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Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012 08:17 am


Aug. 29, 1946 – May 14, 2012

“Welcome home!” This was the last text I received from my dad the day before he suddenly died of a heart attack. He sent it as my boyfriend and I were returning from a weeklong, much-overdue vacation. Not only did he let us borrow his brand-new Prius so we could save money on fuel during this trip, he asked where we were going to dinner one night. He then called ahead to the restaurant and got us a bottle of wine. These simple things, the car, the text and the wine, are just a few examples of Joe Sylvester’s generous and loving character.

He was very proud of my sister, my brother and me. He was even more proud of his four grandsons, as well as my boyfriend’s three children, whom he accepted fully as grandchildren. His face would light up every time he got to interact with them. His kindness did not extend to only family, as many people were fortunate enough to call him a friend.

He was able to instill in all of us a strong moral compass, which he had developed over his years in law enforcement. This included time as a police officer in Detroit, director of public safety at Western Illinois University, and as an investigator for the Department of Internal Affairs for the State of Illinois. The law enforcement agencies he devoted his life to, and the communities he served, were very lucky to have a man who was so persistent, thorough and forthright. One principle of his was, “Don’t ask a question you don’t already know the answer to.” This served him not only in his job, but also in questioning my sister and me when we perhaps stayed out a bit too late or found ourselves in trouble.

He also had a fierceness of spirit and passion. He enjoyed making his friends and family happy, not expecting anything in return. His health had declined in recent years, but he would still do everything in his power to attend family events. Long car rides literally pained him, but he would endure the pain if it meant he would get to spend time with those he loved. This is a brief portrait of a man whose absence has torn a hole in the hearts of so many. Those who were fortunate enough to have him in their lives will always love and miss him.

–Nicole Sylvester, daughter

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