In Memory

Neil Alan Bosanko

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10/24/11 10:10 AM #1    

Joanne Corpus

South Chicago rallies with Neil Bosanko.  LISC Chicago, John McCarron, May 2011.

A Southeast Side leader's legacy.  Chicago Sun-Times, Sue Ontiveros, May 2011.

Cancer patient spends final months ensuring his good deeds survive him.  Chicago Tribune, Dawn Turner Trice, May 2011

01/30/12 12:55 PM #2    

Maureen McDermott (Marella)

There is an on-line memorial for Neil here:

02/14/12 02:38 PM #3    

Maureen McDermott (Marella)


Birth:  Jun. 19, 1953
Cook County
Illinois, USA
Death:  Oct. 23, 2011
Cook County
Illinois, USA

Neil Bosanko is a product of the South Chicago Community. His [great] grandchildren represent the 6th generation of his family in the area.

As early as his Bowen High School days in the 1970's, Neil exhibited the need to bring people together. He was involved in the Afro American History Club and worked with neighbors in his Calumet Heights Community to form block clubs and community clean ups. Many a viaducts and vacant lots were cleaned by him and his helpers.

Upon graduation, he went into the Peace Corp/VISTA Program working under the Governor's Office in a project called PROJECT FIND. It focused on the ethnic senior communities around the Chicago and Midwest Area trying to ensure that people that might have had a language barrier knew about the multitude of services and supports for seniors. He also helped found and operate the COPA Arts Center housed at Bessemer Park. This center primarily served Mexican and other Hispanics in the arts and after school tutoring.

He also took a position with the South Chicago Neighborhood House as a youth service coordinator and moved up to the directorship of that center during the 13 years he worked for them.

After taking a medical leave and finally leaving the agency, he became the Executive Director of the South Chicago Chamber of Commerce. He has been there for more than 22 years and continues to serve in that capacity.

In each of the positions he held, he has brought people together in an effort to better understand the diversity of the people and to celebrate the richness of their cultures.

He took children from the community to other parts of the city to partner up with other ethnic resources such as the Native American Center in Uptown, the Chinese Community Center in Chinatown and others.

This same philosophy of bridging people together is still evident in his work at the Chamber.

He helped plan and organize informational networking sessions to understand the Middle Eastern and Islam Religion shortly after the 911 attacks. He has conducted Hispanic and African American networking sessions for the community at large to help facilitate a dialogue on the weaknesses and problems in those ethnic communities. His guidance and commitment has helped move the community toward working together to strengthen their role of leadership and positive growth.

He also went to each identified Middle Eastern owned business on the southeast side and asked them to call him if they experienced any threats from people at their place of business immediately after 911 due to the tension experienced throughout the country.

Neil attempts to facilitate interaction between the business, social service, religious and academic communities to identify strategies to problem solve and work in strong partnerships on issues.

The Chamber is truly representative of this philosophy and boasts of being one of the most diverse community chambers in the city. The board consists of all stakeholders in the area.

Neil has played a very strong role in the transformation of Bowen High School to the small schools that are now housed in the building. He has been involved as an LSC member since the inception of the structure in Chicago over 10 years ago.

After over 35 years of community involvement and leadership, Neil is still going strong and is heavily motivated by the need to see all of the dreams and wishes for a stronger community come into fruition.

He has been a foster parent for over 25 years (foster 162 youth over that span of time) specializing in teens that have exhibited behavior problems. He was the last step before institutionalization for many of these teens. They often came from tough family crisis and experienced horrible situations in their early years. His success with many of them resulted in his being recruited for a new program called Mentor Treatment Home. It was a highly specialized treatment home that used very concrete treatment plans in helping the teens resolve ongoing negative behaviors. He has been fortunate to be able to witness some of the fruits of his labor with teens that are now into their mid 30's and are doing well for themselves and their families. Due to his emphasis on education and breaking the vicious cycle of drop outs, incarceration and teen pregnancy that D.C.F.S. wards find themselves in by huge numbers, almost all of those teens ended up graduating high school and going to college or city colleges.

