Daniel Scanlon, Morton Grove Hero, Dies at 86
Residents, family members remember former mayor and World War II veteran as a compassionate, generous individual.
Daniel Scanlon, a strong and colorful thread in the fabric of Morton Grove's community, died Thursday. He was 86.
The Village of Morton Grove announced Scanlon's death Friday afternoon with a news release that spoke of his contributions to the village:
"Today, the word 'hero' is used to describe star athletes and costumed creatures with super powers. But a true hero is a humble person who demonstrates great courage when faced with adversity…[we] lost a true hero on Nov. 11, 2010."
Growing up with history
The Chicago native was born on Sept. 5, 1924, sandwiched between the historical debris of World War I and the coming doom of the Great Depression. It wouldn't be long before Scanlon was awarded a Bronze Star for his own part in 20th Century history.
When World War II reached American shores with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, national news became personal for 19-year-old Scanlon. As the oldest of four children, he enlisted in the U.S. Army to fight in the 84th Infantry in March 1943.
Brenda Scanlon, 78, was 9 years old when Scanlon left to fight in the war. She remembers Scanlon as a compassionate older brother, and recalls a time when he let her borrow his car. "I must have been 16 years old, and it was a big car without power steering," she said. "Now that's something."
Along with fellow members of the 84th Infantry, nicknamed "The Railsplitters" for Abraham Lincoln, Scanlon landed on Omaha Beach in November 1944, and fought in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.
Through subzero temperatures and wintry weather, the infantry fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and later freed more than 100 prisoners at a German concentration camp.
"And the moral of the story is…"
When Scanlon returned to Chicago, it wasn't long before he discovered why he should always listen to his mother. In 1950, Scanlon met his future wife Betty Dumont at a local church dance.
As Scanlon loved to tell it, he did not want to go to the church event at all. It was his mother's prodding that made him go.
"Across the room he saw the most beautiful young girl he had ever seen," said sister Brenda Scanlon. "It was love at first sight --he saw her and loved her and he knew it."
They later married and had eight children.
"As Dan liked to say, the moral of the story for every child is: Do what your mother tells you to do," she said.
Scanlon became an electrician in Chicago and an active member of Local 134, IBEW until he retired in 1986.
The Scanlons settled in Morton Grove and raised five daughters and three sons. All three sons were diagnosed with and succumbed to muscular dystrophy.
Morton Grove resident Ron Sorensen, 70, worked with Scanlon in the electricity business. "He was one genuinely nice person," said Sorensen. "He worked hard for his family, and even built a crane to get his sons in and out of the bathtub."
Scanlon's daughter Eileen Harford, 52, is also a Morton Grove resident, and remembers her father's dedication to his family.
"He was caring, loving and loyal to his family, friends and community," she said.
In the community
Harford noted his active participation in the community. He volunteered for St. Martha's Parish in Morton Grove and as a member of the American Legion Post No. 134, which named him the honorary commander. In 2000 the local Chamber of Commerce dubbed him the "VIP of the Year."
Throughout his time in Morton Grove, Scanlon made local government an important priority as well, serving as a founding member of the Action Party and later as Morton Grove's mayor for two elected terms.
"He was a fair person. He had Morton Grove at his heart all the time," said Sorensen said. "He was not a stern disciplinarian like some of the past presidents have been. You could talk to him all the time and I don't think he ever had a harsh word for anybody."
Finally at peace
In August 2002 Scanlon and his wife Betty contracted the West Nile virus, which led to Betty's death and left Scanlon paralyzed. Despite such hardships, he served the remainder of his term as mayor.
"I was my dad's biggest supporter," Harford said. "His death is obviously sad for me and our family and friends, but I am happy for him because he's in heaven with my mom and three brothers, finally at peace."
Scanlon is survived by his sister, Brenda; his daughters, Mary Zimmerman, Patty Neumann, Eileen Harford, Joan Alberts, and Peggy Lieb; and 12 grandchildren.
"Dan will be remembered for his wonderful stories, his compassion, his humility, and his courage," according to the village news release. "But most of all, he will be remembered as a humble man who was a true hero."
The visitation will be held from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 17 at St. Martha Catholic Church, 8523 Georgiana Ave. A mass will immediately follow at 8 p.m. Internment services will begin at 10 a.m. Nov. 18 at Simkins Funeral Home, 6251 Dempster St. In lieu of flowers, donations are suggested to the Association of Horizon and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.