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Colleagues reflect on 'quiet, strong' leader in late Westmont mayor Bill Rahn

William Rahn in this undated file photo.
William Rahn in this undated file photo.
Rahn’s love for Westmont unprecedented

WESTMONT – William Rahn, mayor of Westmont from 1999 to 2012, will be remembered as a quiet, strong leader who "ate, breathed and slept" Westmont.

"This man was a public servant first and foremost," Trustee Sue Senicka said. "What I really respect about him is that people often put the job first and he never did that. He was just a good all around guy."

Rahn passed away Monday at the age of 71.

A cause of death is unclear, but Rahn had fallen ill in recent years. He was hospitalized in May 2012 with severe flu, and cited illness as the reason for stepping down as mayor a few months before the spring elections.

The news of his passing came as "a shock" to everyone in Westmont Village Hall at about 2 p.m. Monday, according to current Mayor Ron Gunter.

"I cannot tell you how many sad faces there were throughout the whole Village Hall," Gunter said Monday night.

Rahn's public service career in the village spanned more than 30 years.

A lifelong village resident, he served on the Westmont Village Board as a trustee from 1983-95, and again from 1997-99 until he was appointed mayor after former mayor Edwin Burke died in office.

Rahn was re-elected in 2001 and in 2005, when he won a heated election against former Westmont Village Manager Ray Botch. He won again in 2009 against a write-in candidate.

Rahn was Westmont's longest serving mayor for consecutive years, according to Village Manager Ron Searl. Searl said it's hard to believe he's gone.

"The community is going to miss him greatly," Searl said. "I've known him since I started back in 1982… He was a very kind person and I'm going to miss him. He was a friend and a friend to the community."

Throughout his life, Rahn always put his family first with Westmont a very close second, Senicka said.

"His heart and soul is Westmont," Senicka said. "He was such a strong advocate for every resident and business, I feel so blessed and fortunate to call him my friend.

"The town is so blessed to have had him."

Flags were at half-staff at Village Hall Monday night, Gunter said.

"Bill was someone born and raised here, who loved Westmont and gave so much of his time and energy to the community," Gunter said. "We lost a true leader of this community. It's a sad day but I know he's at rest."

Gunter, who said he remained close friends with Rahn, said there will be a moment of silence during Thursday's village board meeting.

Rahn to be laid to rest this weekend

A wake will be held on Friday from 2 to 8 p.m. at Modell Funeral Home in Darien, 7710 S. Cass Ave. Mayor Rahn will be lying in state on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Downers Grove, 1047 Curtiss St. Funeral services will begin at 11 a.m. Immediately following services, there will be a reception at the Westmont Knights of Columbus, 25 N. Cass Ave. A scholarship fund is also being developed.

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