John Christopher Hennelly

In Memory of John Christopher Hennelly

John Hennelly, 59, passed away peacefully on February 19, 2022. John was born in Decatur, Illinois to Bob and Debby Hennelly. He spent his childhood in Decatur, forging lifelong friendships and discovering his love of long distance running. He graduated from Macarthur High School in 1981 and attended the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign, where he received a B.S. degree in Political Science and completed his Naval ROTC training. After graduation, he moved to North Carolina to fulfill his service obligation with the Marine Corps. He served as a platoon commander in the first Gulf War, where he was stationed in Saudi Arabia.

After his service, John returned to civilian life in Chicago, where he careened around the Loop as a bike messenger and studied philosophy at the University of Illinois - Chicago. It was during this time that he found his career path in politics. His first campaign was working for Dick Simpson's congressional run against Dan Rostenkowski. The hard-fought campaign did not end in victory, but it lit a fire in John. The intensity of politics resonated with the camaraderie and the mental toughness that he had found in running. He dove into more campaigns, learning the art of politics on the streets of Chicago. He ran insurgent campaigns for progressive candidates against tough ward organizations. He put his energy into efforts to reform the Chicago Police Department, ensure fair elections for the Chicago Public Housing Authority, and improve the safety of the nation's highways. In 1998 he oversaw Jan Schakowsky's field effort in her successful bid for Congress. In 2000 as a partner at the Strategic Consulting Group, he led efforts to recruit, train and manage a team of 300 organizers, mobilizing 25,000 volunteers in 15 congressional districts across the country. He served four years as the National Field Director for Politics for the Service Employees International Union, helping SEIU become the largest PAC in America, and he played a pivotal role in SEIU's efforts in support of the election of President Barack Obama in 2008.

John met Lori Scott during his time in Chicago, and they got married in 1999. Their life together took them to Washington, D.C. and Surfside, Florida, growing their family - his son Uly was born in DC and son Jack in FL. The family eventually settled for good in Evanston, Illinois (with the exception of a memorable year in Amsterdam). Away from work John pursued his passion for running that grew to include biking and hiking. He completed a half-Iron Man triathlon and took on a number of extended bicycle treks. He joined the Evanston Running Club, and organized an annual cross-country competition for area running clubs. He also helped start Go Evanston, a group advocating for improved spaces for pedestrians and bikers in Evanston.

John loved reading history and philosophy, was an excellent cook (his chili was unforgettable) and had an amazing knack for finding something fun and unexpected to do. He could play Axis and Allies for days. He cherished building models with Uly in their basement and cheering on Jack on the soccer field. And he was really funny. Oh, and for some strange reason he liked to be called Hennelly, instead of John.

John was preceded in death by his father, Robert Hennelly, and aunt, Honorah Noonan. He is survived by Lori Scott and sons Ulysses and Jackson; mother, Deborah; aunt, Nancy Noonan; siblings, Sheila (Anthony) McCormick, Robert Hennelly and James Hennelly (Jacqueline Orihill); niece, Molly Hennelly; nephews, Alex (Bernadette) Parfenoff, Misha Parfenoff, Ciaran Hennelly and Lawrence Hennelly.

A celebration of life will be held this coming Spring or Summer, 2022.

John and his friends in politics started a group called "Cureable" with the intention of making personalized vaccines available to those with brain cancer as well as to support the XCures method of conducting brain cancer research that provides needed combination treatments in a shorter time frame.

Donations in John's name can be made to the Musella Foundation for Brain Tumor Research on this page.

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