Nov 26, 2021
J. Ignacio Mendez (June 28, 1929 - November 19, 2021) died at his daughter’s home in Addison, IL. He was the beloved husband of the late Diana S. Mendez; and is the dear father of Rebecca (Mark Evans), Rachel, Ana, Mark (Renee), and Sara (Robbie Lasica); devoted grandfather of Ariel, Eli, Sam, Zoe, Cassius, Ryan, Matthew, Cole, Dean, Parker, Richard, Thomas, Audrey, and Maximilian; cherished great-grandfather of Leif, Enakai, Cora, and baby boy Haynes (expected January 2022). He was predeceased by his son, David. J. Ignacio Mendez was born in Santa Marta, Colombia, the 6th child of Jose Ignacio Antonio Mendez and Susana de las Mercedes Mariño. He immigrated to the United States in 1949 to attend college, occasionally returning home for family visits and scholarly research. But he stayed in the U.S. to continue his post-graduate studies, and eventually became a naturalized U.S. citizen. Ignacio was a life-long learner and educator. After graduating as a proud University of Florida Gator with a B.S. in History, he went on to study at the University of Chicago, earning his Master’s degree and then earning his PhD in History from University of California at Berkeley. He started teaching as a graduate student at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana and the University of Pennsylvania. His first tenure track position was at SUNY New Paltz, starting in 1961. After leaving SUNY New Paltz, he taught at Russell Sage College and then at Northeastern Illinois University, where he was a history professor from 1980 until his retirement as Professor Emeritus in 2000. In 1990 he was named a Fulbright Scholar and spent a year conducting research in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He was married to his first wife, Charlotte Walker (dec. 2021) in Chicago, Illinois. They had three children: David (dec. 2004), Rebecca and Rachel. He married Diana Simchock Mendez (dec. 2015) in 1966 in New Paltz, NY. They had three children: Ana, Mark and Sara, raising their family in NY, and then Illinois. She predeceased him just 8 months before what would have been their 50th wedding anniversary. Ignacio was a dedicated and passionate Democrat whose greatest regret was not naturalizing in time to vote for Kennedy in 1960. Ignacio was active with the DuPage County Democrats and mounted several campaigns for local office. A devoted Catholic, Ignacio actively participated in his parish life by volunteering as a reader and a member of the funeral choir. He was also a proud Knight of Columbus. Ignacio was a champion for the underdog and encouraged everyone to educate themselves and achieve their own highest potential. He will be remembered for his love of learning, collecting books, stamps and coins, his ability to recycle (or save!) anything and everything, and his wit and humor. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory can be made to either the Unbound Scholarship Program (www.unbound.org/DonationFunds/Scholarship) or Catholic Charities, Diocese of Joliet (catholiccharitiesjoliet.org). Visitation Friday, November 26th, 9:00 AM - 10:30 AM at The Oaks Funeral Home 1201 E. Irving Park Rd (at Prospect), Itasca. Funeral Mass Friday, November 26th, 11:00 AM at Holy Ghost Church 254 N Wood Dale Rd, Wood Dale.