott Fawell.

Bruce Fawell “left, and left her with . . . nothing,” her son said. “Had it not been for the G.A. [General Assembly], she would have probably taught” in classrooms to make ends meet, her son said.

“If I keep getting re-elected,” she said in the 1997 interview involving her divorce, “by the time I am 72, I will have a decent pension.”

Her pension was improved in 2000, when she resigned her $53,600-a-year Senate seat and started a new, $85,000-a-year job with the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority.

Republican Peter Roskam was appointed to fill her seat. Now a congressman from Illinois’ 6th District, he said: “Our state has lost a great role model and champion for the advocacy of mental health issues. Sen. Beverly Fawell’s legacy of support for families and the disabled will leave a lasting impact in our community and it was an honor to know her.”

She also deserves recognition for her efforts for the elderly, said Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont). “As the chief architect of Illinois’ first law to establish assisted-living facilities in the state, she cajoled, negotiated and dogged everyone for more than two years. She was determined to offer senior citizens another choice in how they would live in the ‘golden years.’ Seniors today are benefitting from Sen. Bev Fawell’s work to set quality standards for the communal living arrangements in a home-like atmosphere which are now so popular,” Radogno said.

Ms. Fawell voted along party lines, but she recognized nuance. She pushed for parental notification in cases of abortions for minors, and she didn’t support an Illinois family leave bill, saying it would hurt businesses. But in 1989, on the issue of abortion, she said, “I just don’t think it’s that black and white.”

“We shouldn’t say absolutely no abortions under any and all circumstances. At the same time, I don’t like the idea that there are some women who are using abortion as a birth control method,” she said.

Ms. Fawell had a Facebook page where she “Liked” a 2011 WMAQ-Channel 5 report on her son, Scott, and his support for a humanitarian furlough to allow disgraced former Gov. George Ryan to see his dying wife. A top aide to Ryan, Scott Fawell went to jail for five years after a federal corruption trial in which he testified against his former mentor. Ms. Fawell supported her son, saying the FBI squeezed him to get to the governor.

“Absolutely,” Scott Fawell said. “She supported me when I was a Little Leaguer.”

In retirement, Ms. Fawell enjoyed traveling to London, Canada’s New Brunswick and Savannah, Ga., with former state Sen. Doris Karpiel (R-Carol Stream).

“It was kind of like an older version of Thelma and Louise,” Scott Fawell said.

She loved to read presidential and military biographies. “If you went over there and the History Channel wasn’t on, it was a little bit of a shock,” Scott Fawell said.

Visitation is 2 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Williams-Kampp Funeral Home, 430 E. Roosevelt Rd., Wheaton. A funeral service is at 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 393 Main St., Glen Ellyn. She will be buried at Glen Oak Cemetery in West Chicago next to her son, Steve, who died of liver cancer when he was 45. She also is survived by a daughter, Judy; another son, Jeff; seven grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

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