Long-serving Alderman Berny Stone dies at 87 | WBEZ
Skip to main content

WBEZ News

Long-serving Alderman Berny Stone dies at 87

Chicagoans are remembering former Chicago Ald. Berny Stone.

Stone died early Monday morning at the age of 87. Stone served as the 50th Ward alderman for almost 40 years until he lost his bid for re-election in 2011.

After that 2011 loss, Stone summed up his political career to reporters.

"I’m proud of the services that I’ve rendered in my ward. I’m proud of the things we’ve built in my ward. I’m proud of everything we’ve done. I don’t want to apologize for anything I’ve done. I’ve made mistakes but I’m human. Humans makes mistakes," Stone said in 2011.

He also described himself as "full of pee and vinegar."

“My dad lived and died, mainly on his terms. He was a great example for his family and friends on how to live with courage, loyalty, honor and principles,” his son Jay Stone said in an email.

Stone was an old-school Chicago lawmaker, known for his hands-on approach with constituents, and for always speaking his mind.

He was a veteran both of World War II and Chicago's council wars, and a council ally of Chicago political powerhouse Ald. Ed Burke.

"[Stone] was an outspoken, forthright advocate for the people of his ward and he embodied a deep sense of sincerity for his mission of public service, Burke said in a statement. "He unapologetically believed in candor and personal loyalty. And, in the best sense of the word, he stood for many of the old-fashioned principles of the Democratic party and Chicago politics."

Ald. Joe Moore of the 49th Ward said Stone wore his heart on his sleeve.

“I think the thing I remember about Ald. Stone the most is his unspokenness and his, either unwillingness or inability to couch a lot of the things he said in more diplomatic terms,” Moore said.

Moore and Stone’s wards shared a boundary, and the two worked together in city council for 20 years. Moore said his favorite memory of Stone was when he issued a public apology for not speaking out against segregation during his time serving in World War II.

Berny Stone's son Jay said his father was "at times brash."

"But I would think his political style is loyalty. He was honest and hard working and he cared about people."

Jay said he was dedicated to providing city services for his far North Side ward, and seeking input from constituents at frequent ward nights.

"I remember iun his last term we were eating in a local restaurant and a man came up to my father and said 'I dont know if you remember me but 10 years ago you helped my mother get into a senior citizens building and she's still alive.' And he thanked my father, and my father was so excited he started jumping up and down and said, 'That's why I do this job!'" Jay Stone said.

Berny Stone was admitted to the hospital on Sunday afternoon after falling in his condo.

He died at 1:30 Monday morning from pneumonia and complications from the fall.

“It took three hours for him to crawl on his hands and knees to get to a phone to call for help,” Jay Stone said. “At age 87 and in very poor health my father still had plenty of fight left in him.”

Despite his poor health, his death was a shock to the family.

It is especially difficult for his family because one of Berny Stone's daughters died just five weeks ago from advancing Multiple Sclerosis.

In tears, Jay Stone said his father spent almost half of his salary to provide care for her, keeping a pledge he made to his wife not to ever put their daughter in a nursing home.

“If I learned one lesson from the sudden deaths of my sister and father, it is, don't wait to tell the people you care about that you love them,” Jay Stone said.

WBEZ's Andrew Gill and Odette Yousef produced this video of Stone's last campaign in 2011, when he lost to Debra Silverstein.

Patrick Smith is a WBEZ reporter and producer. Follow him @pksmid

Get the WBEZ App

Download the best live and on-demand public radio experience. Find out more.

CLOSE X