By Ruth E. Igoe
Robert Heytow was an Evanston police officer of 31 years who put in tours of duty throughout the department. But sometimes, fellow officers teased, Lt. Heytow was almost too nice a guy.
"He saw good in everybody and it made it even hard for him to deal with the bad guys," said Cmdr. Dennis Nilsson. "He was truly a person that could bring peace to a situation. He had an uncanny character for doing that."
Lt. Heytow, 53, died Friday, Nov. 10, after collapsing during a laughter-filled conversation with his colleagues outside the police station. When his twin brother, Dick Heytow, reached Evanston Hospital's emergency room, he was overcome by two emotions: grief about the loss of his sibling and a newfound appreciation of the impact his brother's kindness had on others.
Officers flooded the emergency room. Many were in uniform, and others who were off duty came rushing in as word spread. Most were crying. Several asked family members if they could see Lt. Heytow, and a line of officers queued up as if he were lying in state.
"I was a little shocked because I knew how much they liked him," his brother said. "But I didn't know how much they loved him."
Raised in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood, Lt. Heytow graduated from Mather High School in 1964. Soon after graduation, Lt. Heytow and his brother volunteered for the U.S. Army. Lt. Heytow was sent to Vietnam, his brother to Korea.
Soon after Lt. Heytow returned, he joined his brother again, this time at the Evanston Police Department. Lt. Heytow started with other rookies as a patrol officer.
Dick Heytow would eventually leave the force for a career as a lawyer. But his brother worked his way through almost every department on the force, from street cop to detective, and earned his college degree about three years ago, with a focus on public administration.
His affable personality made him a natural police spokesman, Nilsson said.
"He was one of the pioneers in our community policing program here, which has grown and grown," said Nilsson about an effort that began in 1986. "He was a big believer in community policing. It put police back in touch with the community, and for a long time we had kind of lost touch."
After a few years getting to know the shopkeepers and customers on his foot patrol along Chicago Avenue and Main Streets, Lt. Heytow was promoted to sergeant. He later was named head of the community policing program.
In the late 1990s Lt. Heytow made lieutenant, a well-deserved promotion for a man who did everything from serve as a trustee on the state police pension board to fix the Evanston station's computer system, Nilsson said.
In recent years, Lt. Heytow also oversaw the 911 center, the record bureau, the property and evidence bureau and the lockup. He took care of the building, Nilsson said, and made sure things got fixed.
"For us to try and replace him here, it is going to take a few people to do it," Nilsson said. "This guy's depths were unbelievable."
Lt. Heytow is also survived by his wife, Karen; a daughter, Amy; and his mother, Sally.
Visitation will be from 9 to 10 a.m. Tuesday in Piser Chapel, 9200 N. Skokie Blvd., Skokie, with services immediately following.