Chicago Ald. JoAnn Thompson of 16th Ward dies

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A South Side alderman died about two weeks before citywide elections.

JoAnn Thompson passed away Monday, her chief of staff said, after Thompson suffered a sudden heart failure. She had been recovering from an aortic valve replacement.

Thompson was born on the South Side of Chicago and elected into the Chicago City Council in 2007 after overcoming addiction and homelessness. She became the 54th alderman of the 16th Ward. On April 5, 2011, Thompson was re-elected to a second term as alderman.

Thompson's office was located in Gage Park, and served the nearby Englewood community. One of her major accomplishments was securing a Whole Foods grocery store for the neighborhood, which broke ground in July. She had urged retailers to take a chance on Englewood.

"When Whole Foods comes, I'm sure there's a lot of retail that's going to come to the area as well," Thompson previously said.

Thompson was facing a third re-election this year in the Feb. 24 election in a redistricted ward that put her in contention with another incumbent alderman.

"I admired her fierce commitment to the constituents and communities of the 16th Ward," said Ald. Toni Foulkes, Thompson's challenger. "My prayers are with Ald. Thompson's children and grandchildren."

Her cousin, Debbie Blair, was taking notes from the Thompson's hospital bed on Sunday. She speaks for the family and the alderman's children.

"They are feeling a sense of void, I'll say - for lack of a better word - they're devastated, as are we," Blair said.

In July of 2012, Thompson collapsed at the 63rd Street Music Festival. Her office called the incident exhaustion-related.

"With the passing of Ald. JoAnn Thompson, Englewood has lost a tireless advocate and Chicago has lost one of its dearest friends," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement. "Ald. Thompson made it her mission to bring jobs, economic empowerment, and educational opportunities to every child and family in Englewood. Her caring spirit and constant smile made JoAnn someone who you wanted to be with and her values defined what it means to build one future as one Chicago. We are saddened by her loss but thankful for the life she lived and the service she gave to our great City of Chicago."

Fellow aldermen recall a woman who was focused on public service.

"She has blossomed, she was a role model," said Ald. Walter Burnett of the 27th Ward.

"Even in the midst of our running for re-election, it don't matter right now about an election - this is not about that time," said Ald. Emma Mitts of the 37th Ward. "This is about celebrating our friend and our colleague's life."

A prayer service for Thompson will be held at Faith Walk International Church, 7656 S. Vincennes Ave., at 8:30 p.m. Sunday.

The Chicago Board of Elections announced Tuesday that paper notices reporting Thompson's death will be placed on all touchscreen voting machines in her ward and at early voting locations. Officials said her name will appear on electronic early voting ballots for the next few days, but will then be removed.

Paper ballots will also be re-printed and absentee ballots will be re-sent. Officials said that if a second absentee ballot is cast, they will count that version; otherwise, they will honor the first submitted version.
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