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William Cowhey, 92

Former president of the Civic Federation

November 27th, 2018 2:36 PM

Bill Cowhey, 92, died on Nov. 10, 2018. Born on April 1, 1926, April Fool's Day in a driving snowstorm, he attended St. Catherine's Church and Grammar School, creating lifelong friendships. After graduation, it was on to Quigley Preparatory Seminary to sample the religious life, and then to Fenwick High School to finish his high-school years. World War II began and he joined the U.S. Navy, becoming a radio man aboard the carrier USS Belleau Wood in the Pacific. He served from 1944 through 1946 as part of a unit that was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. 

At Loyola University, he began his war-deferred college education, graduating in 1950 with a B.S.C. degree. A born salesman, he tried his hand at real estate, forming a small but energetic company with a friend. He liked the real estate and selling parts, but decided he'd rather be part of a large company and joined Arthur Rubloff & Co. in 1952. He rose through the ranks, becoming senior vice president and general manager of the company's Industrial Division. He represented major national corporations, such as Honeywell, 3M, Purex, TransUnion, and Brunswick Corporation in the acquisition and disposition of real estate. He was involved in locating and acquiring Time Inc.'s Chicago office building site.

He remained with Rubloff until 1977, when he saw the opportunity to blend his real estate background with his interest in government and joined the newly created Economic Development Commission of the city of Chicago as assistant executive director, helping to encourage business and industry to locate or expand within the City. He consulted with Chicago City Council members and with city staff in Springfield regarding state legislation. 

In 1979, he returned to work for Arthur Rubloff in the Rubloff Development Corporation, as vice president, seeking investment opportunities for Mr. Rubloff's personal portfolio. 

Government beckoned again, and he joined the Cook County Assessor's Office in 1981 as a special consultant to the Legal Department, where he administered property incentive programs. He also purchased a membership interest on the Chicago Board of Trade, now the CME and invested and traded from 1981 to 1987 for his own account in the financial futures market.

In 1987, he joined the Civic Federation as president. In that capacity, he contributed to lowering taxes for city and suburban residents by suggesting ways to improve the fiscal condition of local taxing entities such as the city of Chicago, Cook County, Chicago School Board, Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, Park District, RTA, Metra, and the CTA. He also worked to improve the quality of health care for Chicago's citizens by his active leadership on the Health and Medicine Policy Group, Illinois Primary Health Care Association Committee on Ambulatory Care Linkage Project, and the Metropolitan Chicago Health Care Council. 

He retired from the Civic Federation in 1995 and pursued his longtime interest in the recovering community by joining The Retreat in Wayzata, Minnesota, in 2014 as the Regional Outreach Director. He raised the level of awareness of this organization in the metropolitan Chicago area with people who refer individuals to residential programs for recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs.

In January 1970, he entered Lutheran General and began a rich and full life of continuous sobriety. He sponsored newcomers and some not so new. His service work encompassed an affiliation with a bridge group team at Rush Behavioral and volunteering at Northwestern Hospital and the Lakeside Veterans Hospital. He also recruited and coordinated the volunteers for a substance abuse outpatient program at the University Of Illinois Department of Psychiatry. He became a member of the Chicago Board of Hazelden Betty Ford in 2003.

An active member of Old St. Pat's Church, he was deeply involved with the Kinship Group, an outreach effort to the North Lawndale community. He also was an involved member of the Chicago-Galway Sister Cities Committee, the Realty Club of Chicago, the National Association of Realtors, the Society of Industrial Realtors, and Lambda Alpha Land Economics Fraternity.

His family was a significant and delightful part of his life. Bill was the husband of Dorothy Nelson; the father of William P. Jr. (Denise), Marianne (John) McGauley, Kathleen (Tom) Strombeck and the late Susan M. Powers; grandpa of Keith (Brittan) and Katie (Luis Garcia) Cowhey, Joe and Maggie McGauley, Hap and Lizzie Strombeck; great-grandfather of Collins and Maren Cowhey; father-in-law of Mark Powers; brother of the late Catherine (the late Robert) Appenzeller; and uncle, cousin, and friend of many.

Visitation was held on Nov. 16 at Old St. Patrick's Church, 700 W. Adams St., Chicago. Private interment took place at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, Elwood. 

In lieu of flowers, donations to The Retreat (theretreat.org) or the Old St. Pat's North Lawndale Kinship Initiative (oldstpats.org/kinship) are appreciated.

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