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Local News

An Extraordinary Life: Joliet man never settled for less than his best

At work or play, Joliet man always gave his best

Don Cordano of Joliet
Don Cordano of Joliet

JOLIET – The man never stopped.

So said Sue Cordano of Joliet about her husband, Don Cordano.

The founder and owner of Cordano, Severson & Associates Ltd. in Crest Hill, Don also was an accounting professor at Lewis University in Romeoville, the saxophone and clarinet player of the Don Cordano Orchestra, board member and treasurer for four Joliet organizations, a lifetime member of four Joliet clubs and the active member of multiple professional organizations.

In 2005, according to Sue, Don and Sue established a Don L. Cordano Endowed Scholarship at Lewis University, and provided for the construction of the Cordano Heritage Circle and Founder’s Garden, also at the university.

“He wanted to give back,” said Marisue Grabavoy of Shorewood, Don’s daughter.

“Nobody could figure out how he got so much done in a day,” Sue said, “but he did.”

Marisue said her father began his association with Lewis University as a student; he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 1956 and then earned his Master of Business Association from DePaul University in Chicago.

Don then returned to Lewis University where he taught for more 35 years, Sue said. She estimated Don taught approximately 6,000 students during his teaching career. As much as Don loved teaching, he also wanted to apply his skills and began his accounting firm.

Greg Severson, who began working for Cordano, Severson & Associates Ltd. in 1983 and now owns the business, said he was flattered that Don wanted him to continue the business Don grew and credits Don for teaching him the skills that enabled him to do so.

“He was a mentor to me,” Greg said.

To stay connected the greater accounting community, Don belonged to the National Society of Accountants, the Institute of Management Accountants, the American Management Association, the Financial Executives Institute and the International Association of Financial Planners.

In 1989, National Society of Accountants honored Don as Accountant of the Year.

Don also authored articles for accounting publications and lectured in more than 20 states. He wrote the original “Generally Accepted Tax Accounting Principles” published by the National Society of Accountants. He is the past president of the Success Institute, Inc.

And yet, Don still had time to serve Joliet Area Community Hospice, Our Lady of Angels Retirement Home, Will Grundy Center for Independent Living and the Rialto Foundation. Marisue said her father understood the importance of serving the community in which he lived.

Don also belonged to the Joliet Elks, Loyal Order of Moose, Knights of Columbus and The Old Timers Baseball Association.

Jim Cordano of Plainfield, Don’s son, said his father took more leadership roles after he retired. Jim feels his father’s sterling work ethic came from Don’s parents, who always worked hard even though they could not provide the extras for their only child.

Don tried to inspire others – especially his children – to succeed, too, Jim said.

“He always stressed the importance of self-reliance, being your own boss and controlling your own destiny as much as you could,” Jim said. “He made sure we developed our talents to the best of our abilities instead of just doing the minimum.”

But Don was not all work and no play. Building on a passion for music begun in boyhood while a student at Washington Junior High School and then the former all-boys Catholic High School, Don performed with his dance band from 1955 to 1980.

“They played every Friday and Saturday,” Sue said. “They played weddings, anniversaries, private clubs, Christmas parties. He had a full life.”

Don was 81 when he died Sept 7 after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer.

• To feature someone in “An Extraordinary Life,” contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-280-4122 or

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