Community Pays Respects to EPD Officer

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Friends, Family and Officers Honor Lt. Robert Heytow, Who Died Friday Afternoon

By Mike Saewitz

The Daily Northwestern

Police officers from as far as Crown Point, Ind., and Bloomington, Ill., city employees from Evanston's mayor to its repairmen, and most of the city's active and retired police paid their respects Tuesday to Lt. Robert Heytow, who died of an apparent heart attack Friday afternoon. Heytow was 53.

"Today is bittersweet," Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein told between 700 and 900 people at a 10 a.m. service at The Piser Weinstein Menorah Chapels, 9200 N. Skokie Blvd., Skokie. "It's bitter because God took Bob when he was so young. It's sweet because the Lord did not make him suffer. He took him with a kiss, while he was laughing."

Following the chapel service, eight Evanston Police Department motorcyclists led a 100-car procession to a ceremony at the department's headquarters, 1454 Elmwood Ave. Police cars from Barrington, Chicago, LaGrange, Prospect Heights, Lincolnshire, Oak Park, Bloomington, Skokie, Wilmette, Kenilworth and Deerfield participated in the procession.

EPD officers saluted Heytow's casket as they stood at attention under a gray sky. A man played the bagpipes while a wreath was placed in front of the building in Heytow's memory.

Heytow collapsed Friday afternoon after helping a custodian move a garbage can behind the station, Cmdr. Chuck Wernick of EPD said Monday. Police officers and ambulance and fire personnel performed CPR but could not revive him.

Klein's speech at times spurred waves of laughter in a situation marked by shock and tears. A close friend of Heytow's, Klein described the lieutenant as "loved and admired by all."

"The jokes he used to tell, even when they were awful, which was most of the time, made us laugh because we saw the joy and laughter with which he was telling them," said Klein, who, at Heytow's advice, became an EPD chaplain more than three years ago.

Klein said Heytow loved talking to people and brought out the best in everyone he met.

"To him we were all diamonds waiting to be polished," he said.

Heytow's Hebrew first name meant "compassionate" and Klein said the lieutenant was just that. He said Heytow once found a bird's nest in his plane and refused to fly for several months until the birds had flown away.

"He was a genuine person without any hidden agenda, a man we could all trust," Klein said.

Heytow's voice could be heard on most of the department's voicemail extensions, Klein said, because he oversaw so many behind-the-scenes operations at EPD. In recent years, Heytow supervised the 911 center, the records bureau, the property and evidence bureau and the lockup.

"I know God has a special place for Bob behind the network in the sky," Klein said. "I'm sure he's helping God right now."

EPD Chief Frank Kaminski, who also spoke at the service, described Heytow as someone who "had a way to add clarity to a difficult situation" and whose awareness of life's hardships heightened his appreciation for its good parts.

He said the thing he remembers most about Heytow is both his "childlike appreciation for life's infinite variety" and his laughter.

"It just sticks out in your mind," Kaminski said. "A smile comes to my face when I think about it. Bob's laugh began on a note of surprise and expanded into delightful amusement. It was very powerful. It made us feel good."

Kaminski also highlighted Heytow's love for police work. When he was on foot patrol, he used to calculate the miles he walked every day.

"He said, 'I can't believe I'm getting paid to stay in shape and talk to people,'" Kaminski said. "Talk about community policing, talk about Bob Heytow."

He said the best way for Evanston police officers to honor Heytow is to follow his example.

"The greatest tribute is not to leave the table but instead remain faithful when no one's looking and endure the pain of our loss with dignity," he said.

Lt. Linda Black of EPD said Heytow befriended officers from police departments across Illinois through his 20 years of work on the Police Pension Board, which administers the Pension Fund and designates beneficiaries throughout the state.

Because Heytow pioneered EPD's community policing program, officers from both local and out-of-state police departments called for his help in establishing similar programs, Black said.

Many of these officers, as well as members of the police motorcyclist club that Heytow belonged to, joined EPD officers at the chapel.

University Police officers and new EPD officers who didn't know Heytow as well as others did, volunteered to fill daytime shifts so Heytow's friends who were scheduled to work could attend the service, Black said.

Heytow, a Vietnam veteran, was buried with military honors in Memorial Park Cemetery in Skokie.


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