JOLIET – James Sczepaniak was the longest-serving active trustee on the Joliet Public Library board, and it may be difficult to find anyone who served on a board longer.
Sczepaniak, 78, who died Sunday, joined the library board in 1979. That gave him 35 years, and he was board president until he stepped down from the leadership position just two weeks ago because of ill health.
He not only had longevity on the board but passion, fellow Trustee Nancy Henricksen said.
“In so many ways, he’s been the face of our library,” Henricksen said Tuesday. “Anybody who knew him felt the passion that he had for the library.”
That passion was evident until the end, Henricksen said.
“I spent a couple of hours with him on Friday, and even then he wanted to talk about the library,” she said. Sczepaniak was asking about the strategic plan that trustees would soon be developing for the library.
He was a Joliet native, having grown up with the library and graduated from Joliet Township High School. Sczepaniak went on to teach social studies at Lockport and Romeoville high schools. He was an active member of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Joliet.
In a Monday morning message, library Director Kevin Medows informed staff of Sczepaniak’s death and described “his belief that libraries are truly essential to cultivating a community with high ideals and high achievements.”
“He was a good leader and very dedicated,” Medows said Tuesday. “I learned a great deal about the library and the big-picture issues from him.”
Medows said he believed Sczepaniak stayed on the board so many years “out of sheer devotion and commitment to what the library meant to him.”
Visitation for Sczepaniak will be Wednesday at Tezak Funeral Home, 1211 Plainfield Road, Joliet. The funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Joliet. More details on services are in Sczepaniak’s obituary on Page 18 in The Herald-News.