Former Kane County Judge Gene Nottolini dies
By Janelle Walker For Sun-Times Media September 6, 2013 1:24PM
Former Kane County Judge Gene L. Nottolini of Elgin, shown just before his retirement in a 2005 photo, died Thursday. | Sun-Times Media file photo
Updated: October 9, 2013 7:46PM
ELGIN — Former Kane County Judge Gene Nottolini died Thursday following a health battle that began in 2005 and shortly thereafter led to the long-time judge’s retirement. He was 69.
The office of Judith M. Brawka, chief judge of the 16th Judicial Circuit, confirmed Nottolini’s death Friday.
The former South Elgin resident, more recently living in Elgin, had served 21 years as a judge, including three years as chief judge of the 16th Circuit. During that time, the judicial circuit included Kane, DeKalb and Kendall counties.
He took the bar exam in 1968 and joined an Elgin law firm where he handled family, criminal and personal injury law.
Nottolini was appointed an associate judge in December 1984, and was appointed a full circuit court judge in 1988 upon the retirement of Judge Joseph McCarthy. He was elected a circuit judge in 1990.
In 1991, Nottolini was appointed presiding judge of the Family Court Division. While there, he implemented a child-custody mediation program. He later helped design and implement the Kids Education Program, designed to educate divorcing parents on the court process and its effect on young children.
He became chief judge in April 1993 and served in that role through 1996.
While chief judge, he commissioned and oversaw the move into the new Kane County Judicial Center, and later was part of the movement to replace the old county youth home with the Kane County Juvenile Justice Center, across the way from the Judicial Center.
Nottolini retired in November 2005.
“I was saddened to learn of Judge Nottolini’s death,” said Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon in a prepared statement released Friday.
“I knew Judge Nottolini for more than two decades, and he and I shared the connection of being graduates of St. Edward High School in Elgin.
“Judge Nottolini was known and respected for his kindness. He would always make an effort to make people in his courtroom feel comfortable, and he would display great patience with those who were unfamiliar with the court system. He enjoyed life and the relationships he had with everyone he would see daily in his courtroom and around the courthouse.”
Others remember him as a community member, too.
“I remember him as a young attorney,” working in a local firm, said Larry Jones, South Elgin village administrator and the former South Elgin chief of police.
Nottolini swore in the new and returning South Elgin Village Board members in May, Jones added.
Although Nottolini was born and raised in Elgin, he had lived in South Elgin for many years before moving back to Elgin a few years ago, Jones said.
“Even though they had moved out, he considered himself a South Elgin guy,” Jones said.
“He came a little bit early for the swearing in, and we had talked about the village and how much it had grown. He still considered himself a South Elgin fellow.”
As a judge, Jones added, he always appreciated Nottolini’s work.
“Dealing with him as a judge, be it getting a search warrant signed or appearing in his courtroom, for him it was never an ego thing,” Jones said. “He ran a calm, efficient courtroom.”
Chief Judge Brawka said that every judge aspires to be the kind of judge Nottolini was.
“Certainly, if you look at what Judge Nottolini did when he was on the bench, he was really an amazing judge,” she said.
The Kids Education Program he began ended up being a model for the entire state, Brawka said.
“His establishment of that program led to an amendment the rules by the (Illinois) Supreme Court to make that program available throughout the state and made it required. He kick started that,” she said.
Nottolini also had the foresight to ensure the Juvenile Justice Center, when built, wasn’t just large enough for the county’s current needs, but its future needs also, she said.
“He had a lot of foresight and was able to communicate that and get things done,” Brawka said.
On a personal note, she added, there were few people as nice as Judge Nottolini.
“We was one of the nicest people you ever wanted to meet. In a place that is constantly contentious, he was able to bring an aura of calmness and resolution to cases. Some can duplicate that, but Gene had it mastered. I want to be a judge like Gene Nottolini when my career grows up. This is a loss for the people who knew him and the people who followed him,” in a courtroom, she said.
In a Courier-News interview at the time of his 2005 retirement, Nottolini did not reveal the illness that predicated his decision to retire.
He did note that he was born and raised in Elgin and remembered riding the bus downtown to see movies — which cost a dime — at The Crocker and The Grove theaters. He attended St. Joseph Catholic School and graduated from St. Edward Central Catholic High School.
His family has a long history in Elgin. His grandfather opened one of the first gas stations in town, on North Liberty Street (Route 25), and his father co-owned an appliance store on the same block featuring one of the latest inventions of the late 1940s, the television set. His son, Geno, owned Nottolini‘s pizza in Elgin for 12 years at that site until he sold it in 2004.
Survivors include his wife of many years, Kay, sons Gene Jr. and Joseph Nottolini, and five grandchildren.
A funeral mass was scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday St. Thomas More Catholic Church. Visitation is set for 3 to 9 p.m. Monday at the Laird Funeral Home in Elgin and on Tuesday at church from 9:15 A.M. until the mass.