Flossmoor village attorney leaves legacy of good counsel, great friendship

Members of the Flossmoor community are mourning the loss of the longtime village attorney. Edward R. McCormick Jr., died suddenly on Monday, Feb. 19, after a battle with colon cancer. He was 71 years old and, according to his wife, Gayle McCormick, he was working on village business up until his final days.
  Edward McCormick

“What he was extremely passionate about was protecting the village of Flossmoor,” said Gayle, his wife of more than 30 years. “That was definitely his calling, even up until Friday. He never stopped working when he was sick. He couldn’t do public meetings, but he would still work.”

McCormick's family includes his sons, Matthew and Ryan, their wives Angela and Rosanna, and two grandsons.

McCormick served as Flossmoor’s attorney for 37 years. Among the day-to-day tasks of offering counsel on village business, he made news over the years for litigating a handful of village legal matters, including guidelines regulating pit bulls and a lawsuit challenging Flossmoor’s pickup truck parking ordinance.
 
He was a partner at the firm McCormick & Zerante in Homewood from 1982 to 2000, before starting his own firm, which he operated until his death. 
 
“The attorney in him translated to everything else in his life, whether it was golfing or tinkering in the garage,” said Matthew McCormick. “He was very particular about attention to detail.”

From manual labor to law degree
The oldest of nine children, McCormick grew up in Steger and attended St. Liborius School. He graduated from Marian Catholic High School in 1965 and then moved onto Prairie State Community College, which was then called Bloom Community College. 
 
He completed a bachelor of finance degree at Northern Illinois University in 1970 and earned his law degree from The John Marshall Law School in 1975. According to Gayle, in the two intervening years between earning his degrees, McCormick taught history at a local elementary school.
  
Before his life of practicing law, McCormick grew up working with his hands. According to Matthew, his father worked at the family gas station, where he got his hands dirty as a mechanic. Later, he took a job in road construction to help pay for college.
 
The passion for working with his hands continued throughout his life, and McCormick could often be found in the workshop in his oversized home garage, working on projects or just tinkering. 
 
“He was a builder and a fixer,” Matthew said. “He liked his workshop, like I do, and he liked adding to it, organizing it, building it out. Anything that was broke, he could most often fix, especially when it had to do with engines.”

The law on one side, fire on the other
The way that four-stall garage got built is a testament to McCormick’s reach within the Homewood-Flossmoor area. 
 
McCormick served as a Flossmoor volunteer firefighter from 1985 to 1995. He started just about the same time as Flossmoor Trustee Phil Minga, who continues to serve with the volunteer department as a captain. 

“He had the locker next to me,” Minga said. 
 
So when McCormick wanted to build his new garage, he enlisted help from family, friends and Flossmoor firefighters.
 
“Nothing like having a bunch of firemen show up to frame out a garage,” said Minga, who added that the crew was compensated with pizza and beverages.
 
Ryan McCormick remembers that weekend well. When his dad told the family of his ambitious building plans — and Ryan and Matt knew they’d be on the crew — Ryan said the project sounded daunting.
 
“The garage was bigger than the house. We were like, ‘Dad, how are we going to build this?’ He just said, ‘Don’t worry; we’re going to take care of it,’” Ryan said.
 
“I remember walking out at 6 in the morning and about 30 people were standing outside. Some were family members, others were from the village and fire department. They all came out on their Saturday or Sunday to help this crazy guy build his crazy garage. 
 
“If something represented him, that was it. He had this massive amount of people show up. Before you knew it, everything was framed. It was amazing to me that he was able to get these people together to give up their weekend to help him.”

‘Belts-and-suspenders kind of guy’
Throughout his 10 years as a volunteer firefighter, Minga said McCormick brought a sense of thoroughness and a sense of humor to the department. 
 
Current Flossmoor Fire Chief Chris Sewell only worked with McCormick as a firefighter for one year, but he continued to work with the attorney on village business. Over the years, the two became close friends and McCormick became Sewell’s trusted adviser.
 
“Ed was a belts-and-suspenders kind of guy and always kept us all buttoned-up, too,” Sewell said. “He would always start with the foundation of things. Whatever he was referencing in statute, he made sure you had a copy. His whole goal was to educate us so that we would know more going forward.”
 
Sewell said he’ll miss McCormick’s friendship and the early morning texts the two would share. 

“Every morning, I still look at my phone at 7:15. It’s going to be an adjustment,” he said.
 
Throughout his tenure as Flossmoor’s village attorney, McCormick became well known by all the village staff, even though he served in a contractual position. The professional relationship and affinity that grew between McCormick and others was something of an anomaly in a village attorney context, said Flossmoor Mayor Paul Braun.
 
“Ed was a great attorney who really cared about Flossmoor, and he was involved much more than a normal attorney,” Braun said. 
 
Usually questions for a village attorney would have to go through the town’s mayor or village manager, Braun said. McCormick made village staff feel comfortable to call or approach him at any time for questions or advice. He had worked for the village so long, McCormick’s knowledge of its history became a valuable resource.
 
“I’ll miss the most his institutional knowledge,” Braun said. “He had knowledge of what’s gone on in the village and on the board in the last 30 years, more than anyone else.”
 
Flossmoor Trustee James Mitros also said McCormick’s death means a loss for the board and the village as a whole. Mitros met McCormick while serving on the village zoning board 27 years ago and over the years came to respect his talent and revere his temperament.
 
“He never spoke down to people. When you discussed things with Ed, he would explain it in a way you would understand it,” Mitros said. “He always could explain things and spin a yarn and at the end of that story, you would have your answer.
 
“He had a great smile. He was always happy to be there and be with you. That was genuine — you can’t fake that.”
 
Flossmoor Village Manager Bridget Wachtel said McCormick was “an integral part” of operations because he worked so closely with staff members on village business.
 
“There was always time for a few jokes, some good stories, and of course a teaching moment,” Wachtel said. “Our whole team (members) are better professionals because of what he taught us. I distinctly remember when I transitioned into the organization 13 years ago, retiring manager Peggy Glassford said to me, ‘Ed will be a good friend to you.’ And he was. He was a good friend to all of us.”
 
McCormick elected to donate his body to science. His family is honoring his wishes to forgo traditional funeral arrangements and throw a party in his honor at a local golf course.
 

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