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WWII vet was active in community, compassionate to everyone

Published: Thursday, June 19, 2014 9:50 p.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, June 19, 2014 9:54 p.m. CST
(Sandy Bressner - sbressner@shawmedia.com)
John Forni of St. Charles, who portrayed Santa Claus since the 1940s, donated his Santa suit to the St. Charles Heritage Center in 2009. Forni passed away Monday.

John Forni Jr. could never sit still, his wife, Donna Forni, said.

"They kind of called him the mayor of our subdivision – he would ride the golf cart around everywhere," Donna Forni said.

Whether on wheels or on his feet in the years prior, residents said Forni was known for his hard work and always giving a helping hand to the community. He died on Monday at age 89.

Forni grew up in Geneva and St. Charles as the eldest son of seven children. When his father died in 1941, a 16-year-old Forni stepped up to help support the family, according to his obituary.

After serving in the South Pacific during World War II, Forni held several jobs over the years, including at State Street Motors in Geneva and Delnor Hospital, his obituary said.

A longstanding tradition of Forni's was to dress up as Santa and accompany Ozzie T. Cougar, the Kane County Courgars mascot, on visits to children and at rest homes, Donna Forni said.

Mike Forrest dressed up as Ozzie during those visits with Forni, and he plans to do so again at Forni's visitation on Sunday, said Curtis Haug, the Kane County Cougar's vice president and general manager.

Haug said Forni was an usher at Cougar games until his mobility became limited after three total knee replacements. Then he shifted to press box security and delivered meals on a scooter to the umpires before and after games.

"John just had a place in his heart for the Cougars," Forrest said. "We definitely appreciated everything he did here."

Forni also found time to serve on the St. Charles Park District Board from 1997 to 2011. He was always the first one to volunteer to represent the board at special events and different functions, said Jim Cooke, the park board's treasurer.

"He was a very active participant in making sure the concerns of constituents were heard," Cooke said.

Donna Forni said some of her favorite memories are of traveling with her husband across the county for conventions he attended while on the park board.

"He just enjoyed doing things, being active and enjoying life," she said. "He did more than somebody else might do in his [condition]."

The visitation for John Forni will take place from 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday at Moss-Norris Funeral Home, 100 S. Third St., St. Charles. Forni's funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Monday at the funeral home.

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