Kenneth H. Richardt


Kenneth H. Richardt was a longtime West Chicago business owner and a former alderman in the western suburb who is credited with helping create the parade that turned into the city's popular Railroad Days festival.

Mr. Richardt, 95, died of congestive heart failure and pneumonia Wednesday, September 17, 2014 at Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, said his daughter, Mary Richardt Madrid.

Born in his family's home on West Washington Street in West Chicago, he was 11 when his father died.  Mr. Richardt graduated in 1937 from West Chicago High School, where he played football, basketball and baseball.  He helped his mother at the family's grocery, Sanitary Cash Market, on Main Street in West Chicago, which his father had bought just before his death.
Mr. Richardt, who enjoyed tinkering with engines, worked as a mechanic at two local service stations.

He joined the Army Air Forces and was stationed in Europe and Africa during World War II, his family said.  After the war, he met his future wife, Henrietta Kuhn, at a West Chicago restaurant and tavern.  They dated for close to eight years because he felt obligated to help his widowed mother while she ran her business.

Mr. Richardt's mother sold the family grocery in 1952, and he and Henrietta eloped.

After working as a beer truck driver for about four years, Mr. Richardt built the Main Liquor Mart liquor store in West Chicago, and he and his wife ran it for 18 years until retiring in 1974.  After that, Mr. Richardt began buying and restoring local houses.

He helped establish the city's VFW Post 6791 in April 1946.  It was named for his brother, Leon "Bud" Richardt, a Marine who was killed during a battle in the Solomon Islands during World War II.  Mr. Richardt served several terms as the post commander and worked to acquire both the Army tank that is displayed in front of the building and the F-84 fighter jet that the post acquired in 2009.

In 1949, through the VFW post, Mr. Richardt organized an annual community parade.  That parade evolved into the Railroad Days celebration, which began in 1974.  An avid motorcyclist, Mr. Richardt rode his Harley-Davidson in many parades, his daughter said.

Mr. Richardt served on the West Chicago City Council as an alderman from 1947 to 1954, when he resigned because he and his wife moved to a new house in a different ward in the city.  He also served on the West Chicago Historical Society's executive board and on the city's Police Pension Board.
"Ken was a historian here in town.  Anything and everything that went on, Ken knew it and would share it with people," said Skip Day, a longtime friend.  "It was simply amazing.  The guy was one fantastic person."

Mr. Richardt's daughter said he chose a life of service to his family, his customers, his employers, his community and his country.

"He worked his entire life and endured many hardships, but he always tried to have a good time in whatever he was doing.  That's how he wanted to be remembered," his daughter said.

In 2001, Mr. Richardt's wife lost most of her sight to macular degeneration, prompting Mr. Richardt to become a full-time caregiver.  She died in June.
"I remember how dedicated he was to his wife after she had gone blind," said Paul Woodward, a former co-worker and friend of Mr. Richardt's.  "He was very devoted to her."

Mr. Richardt also is survived by a son, Robert, and two grandchildren. Services were held.

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