This past weekend, Naperville lost one of its longtime friends and servants to the community as Frank Hnilo, who founded the local accounting firm of DiGiovine, Hnilo, Jordan and Johnson Ltd., died Saturday, April 13, at Edward Hospital in Naperville after a four-year bout with lung cancer.
Hnilo was 67 when he passed away.
Members of the firm he founded in 1974 with partner Carmen DiGiovine said this week that Hnilo was“the voice of reason within the firm when things got crazy.”
Partner Tom Jordan, 58, described the company’s founder “as a very logical person.”
“He was one of the most logical people I knew, and whenever there was a problem, he was someone who could take the emotion out of it and be rational,” Jordan recalled. “He was sort of the ‘voice of reason’ when others were losing their heads. Frank was also an extremely devoted family man and was very active in the lives of his two sons and their sports.”
Jordan also described Hnilo as “the moral compass” of the firm and that the company’s core value statement which reflects “faith and family, excellent client service, and respect for each other” remain as important tenets that guide the company.
Hnilo graduated from college and went to work in Chicago for the accounting firm of Bansley and Kiener before serving in the Army. When he came back from Vietnam, he returned to the same Chicago firm and met his eventual partner Carmen DiGiovine as the two men rode the train into Chicago from the suburbs each morning. DiGiovine died in 2007.
“The two of them would talk about the firm they wanted to start one day,” Jordan said. “In 1974, they opened an upstairs office in Naperville and the story about them was they would fight over who got to answer the phone. Eventually they hired a part-time secretary and bookkeeper and the firm grew from there. Today, we have two offices and employ 55 people.”
Hnilo was also known for his tireless work with the Naperville Rotary, where he served for a number of years as its treasurer. Friend and fellow Rotarian Richard Elder, 67, who operates his own accounting firm of Elder, Hanson and Company Ltd. here in Naperville said he knew Hnilo for 35 years and that despite running similar companies, “we were never competitive with one another.”
“I’d refer clients to him and he’s refer to them back to me,” Elder said. “Frank was a very generous person with his time, and he gave a lot to the Naperville Rotary. He was very involved with the organization’s Oktoberfest and made sure all of the accounting connected with it was done correctly. We became friends through the Rotary.”
Jordan also joked about Hnilo, noting that a common prank of his was to wait two or three years after a new employee was hired and then ask him as the deadline for tax season approached, “So, how do you like public accounting?”
“We actually had that question put on T-shirts that we wore,” Jordan said. “Frank figured you had to work here a few years before you understood what public accounting was all about.”
Rotarian John Robbins:
In 1987, I needed new financing for my company.
After meeting with Frank, he put me in touch with his friend at the Gary Wheaton Bank.
His recommendation got me the funds needed to continue my business.
Years later, I would thank him for "making it happen." A few months ago, I was able to thank him again when I saw him at
the memorial service for another fellow Rotarian.
He will be missed, and I am grateful to have known him.