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Colleagues remember Geo-Karis
By Nick Shields | Daily Herald Staff

Adeline Geo-Karis


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Published: 3/14/2008 12:12 AM

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SPRINGFIELD -- As some politicians fought back tears, lawmakers shared stories Wednesday commemorating the life and legacy of former state Sen. Adeline Geo-Karis.

Geo-Karis, who died last month at age 89, represented Lake County in Springfield for more than three decades.

During the Senate memorial Wednesday, state Sen. Susan Garrett, a Lake Forest Democrat, recalled a conversation the two had as she drove the senator back to the suburbs.

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"She told me she never would have regrets because she was going to do it her way, and I think that's something that we all respect about her," Garrett said. "And as a woman in politics, who suffers some of the issues that women have in the past ... Geo was a role model and somebody that I will always dearly love."

Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, a Chicago Democrat, said he knew Geo-Karis for most of his political career. Jones, who is black, said over time Geo-Karis, a Greek immigrant, began to refer to him as her "Mediterranean cousin."

"We didn't always vote alike but we were good friends, and in this body, you make friends and that friendship lasts for life," Jones said.

Illinois Senate Republican leader Frank Watson of Greenville said that although her health faded, Geo-Karis continued to have the same passion and energy. He shared a comment she once told him.

" 'My legs may be gone, but my mind, and my spirit is alive and well,' " Watson recalled her saying. "And we all know that, and we won't ever forget it. And her spirit will always be with us."

State Sen. Rickey Hendon, a fiery Chicago Democrat, recalled how Geo-Karis once took him aside early in his career and suggested he calm down.

"She grabbed me by my ear like my mother used to do," said Hendon. "I was like: 'Who is this white lady trying to tell me to sit down? I don't know her. She don't know me. I'm from the West Side.' "

The two grew to be great friends, and Hendon said her advice saved his life.

State Sen. William E. Peterson, a Long Grove Republican, said Geo-Karis left a lasting impression not only on the General Assembly but also on the high-school students she would visit.

"I would say that there's hundreds of kids that are now very much interested in politics because of what Geo did with them," he said.

Nicholas Colis, 18, Geo-Karis' great-great nephew, said the comments put her life and legacy in greater context.

"It shows you that even those who have political differences can put those aside when it comes to friendship," he said.