Abner S. Ganet, 86, of Elmhurst, died Saturday, March 31.
Ganet was born July 7, 1925. He was mayor of Elmhurst from 1977 to 1985, and was the former owner of Leonard's Men's Store in Elmhurst.
Ganet, who was trustee emeritus of Elmhurst College, was awarded the Elmhurst College Founders Medal in 2010. A Jan. 28, 2011, article on the Elmhurst College website touches on his "remarkable life."
As a member of the U.S. Army at the end of World War II, Ganet and his unit liberated Jewish prisoners from the Buchenwald concentration camp, where Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel was held prisoner. Ganet's service during the war earned him a Purple Heart and two Bronze Stars for bravery.
"Years later—in 1994—(Ganet) met Elie Wiesel when the Nobel Peace Prize-winner was the guest speaker at the college’s annual Holocaust Education Project," the Elmhurst College article states.
Wiesel told Ganet he would have been killed at Buchenwald had Ganet’s division not liberated the camp.
"Wiesel encouraged Ganet to tell his story, and Ganet was inspired to begin sharing his Holocaust experience with school and civic groups," according to the article.
Ganet donated the money from his speaking engagements back to Elmhurst College. He also established the Abner S. Ganet Scholarship for Urban Studies.
This year, he received an honorary degree from Elmhurst College, which was to have been awarded at the college's 141st commencement ceremony Saturday, May 26.
In an obituary posted by Elmhurst College on Monday, college President S. Alan Ray was quoted as saying he will miss Ganet's perspective.
“Abner always spoke his mind, and that’s rare today,” Ray said. “Although I did not always agree with him, I have no doubt that he always spoke from his love for the College and our mission. He wanted us to succeed by facing reality on its own terms, not how we'd like the world to be.”
Ganet was a retired executive at the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, during which time he was involved in the development of McCormick Place and Navy Pier in Chicago. His civic involvement in Elmhurst included service as president of Elmhurst Rotary, president of Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce, chairman of the Elmhurst YMCA and member of the Elmhurst Memorial Hospital Board of Governors.
He is survived by his wife, Janet (nee Dustan); his children, Marcey (Dr. Kenneth) Siegel, Fred (Martha), Larry (Gale) and Edward (Cheryl); his grandchildren, Jacob (Eryn) Siegel, Rachel (David) Kayser, Josh (Carli) Ganet, Jessica Ganet, Haviva Siegel, Max Ganet, Simon Ganet, Elliot Ganet, Nina Ganet, Eli Barr and Leah Barr; his great-grandchildren, Casia Siegel, Garrett Siegel, Benjamin Kayser and Lucy Ganet; and his sister, Leonore Leven.
A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, April 6, at Congregation Etz Chaim, 1710 S. Highland, Lombard. In lieu of flowers, memorials will be appreciated for the Elmhurst College Holocaust Guestship, 190 Prospect Ave., Elmhurst, IL 60126.
Arrangements were made by in Elmhurst.