Anderson Funeral Home
2011 S. Fourth St.
Dekalb, IL 60115
For more information about
More Obituaries for John Hepperly
Looking for an obituary for a different person with this name?

John T. Hepperly

1943 - 2018 Obituary Condolences
John T. Hepperly Obituary
John T. Hepperly

John T. Hepperly, a loving husband, dedicated father, and caring friend, passed away at his home in DeKalb on Tuesday, June 5th. He died in the arms of his family after a courageous battle with mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos.

John was born in a military hospital in Chicago in 1943 to Marion (Urban) and John Hepperly Sr. He grew up in Glen Ellyn, and spent summers working on the family farm near Galena. As a youth, John was an active and gifted athlete. He played varsity football and was a champion wrestler in high school and later at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. After earning a Bachelor of Science in Geology, he continued his lifelong quest for knowledge in graduate school. He studied at the University of Nebraska, the University of Chicago and Northern Illinois University, focusing on geology and paleontology. Along the way he earned multiple research grants from the National Science Foundation to study topics ranging from diabetes treatment at Columbia University to corals in the Cayman Islands.

After jobs in construction, substitute teaching, the US Gravity Survey, and at the Field Museum in Chicago, in 1973 John found the job that would become his career when he started on the railroad. John worked for the Chicago Great Western, the Chicago Northwestern, and the Union Pacific Railroad. He worked various positions, progressing to foreman and then track supervisor, and was known throughout the region as "Doctor John" for his seemingly limitless knowledge. He kept the tracks safe for his fellow employees and the community until his retirement in 2006. After retirement, he enjoyed monthly meetings with his fellow former railroaders.

John had a lifelong love of reading and going to the public library with his family. He immersed himself in books of all subjects, reading both novels and non-fiction, textbooks, magazines and science journals. John loved all types of museums, and enjoyed collecting plants, rocks and fossils. He loved to go on walks through parks and forest preserves; He rescued many injured wild animals. John adored all animals, but especially pet dogs and cats. Like his mother, John was a Quaker, and lived every day quietly demonstrating the faith's core principles of friendship, equality, simplicity, justice, and pacifism.

In 1981 John married his true love, Dori, and found an individual matching in his love and care for environmental and community causes. Together they created a backyard sanctuary for native plants and wildlife. Over the years, they planted large shade trees and an organic garden filled with fruit, berries, vegetables, and native prairie plants. John and Dori worked tirelessly for peace and social justice. With their friend Linda Lahey, they undertook a citizen investigation of the elevated levels of radium in DeKalb's drinking water. In 1996 they brought the city and state to federal court to ensure compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act and to protect their community. The resulting agreement lowered the levels of radioactivity and had national implications for drinking water safety, but came with significant personal costs.

John was often seen walking with Dori through Prairie Park, or downtown, and was easily recognizable by his 6'4" frame and shaggy beard. He was a great dad to his three children, never missing a soccer game, or a school function, or a chance to read bedtime stories.

John was preceded in death by his brother, Jimmy, who died in childhood; and his parents, Marion Urban and John Sr.

He is survived by his wife, Dori Burg; and her daughter, Dawn Robinson; their sons, Jesse and Jody; and his daughter, Lynn; his brothers, Thomas (Andrea) and Paul (Karen); and numerous nieces and nephews.

A memorial will be held Monday, June 18th at Anderson Funeral Home; visitation from 4:00 to 6:30 pm, services from 6:30 to 7:00.

In lieu of flowers, donations for local animal shelters would be appreciated. Pet food or monetary donations can be brought to the memorial or sent to Tails, The Barn on Baseline, or Oaken Acres Wildlife Refuge.
Published in Daily-Chronicle on June 13, 2018
Read More
Planning Guide
Free funeral planning guide compliments of Anderson Funeral Home