Eugene Schlickman didn't hesitate to reach across the political aisle to get work done. In fact, he made a point of it, his son Steve said.
An eight-term Republican state representative from Arlington Heights, Mr. Schlickman, 84, died of heart failure Thursday, Jan. 23, in Michigan City, Ind., his family said. He was a resident of Beverly Shores, Ind.
Mr. Schlickman was a village trustee in Arlington Heights from 1959 to 1964 before his lengthy tenure in the General Assembly. As a state representative, he led initiatives involving children's services, business reform, regional planning and land use and higher education.
Mr. Schlickman also championed the needs of the disabled, poor and immigrants, his son said.
"I remember as a very young kid, how my parents were concerned about migrant workers that were coming through the northwest suburbs when it was more rural and had more farm interests in the area. They worked very closely with the priests who were focused on that need," he said.
Steve Schlickman described his father as a "very conservative" Republican in the 1960s, a supporter with his first wife, Margaret, of Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential bid — the family car displayed an AuH2O (Gold - Water) bumper sticker.
But his political leanings shifted over the years, and in 2008 he supported Democrat Hillary Clinton, said his son.
Mr. Schlickman was a catalyst in creating a role for state government in local zoning, and as chairman of the Elementary and Secondary Nonpublic Schools Study Commission was instrumental in getting state aid to parochial schools.
Though he advocated improving the coordination of mass transit in the Chicago area, in 1974 he led opposition to the creation of the Northeastern Illinois Regional Transit Authority (RTA).
"He felt the proposal had serious flaws, including that the Chicago Transit Authority would not be merged into the new regional authority," Steve Schlickman wrote in a biography of his father.
"We debated one another throughout the region," George Ranney Jr., who chaired the task force that proposed the creation of the RTA, said in an email "I found (Mr. Schlickman) extremely well-informed, always difficult to best in a debate."
The referendum was passed, and while a suburban effort ensued to undermine the new law, Steve Schlickman said his father changed course based on his belief that the RTA, though flawed, was good in principle.
"I always had the highest regard for him even though we stood at opposing ends of the table on this one issue," Ranney said in the email.
Mr. Schlickman was born Dec. 17, 1929, in Dubuque, Iowa, the eldest of four children. His father ultimately brought the family to Rockford, where he ran the Tydee Dydee Diaper Service.
The business was successful enough to put Mr. Schlickman through college and law school. He was the first in his family to graduate from college, receiving a degree in economics from Loras College in Iowa before attending Georgetown Law School.
Steve Schlickman was in 6th grade when his father was first elected to the legislature, so he had a front row seat to his father's life and transformation in politics.
"His evolution probably had a significant effect on my own evolution," said Steve Schlickman, former director of the RTA and current executive director of the Urban Transportation Center.
"What he cared about I think affected what I subsequently cared about."
After leaving the legislature, Mr. Schlickman practiced law full time in Arlington Heights. He also wrote, spending a decade co-authoring with former Tribune business writer Bill Barnhart a biography of former Illinois governor and federal judge Otto Kerner, and a biography of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.
Survivors also include his wife, Sherry; another son, Andy; daughters Mary Rogozinski and Monica Oliver; seven stepchildren; John O'Connor, Thomas O'Connor, Ronald O'Connor, Patricia Gradishar, Margie Conner, Jackie Cuson and Katie Page; two sisters, Mary Lou Kampmeier and Patricia Webner; six grandchildren; and eight step-grandchildren. His former wife, Margaret, also survives him.
Visitation will be from 3 to 8 p.m. Sunday at Edmonds & Evans Funeral Home, 517 Broadway, Chesterton, Ind. Mass will celebrated at 11 a.m. Monday at St. Ann of the Dunes Catholic Church, 433 E. Golfwood Road, Beverly Shores. A one-hour visitation will precede services.