Edward Thomas La Morte, of Batavia, beloved husband of M. Grace Grzanek for 44 years, passed away February 13, after a 10-year struggle with dementia, which eventually caused his hip-deforming fall and his demise.
Ed was born in Manhattan in 1920, the second oldest of a strong Italian family of four boys, brothers Willard, Howard, Richard, and one girl, also called Grace, all of whom are previously deceased.
Ed lived in New York City, with Summers at the family farm in Hyde Park, during his childhood and into his young adult years. He attended the Augustinian seminary on Staten Island, where he was lovingly known as "the Latin from Manhattan," then went on for his undergraduate degree at Villanova University.
Ordained to the Catholic priesthood in 1945, Ed served in Catholic high schools in Rockford and Chicago, as librarian and as teacher of drafting, which nurtured his love of art and architecture. On weekends, he performed his priestly functions at nearby Catholic parishes needing pastoral help.
Ed worked as librarian at Tolentine College in Olympia Fields, and taught at nearby Governor's State University, preparing Chicago Public School teachers for certification.
A master's degree in educational administration from Chicago State University equipped him for serving as principal at Mendel Catholic High School in Chicago.
A second master's degree, in library science, took him into leadership roles as president of the Illinois School Librarians' Association and as president of the Chicagoland chapter of the Catholic Library Association. Ed served as advisor to the then Illinois State Librarian, AI Trezza, in setting up the original framework (before the internet) of the now widely-used state and national interlibrary loan networks.
In 1975, Ed married and moved to Batavia, where he quickly became involved in the life of this burgeoning Fox Valley community. He volunteered as docent at the Batavia Depot Museum, where he shared his love of Illinois and Batavia history. Active for several decades with the Batavia Senior Citizens Club, Ed served in several offices there and enjoyed advising the leadership about interesting places, especially historically based, where the seniors ought to plan park-district trips.
A four-year stint on the plan commission of Batavia was followed by two four-year terms as alderman representing Ward Four, where Ed never ceased advocating for the poor and the elderly of the Fox Valley. Along with his fellow alderpersons on city council, Ed presided over the growth of Batavia from a small sleepy town into its current status as suburb of Chicago, and over the planning and execution of Batavia's Riverwalk.
Ed and Grace enjoyed live theater and supported several local community theaters by regular Friday night attendance. Ed's special theatrical love, which he had developed as a teenager in New York, was for classical music, especially Italian opera, and he and his wife indulged locally whenever possible.
Ed's daily work for several decades as librarian at the Illinois Youth Center, Valley View, continued his library employment heritage. Even after retirement, Ed took part-time work at the Saint Charles Public Library, re-shelving returned books and other media. He loved his books and his reading.
An avid gardener, Ed grew, canned, and pickled at least 15 varieties of vegetables each year until he could no longer get down into the soil and caress his beloved "black dirt" of Illinois. He enjoyed creating a delicious lasagna and other Italian dishes, and on occasional weekends he taught winetasting classes.
Ed is survived by no children, but by many nieces and nephews, especially a very devoted nephew, Christopher La Morte, from Rolla, Missouri, who, with his wife Judy, visited Ed regularly. Along with Ed's wife, Grace, they deeply mourn the loss of Ed, who served as Chris' surrogate dad.
Many family and friends will miss Ed's ready smile, quick wit, and gentle spirit.
Visitation is at the Moss Funeral Home, 209 South Batavia Avenue, Batavia, Friday, Feb. 22, from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Memorial Service is on Saturday, Feb. 23, at Calvary Episcopal Church, 222 South Batavia Avenue, at 11 a.m..
Burial will be private.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made directly to The Just Food Initiative of the Fox Valley, 1921 West Wilson Street, Suite A, PMB 299, Batavia, IL 60510, which serves Ed's beloved poor.
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Published by The Voice from Feb. 21 to Mar. 20, 2019.