'Full speed ahead!' Bob Mitchler remembered : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|'Full speed ahead!' Bob Mitchler remembered|
|Former state senator a key political leader here for six decades|
|by John Etheredge, Matt Schury and Tony Scott|
Kendall County area public officials remembered Robert Mitchler as one of the key political figures in the lower Fox Valley area for more than five decades who worked hard to improve the communities he served.
Mitchler, 91, died at his home in Bristol Township Thursday. (A complete obituary is in Countywide, section two.)
A native of Aurora and U.S. Navy veteran of both World War II and the Korean War, Mitchler represented Kendall County in the Illinois State Senate from 1964 to 1981, was past vice chairman of the Kendall County Republican Central Committee and served as a committeeman for more than 60 years.
State Rep. Tom Cross, R-Oswego, remembered Mitchler Monday as a "good family man who cared deeply about our area."
Cross, the House Republican Leader, recalled he attended Yorkville High School with Mitchler's sons and then got to know Mitchler when he became a Republican Party committeemen in 1986.
Cross said of Mitchler, "He was clearly a significant figure in the Republican Party in Kendall County and the entire Fox Valley area-in a positive way. He is going to be missed."
"He was a great politician, just a great politician," Ken Toftoy, chairman of the Kendall County Republican Party, said of Mitchler.
Toftoy said he met Mitchler in 1982 when he become involved in politics in Kendall County. At the time Mitchler was vice chairman of the county GOP's central committee.
Toftoy says Mitchler gave him a lot of good ideas and political advice and introduced him to other people involved in politics.
"Every year since I was coroner you had to pay homage to him and go to the house and sit. It was like going to see the wizard," he said.
Toftoy would pull up a seat at Mitchler's kitchen table where he would have papers laid out all over the place.
"And he would sit and talk about issues and candidates that were running for county government," Toftoy said.
Helping Republican candidates was one of those things, Toftoy said Mitchler always stressed.
"His big thing-and I learned this from him and (former Kendall County GOP Chairman) Dallas (Ingemunson)-was hauling water for the elephant," Toftoy said.
"Bob was always at every function-didn't miss it and that was the big thing that he always stressed to me and he stressed to a lot of the people in office now: just because you are not running for office this year, you should still be there," he said.
Toftoy said that he also learned from Mitchler the importance of staying active and working political events even in a year when he wasn't up for re-election.
"I remember he would send Christmas cards to all the people in his precinct," he said.
He said he talked to Mitchler about two weeks before the March primary election concerning the possibility of having a Republican headquarters in Kendall County.
Toftoy said that Mitchler got him involved in the Aurora branch of the Navy League.
"I said, 'Bob, I've never been in the Navy why would I want to join the Navy League?' 'Oh, it'd be good for you,'" Toftoy said.
Oswego Township Supervisor Jim Detzler remembered Mitchler as a "stand-up guy who was always there when you needed something...always willing to help."
Detzler, who served on the Oswego Village Board and two terms as village president, began his career in local politics in the 1970s when Mitchler was serving in the state senate.
As a state senator, Detzler said Mitchler was "always looking out for our area" and "always trying to see what he could do for us through the state."
Detzler also noted that Mitchler was an advocate for our nation's veterans and was an active member of the Navy League.
"You know, I didn't realize he was 91 years-old," Detzler said of Mitchler, adding, "He was always active and he would greet you with a warm handshake, call you by name, and ask you how the family was doing. I'll remember (Bob) as a good man who worked hard to serve our community."
Dallas Ingemunson of Yorkville, who served as Kendall County Republican Party chairman from 1973 to 2007, praised Mitchler for his "dedication and enthusiasm."
"Senator Mitchler exhibited unparalleled dedication and enthusiasm toward his responsibilities in the Republican Party and the people of Kendall County and the State of Illinois as a state senator," Ingemunson said. "His family and the people of the State of Illinois are justifiably proud of his loyalty and achievements."
State Rep. Kay Hatcher, R-Yorkville, said Monday that she first met Mitchler while she was a representative for Illinois Bell, and he was a veterans' advocate supporting a program called "Boss Lift" to encourage businesses to hire those in the military.
"Bob chaperoned a handful of us for three days, visiting various military installations and talking with military leaders," she said. "His mentorship is one of the reasons I'm such a strong advocate of our service men and women, both as warriors and peacekeepers."
Hatcher said Mitchler and his wife, Helen, "gained the quiet respect given to true leaders, not grandstanders."
"I adore them both; there will never be another couple like them," she said."
Hatcher acknowledged that Mitchler was "a very complex guy."
"Very old school when it came to politics, but very supportive in welcoming me to the political arena," she said. "He put his faith in steady, responsible community commitment and paid no attention to any kind of gender preference. He didn't care who or what you were, as long as you put your shoulder to the grindstone and pushed 'full speed ahead.'"
Scott Gryder, chairman of the Kendall County Young Republicans, said Mitchler was very encouraging of younger people getting involved in the local party.
"We all called him 'Senator Bob,'" Gryder said. "That was our affectionate name for him."
Gryder said Mitchler frequently communicated via email, with a greeting of "Ahoy Chairman Scott" to Gryder, and signing off with "full speed ahead."
"He was always full speed ahead, and let's keep moving forward," Gryder said. "When I think of him, I think of the strength of his voice, and his character."
Gryder said that, even if someone disagreed with him on something, Mitchler would discuss the issue with that person respectfully.
"If he disagreed with you, he wouldn't necessarily have to do it in a public rant," he said. "He'd pull you off to the side and tell you what he thought, and he'd listen to you and respect your opinion. If you just disagreed, so be it, but he'd let you know what he thought."
At the request of Montgomery Village President Marilyn Michelini, the village board held a moment of silence in honor of Mitchler to open their meeting Monday evening at village hall.