Kaneville loses a good friend

By on January 22, 2010

by Susan O’Neill
KANEVILLE—Kaneville lost a stalwart member of the community last week, when life-long resident Leon Gramley passed away on Friday. Kaneville Township Supervisor, volunteer firefighter, Memorial Day committee member and Kaneville Cemetery Board treasurer were just a few of the roles that Gramley took on throughout his lifetime in Kaneville.

Add loving father, playful grandpa, thoughtful and romantic husband, and that only begins to describe the person most people in Kaneville have known for years.

Mary Niceley, former owner of the Kaneville General Store, remembers mornings when Gramley would stop by the store for a cup of coffee. People would notice his truck parked outside, and pretty soon any number of people would stop in to ask for his help with all kinds of things.

“He was always fixing something,” Niceley said. “He would say, ‘Don’t worry about it,’ and it would be taken care of.”

Niceley said Gramley was in charge of the Community Center in Kaneville when she was on the Library Board.

“He never raised our rent,” she said. “When the lights went out, he got them fixed. When the sidewalks needed to be shoveled, he got it done.”

Big things; little things; he took care of it all. She said one day a little boy came into the store after he had missed the school bus.

“’Come on,’ Leon said, and he gave the kid a ride to school,” she said. “It was all these little acts of kindness that go unnoticed. He didn’t do it for the glory; he did it from the kindness in his heart.”

Gramley was born on Oct. 31, 1943, in Aurora. He grew up in Kaneville and he graduated from Kaneland High School in 1962. Shortly after graduation, he enlisted in the United States Army and served during the Vietnam War.

Taking an active part in Kaneville’s Memorial Day Service was an important honor for him. For more than 30 years, he marched in the color guard, and made sure that every veteran’s grave was adorned with a flag.

His son Stephen said that some of his best memories about his dad were when Stephen was a teenager.

“My dad was a farmer who could fix anything and a fireman who could help anybody,” he said. “My dad was ‘the guy.’ He was Superman. He could just do it all.”

In addition to being a firefighter for the Kaneville Fire Department, Leon was a paramedic for the Elburn Fire Department. Stephen remembered his dad’s pager going off in the middle of the night and he would run out the door to go help somebody. When the call was to Kaneville or someplace close by, his dad would take off in his truck, arriving at the scene before the ambulance arrived.

“It made him feel good to go and help out an elderly person alone and scared in the middle of the night,” Stephen said.

It was his work with the ambulance service that would lead him to the woman he would describe as the love of his life, Mary Fecht. A co-worker introduced the two on July 4, 1991, and they hit it off right away.

“He was very romantic and very thoughtful,” Mary said.

While they were dating, he sent her flowers every Friday. When they got engaged, he bought her a ring with two rubies that he said represented their two hearts and their love. Recently, he bought her a ring with 18 stones that represented their years together.

He and Mary were married in 1992, and they spent the years since then traveling, going to concerts, and sharing their children and grandchildren. Although they traveled all over the country, he had a special place in his heart for Disney World, where he had as much fun as his granddaughters did.

Throughout the years, he remained committed to his community. Although Gramley lived outside of the boundaries of what would become the village of Kaneville, he gave much of his time and his efforts to the village’s incorporation in 2007.

During the two-year process, he helped with legislation in Springfield that made the incorporation possible, facilitated meetings where residents helped determine their future, and encouraged others to take on leadership roles once the incorporation was complete.

Although he shouldered a lot of responsibility, Leon had a light heart. His sense of humor, his jokes and his infectious laughter will be missed by many.

His death leaves a void in many lives and in the life of the community.

“Kaneville lost a good friend. He was always there when anyone needed anything,” Pat Hill said. “I miss him.”

Photo: Leon Gramley with his wife of nearly 18 years, Mary Gramley. Courtesy Photo