The man whose name and face came to define The Naperville Sun passed away Tuesday afternoon.
Longtime Sun editor and columnist Tim West, 66, was at home when he ended an extended battle with cancer. He left behind his wife, Kathy, and a vast circle of friends, relatives and coworkers.
“I’ve known Tim since he came to town, and we were very good friends,” said Peg Price, mayor of Naperville from 1983 to 1991. “He was like one of my kids. We didn’t always agree on things, but we were always close.
“From the outside, he sometimes looked kind of crusty, but on the inside he was one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. He cared about everybody … Naperville will not be the same without him.”
The current mayor, A. George Pradel, also had praise for the man who sometimes had opinions that varied from his own. Pradel met West during the mayor’s previous professional life as a Naperville policeman, and the two commiserated when both were recovering from cardiac surgery.
“I really think he had a handle on Naperville. It will be hard to replace him. He had a way. He was committed to writing the truth about whatever subject he was on,” Pradel said. “He was a writer’s friend and a newsperson’s friend, but his first love was reporting the truth, and he loved Naperville.”
West came to work at The Sun in 1973 and held a variety of positions, including reporter, photographer, associate editor, managing editor and viewpoint editor.
Longtime City Councilman Doug Krause met West when he ran his downtown business, The Good Stuff, next to the Tasty Bakery and not far from The Sun’s Jackson Avenue newsroom. West made no secret of his weakness for sweets.
“He used to say, ‘The Tasty Bakery is the bad stuff, but yours is the Good Stuff.’ He liked both,” Krause said.
In West’s capacity as an opinion editor, the two met many times during the endorsement process.
“I know the first time I ran in ’87, he said, ‘Well, you don’t have any experience,’” said Krause, whose bid that year fell short. “In ’89 when I ran he said, ‘Well, you have experience running, Doug.’”
“That was the closest I ever got to an endorsement, but we were still friends.”
David Dial, who spent nearly two decades as Naperville’s police chief, also considered West a friend. He said he will remember assorted things about him.
“First and foremost was how much he truly loved Kathy, and how much they cared about each other,” Dial said. “He was just completely devoted to her in every way. Professionally, I just thought he was a man of a lot of common sense. … When I was the police chief in Naperville, he was fair, and frequently would present both sides to an issue. The community has lost a lot today.”
West’s columns were a regular feature in The Sun for decades, and former coworkers recalled in emails their enjoyment in working with him.
Jim Pokin worked with West for nearly a decade when he was The Sun’s city editor, beginning in 1977.
“He was a dedicated community journalist, he loved Naperville … He insisted on integrity and fairness in our coverage in The Sun,” Pokin said. “He was a survivor. He was the guy that people really identified with the paper. Despite all the changes that took place, Tim was the constant.”
More recent colleagues praised him as a consummate newspaperman.
“Tim was an outstanding writer, editor and columnist who truly was the epitome of a community journalist,” said Denise Crosby, senior columnist for the Aurora Beacon-News. “We all lost a great colleague and an even better human being.”
Beacon-News reporter Steve Lord’s affiliation with West went back some four decades, to when Lord contacted West when he was in college, writing a paper about suburban journalism, and later worked with him on a local radio show when the two were reporting for competing local papers. Lord recalled fondly the pre-show preparation sessions.
“I remember those discussions as fun and freewheeling, with us laughing and sometimes arguing about what we should do,” he said.
Judy Harvey, managing editor for the Sun Times’ West Group which include The Naperville Sun, began her acquaintance with West when she was a reporter.
“Tim was a real mentor to me over the decades. I carried with me so many pieces of advice he gave me,” Harvey said. “In the past few years I treasured the quiet conversations he and I would have about his cancer (how it affected his wife Kathy, his moods both upbeat and low), national politics, the state of journalism, past stories we did, etc.”
Over the years, he earned numerous statewide and professional awards. Last year, the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce gave him its Lifetime Achievement Award.
“Officially, the Chamber gives this award to a business and civic leader for their commitment to Naperville’s business community, excellence in business stewardship, contributions to the region’s quality of life, and leadership in support of economic progress. Tim West exceeds the mark in every category,” said John Schmitt, leader of the Chamber at the time.
West was also a longtime member of the Rotary Club and many other organizations in the city.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Kathy West said her husband passed unexpectedly, but without pain. She echoed the same observations given by others when asked how she would like her life partner remembered.
“He really cared about this community,” she said. “I think that’s it.”