As you can see, every juncture of Neil's teen and adult life has been pretty consistent in trying to reach out to touch the lives of people in need and to bring people along with him on this journey.

Now it is time for him to pass that torch on to the community that he has worked so hard to strengthen...let us reassure him through our own dedication and action to keeping his life long legacy alive!

From his Living Memorial Service program, May 2011, held after he was given a diagnosis of terminal cancer in March.

A benefit was held for Neil by his friends & family on October 22, 2011.

Neil Bosanko, 58, passed away the next morning, Sunday, October 23, 2011 at his home.

The following obituary written by Sue Ontiveros was published in the Chicago Sun-Times on October 28th, 2011:

On his 58th birthday, as an honorary street sign along South Green Bay Avenue bearing his name was unveiled over the summer, Neil Bosanko bluntly reminded the crowd that it wasn't his style.

Instead, if people wanted to remember him when he was gone, he hoped they'd make sure the holiday meals at the South Chicago YMCA would be served, that the South Chicago Neighborhood House would continue as a haven for kids and seniors, and that the other initiatives he worked on would continue and flourish.

After all, he told the crowd on that warm June day, "I'm only one person."

Well yes, but not really. Mr. Bosanko had the energy and drive of an army when he was working for South Chicago, his community that he loved so dearly.

Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on March 30, Mr. Bosanko died on Sunday, the day after the community held a benefit to help defray his rising medical costs.

There will be no service. Instead, when family and friends learned of his prognosis, a living memorial service was organized and held in May in the auditorium that bears his name at his alma mater, James H. Bowen High School. That earlier honor was bestowed in recognition of his longtime service on its local school council. A quality education at the neighborhood schools was one of his passions.

At that service, one after another got up and spoke of how much his leadership had meant to them. And, they remembered that he made a mean bowl of chili.

Always, he was looking for ways to help children, senior citizens, the poor, the marginalized. Sometimes in his determination to get things done, Mr. Bosanko could be demanding, and he was never afraid to speak his mind, especially if it meant he could improve South Chicago. This was a man who with all his heart believed people working together could make their neighborhood better.

For 13 years, Mr. Bosanko worked for the Neighborhood House, rising to the position of executive director. He often took the children — largely Latino and African American — to other communities so they could experience the diversity of other ethnicities. In a area that's no stranger to violence, Mr. Bosanko created programs so kids would have a fun, educational and safe harbor. As one young man, Sam Gomez, said to Mr. Bosanko at the living memorial, "Thank you for not giving up on us. Thank you so much for making my childhood better."

After leaving Neighborhood House, Mr. Bosanko became executive director of the South Chicago Chamber of Commerce, a position he held for more than 22 years until his death. Mr. Bosanko was remembered as the teen who startled the working-class community when residents woke up one morning to find their train station repainted. Long before anyone else had thought of it, he had decided to paint over graffiti. That bold act impressed many a neighborhood kid.

Mr. Bosanko flourished in the Chamber job. He worked tirelessly to bring together business, religious and social service agencies to tackle the community's problems.

He gained a reputation as someone who could get things done. Sometimes, it might be in an unorthodox fashion, but Mr. Bosanko could deliver. Once, another nearby chamber needed to get its Christmas decorations off light posts but couldn't afford the city's hefty fee. Mr. Bosanko, who had a cherry picker, brought it over, and in the dead of night, those decorations came down.

And then there were "his kids." More than 25 years ago, Mr. Bosanko became a foster parent. In that time he took in 162 children, often teens with behavioral problems and nowhere else to go.

As he was proud to say, almost all of them graduated high school and went on to higher education.

Besides those foster children, Mr. Bosanko is survived by sons Paul, Xavier and Steve, a brother, Randy, and niece Elizabeth.


07/01/12 10:01 PM #4    

Sheila Marie Turner (Spaulding)

Only Neil could do so much in his short, but wonderful life.

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