Sam Alschuler and a Family’s History in Development
When retired attorney Sam Alschuler passed away on June 25, 2006, at age 93, Aurora lost a true legal legend and descendent of a remarkable pioneer Aurora family. Son of attorney Benjamin P. and Lillian (Reinheimer) Alschuler, Sam graduated from the East Aurora schools. He earned his B.A. degree at the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 1933 and his J.D. degree, when he was only 21, from the University of Chicago in 1935. In 1945, he served his country in the Army.
Sam was a partner in Alschuler, Funkey, Loats and Pilmer, P.C., the successor of a firm originally founded by his uncle and namesake, Samuel Alschuler, in 1879, and in which his father and his brother, Jacob E. Alschuler, and his nephew Benjamin P. also practiced. Uncle Samuel was appointed Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals, 7 th Circuit, by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Sam’s father, Benjamin, represented such area giants as Western Gas & Electric, the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin inter-urban railroad, and The Copley Press. The Alschuler firm was instrumental in securing the bridges for the railroads through downtown Aurora.
Sam’s uncle Samuel was elected to the Illinois State Legislature. Another uncle, George Alschuler, also served at the state level and was Mayor of Aurora. He was the Democratic nominee for state treasurer in 1924. Nephew Benjamin ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1960s, albeit unsuccessfully.
Sam and his wife, Winifred, met in their teens. Since she lived on a farm near Joliet where there was no high school, she chose to attend East Aurora. Sam was only 14 years old when they began “dating.” In a 2003 newspaper interview, he admitted having the family chauffeur drive them on his first date because his parents would not let him drive until he was 15. They were married on February 8, 1939. Plagued by deteriorating health for many years, Sam’s beloved Winifred passed away in 1999, just a month before their 60 th wedding anniversary.
Declared an “icon” by The Beacon News, Sam Alschuler was involved with numerous professional and civic organizations. The honors bestowed upon him included the Kane County Bar Association’s Annual Award for Community Service in 1993, the First Annual Copley Caring Award in 1991, and Honorary Board Membership from Easter Seal Society in 1979.
From 1961 to 1965, Sam served as Corporation Counsel for the City of Aurora, and he was a long-time active member of the Planning Commission from 1954 to 1979. Very active in the Greater Aurora Area Chamber of Commerce, Sam served as Director from 1949 to 1955 and President from 1953 to 1955. He later served on the Kane County Council for Economic Opportunity from 1966 to 1969.
A tireless volunteer, Sam Alschuler was a Governing Member of Copley Memorial Hospital (now Rush-Copley Medical Center) for an impressive fifty years, from 1940 to 1990, and was a Director from 1958 to 1963. He also was a Director for the Illinois Association for the Crippled as a Director from 1948 to 1963, serving as President of that organization in 1963. He was on the Board of Directors of the Easter Seal Rehabilitation Center for Southern Kane, Kendall, and DeKalb Counties from 1943 to 1990 and President of that group from 1945 to 1952. In addition, Sam was on the Board of Directors of the Community Chest (now Fox Valley United Way) from 1959 to 1968, serving as Vice President and General Campaign Chairman from 1966 to 1967. Sam was a member of the Rotary Club of Aurora from 1962 until his death, serving as president of this prestigious service club in 1970-1971. Other memberships included the Elks and the American Legion, among others.
The Alschuler family was key to Aurora’s development for nearly 150 years. The name goes back to 1858, when Sam’s grandparents, immigrants from Germany, moved to the area. Steve Lord, staff writer for the local newspaper, reported the impact of the family as follows: “Through the years, the name (Alschuler) has been woven through the legal, political, business and social fabric of the city. It is a key part of the road to the city’s development, from the original building of Stolp Island as the central part of downtown to the construction of Fox Valley Center.”
When his own children, Albert and Terri, were young, treasured pet boxers were part of the family. Later, in retirement, Sam adopted greyhounds as his companions. Terri respectfully referred to Sam as “Father,” whether addressing him or talking about him. According to long-time Aurora attorney Phil Ruddy, he was an “old-school guy” and rarely left home without being dressed in a coat and tie. And yet, Sam was never too formal to gather Terri and her friends into one of his fancy big cars and drive them out to Huntoon Stables for a horse ride.
Sam Alschuler probably holds the record for the most correct and thorough answers submitted to the “Can You Identify This Photo?” column in the Aurora Historical Society’s newsletter. He was a highly regarded, though unofficial, town historian, and both residents and scholars alike turned to Sam when gathering historical facts and perspectives. Everyone looked forward to seeing him at significant community events up until his very last days.