Jim Rakow, Former McHenry County Highway Engineer, R.I.P.

Former McHenry County Highway Commissioner Jim Rakow passed away Friday. When he came to McHenry County one of his big goals was to link Randall Road to Route 31.

Before he left office, there was such a link was planned that the McHenry County Board named in his honor–James R. Rakow Road.

He was married to McHenry County Recorder of Deeds Phyllis Walters.

Visitation will be from 2-8 PM at Crystal Lake’s Davenport Family Funeral Home on Monday, December 13th. The funeral service will be at 11 AM Tuesday, December 14th at the same location.

His obituary appears below:

James R. Rakow, (pronounced Rayco) 81, of Algonquin was born on December 15, 1928 in Elgin, Illinois to Waldemar Alvin and Jeanette (Taylor) Rakow. He passed away peacefully, December 10, 2010, at the Valley High Nursing Home in Woodstock surrounded by his loving family.

From the time he was eleven years old, he worked with his father Waldemar Rakow in the surveying business surveying roads in Kane, McHenry and Lake Counties.

In 1949, he graduated from Elgin High School and continued his education at Bradley University, graduating with a degree in Engineering.

During the Korean War, he proudly served his country as a member of US Navy aboard the USS Cunningham. He graduated from Officer Candidate School in 1953 with the rank of Lieutenant JG and was honorably discharged from the US Naval Reserve in 1967 as a Lieutenant.

For more than 15 years, he was a partner with his father in WA Rakow Engineering & Surveying in Elgin.

He worked for Baxter Woodmand in Crystal Lake prior to becoming McHenry County Superintendent of Roads/Engineer; he served the county for over 24 years in that capacity.

Mr. Rakow put in more than 11 years of legwork and played a vital role in procuring the right of way for the road connecting IL Rt 31 with Randall Road, completed after he left his position. His work was so appreciated that this road, James R. Rakow Road, was named in his honor.

Overseeing and planning the replacement of Pearl Street Bridge in McHenry, Rawson Road Bridge, and many county bridges which included widening of pavement and shoulders.

He was also instrumental in the building of the Charles Miller Bridge in McHenry, beginning with purchasing the land through engineering the roads east and west of the new bridge.

James was actively involved with local, township & county agencies in development, expansion and improvement of roads, including Randall Road north/south corridor, Algonquin Road widening, and Northern Algonquin Bypass (now known as the Western Algonquin Bypass). He was responsible for construction and maintenance of over 200 miles of county roads.

He worked diligently to reconfigure the Township Highway Commissioner operations; he promoted and aided in the development of current McHenry County Zoning and Subdivision Ordinances, laid the groundwork for McHenry County Stormwater Ordinance, and upgraded the Highway Department to meet demands of 21st century.

He served as an advisor to and board member of CATS (Chicago Area Transit System) and was actively involved with numerous area engineering associations and societies.

From 1993 to 2005, Mr. Rakow worked for the SEC Group, Inc. in McHenry; using his professionalism to help it grow to the large firm it is today, producing quality work.

Known for his belly shaking laughs and sly sense of humor, “JR” became a true personality at SEC and will always be remembered as a valued friend, good natured, gentleman, and a true professional. “We at SEC owe him much and plan on dedicating a part of our business to him.”

In his earlier years, he was very active with the Elgin YMCA. He enjoyed playing racquetball, handball and golf, as well as boating, crossword puzzles, the Chicago Bears, and the Chicago Cubs. He and Phyllis loved to travel and vacation in the British Virgin Islands on various sailing vessels.

A man of integrity, James was an honest, intelligent, kind, caring and thoughtful person; he was always the epitome of a true gentleman and will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

He is survived by his best friend and loving wife, Phyllis K. Walters; his loving children Diane (Charles) Griffin, Ansley Webster, Andrea Walters, and Anthony (Sheri) Walters; his cherished grandchildren Luke, Jessica and Rebecca Grossman, Jennifer (Michael) Tramantana, April Molenda, Laurin Adeniran, Abigail Lindahl, and Ashley, Benjamin and Cole Walters; two treasured great grandchildren, Len Molenda-Nichols and Destiny Molenda-Nichols; and his sister Ruth Ann Rakow Crandall and a brother-in-law, Chris Kobel and a sister-in-law, Marie Holtz.

Preceding him in death were his parents; his stepmother, Lois Rakow Graning, his son, Steven Rakow, and his grandson, Alex Grossman.

Visitation will be held on Monday from 2-8 p.m. at Davenport Family Funeral Home, 419 E. Terra Cotta Ave., (Rte. 176) Crystal Lake. The visitation will continue on Tuesday from 10 a.m. until the time of the services at 11 a.m. at the funeral home. Interment with military honors will follow at the Algonquin Cemetery.

Memorials in Mr. Rakow’s name may be made to Valley Hi Nursing Home, 2406 Hartland Rd, Woodstock IL 60098, 815-338-0312 or Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, 1359 Broadway, Ste 1509, New York, NY 10018, 800-457-6676.

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