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Waukegan aldermen eulogize businessman Abdula

Fred Abdul

Fred Abdula

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Updated: December 16, 2012 1:35AM

Fred Abdula was remembered for his community spirit and generosity Monday night as the Waukegan City Council offered public condolences three days after the businessman and banker died at age 87.

“He truly was a generous man,” said 5th Ward Ald. Edith Newsome, recalling the time she spent with Abdula on the Friends of the Genesee Theatre board of directors. “He purchased tickets to every show that was at the Genesee, and he and his family would show up. He’s going to be truly missed.”

“He was a Waukegan man through and through,” said Third Ward Ald. Gregory Moisio. “He was always there for his city.”

Abdula was a 1943 graduate of Waukegan Township High School and a World War II Marine Corps veteran who utilized the G.I. Bill to earn a postwar engineering degree through the University of Illinois. He eventually founded Air-Con, a heating and air conditioning company, and three other engineering-related businesses over the next half century.

After purchasing stock and becoming a board member with the Bank of Waukegan in the 1970s, Abdula became the Lewis Avenue financial institution’s chairman of the board in 1982. He retired as chief executive officer of Northern States Financial Corp., parent of what is now NorStates Bank, in March 2010 after 28 years at the helm.

“Waukegan lost a great man,” said 9th Ward Ald. Rafael Rivera, with 1st Ward Ald. Sam Cunningham adding that Abdula was “an example of what a Waukeganite is all about.”

Mayor Robert Sabonjian opened Monday’s council meeting by offering “the city’s most heartfelt condolences to everyone affected by (Abdula’s) passing. He was a very old friend of our family, and he will be missed greatly by the thousands of people he helped over the years since he founded both Air-Con and the Bank of Waukegan.”

A proclamation honoring Abdula is being prepared for passage at a future council date. Following Monday’s meeting, former alderman and city administrator Ray Vukovich recalled a time in the 1990s when one of Abdula’s businesses was burglarized and he kept the culprit locked inside until a canine unit could be brought in from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

After Abdula learned that the Waukegan Police Department had yet to acquire a canine officer, Vukovich said, “He opened his desk drawer, pulled out a checkbook and wrote out a check for $8,000 (to cover the cost). That was the guy Fred was. He was involved in so many things, and he did it quietly.”

According to Marsh Funeral Home in Gurnee, 305 N. Cemetery Road, wake services are scheduled for Abdula on Oct. 22 from 4 to 8 p.m., with his funeral slated for Oct. 23 at 11 a.m.

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