GENEVA – Fifth Ward Alderman Ralph Dantino died Monday at his home after a four-year battle with cancer, friends said.
Dantino, 56, was seeking his second term as alderman. Previously, Dantino served on the Geneva School District 304 board, was a former member of the Geneva Park District Foundation and the Geneva Plan Commission and was a past co-chair of the St. Peter Barn Sale.
Third Ward Alderman Dean Kilburg, one of Dantino’s longtime friends, said those who knew Dantino were saddened by his death.
“He fought the brave fight,” Kilburg said. “He tried to maintain as much as a normal lifestyle as possible. He stayed so positive up to the very end. I’m sure in the back of his mind … he was well aware this was a battle he was not going to win.”
Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns said the city’s flags would fly at half-staff in honor of Dantino.
“Geneva has lost another of its longtime friends and a tireless advocate for our community,” Burns said in a statement. “Mr. Dantino’s contributions were many, and his commitment to make Geneva a special place to call home will endure.”
Dantino was diagnosed with appendiceal cancer in 2009 and was cancer-free after treatment. But in 2010, he developed a secondary cancer of the omentum, the membrane covering the front of the stomach.
When Dantino became immune to chemotherapy, he went to the Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore for an intense surgical treatment called cytoreduction and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy or HIPEC.
“It’s a very intense surgery,” Dantino said in 2011. “The cyto part is where they open up the abdomen and physically look at every spot in there and scrape off all the cancer. When that’s all done, the HIPEC is where they put chemo in you, slosh it around and let it sit for 90 minutes, then pump it out. It’s an eight- to 10-hour process.”
But there were complications, and Dantino was hospitalized for nearly three months. Dantino had credited his wife of nearly 30 years, Nancy, with being supportive and an advocate, caregiver and constant companion.
“I could not have done it without her,” Dantino said.
Early in June, friends hosted Rally For Ralph to raise money to help the family pay its medical bills and expenses.
Dantino often came to city meetings, although sometimes his health required him to participate by phone. He announced he would seek another term as alderman in December, saying his health was good enough.
“I am running again because I enjoy doing it,” Dantino said then. “I just want to keep the city running as smoothly and efficiently as it can, weathering the financial storm of the past four years.”
Dantino was especially grateful for the outpouring of support at the Rally for Ralph, Kilburg said.
“He said, ‘It’s not many people who have an opportunity to attend their own wake. In some ways, it was a great opportunity to say goodbye to people I will never see again. What a great blessing and I’m thankful – not so much for the gift, but for the opportunity.’ That was the depth and character of the man,” Kilburg said. “It was a brighter day than it is today.”
Funeral arrangements are pending at Malone Funeral Home.