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Bernard Schwartz Obituary (2022) – Chicago, IL

Bernard L. Schwartz realized his dream of protecting the Bill of Rights by becoming an Assistant Cook County Public Defender and representing people charged with serious crimes. Bernie was born in Fairfield, Iowa on October 13, 1933 and raised in Chicago by an Aunt and her husband, a city cop. He attended the city’s public schools and graduated from Lane Tech High School in 1951. In 1956 he graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in Civil Engineering. Then Bernie worked for the city of Chicago as a civil engineer, which provided him a unique opportunity to see the city government’s good and bad sides. From June 1956 to June 1958, a two year tour of the United States Army intervened. Following his discharge, Bernie spent the following decade as a civil engineer and attending John Marshall Law School at night, graduating 4th in his class. Bernie lacked political connections, but was hired by the Cook County Public Defender’s office. It was the perfect job which he enjoyed for 20 years. Being a PD provided camaraderie, intellectual stimulation, educational experiences and all the services a private attorney would need, (secretarial, criminal investigators etc.) It also supplied a seemingly endless supply of interesting stories to tell. However, with no rent, phone bills or office expenses to worry about, the best thing was that he had no overhead. And because Bernie represented criminal defendants, he always had plenty of clients and was able to enjoy all these benefits while attaining his goal of trying jury cases and protecting the United States Constitution.

Bernie’s wife Charlotte Adelman, also an attorney, dreamed of traveling widely, so when the County offered the lawyers a buyout, he accepted and took early retirement. His wife closed her private practice and for 17 years the couple traveled to foreign locations, bird and wild animal watching, visiting Charlotte’s ancestral countries and seeing as much of the world as possible. Bernie’s retirement activities included playing golf, shooting skeet, creating a publishing house to self-publish one of the couple’s books and building two houses as the general contractor. Mostly, the couple focused on helping the environment. They transformed their suburban back yard into an urban prairie. They created preserves that protected the flora and fauna of underused land in Colorado, Nebraska, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio and a park in Israel. And they founded the 2 acre prairie in Wilmette’s Centennial Park at Crawford and Wilmette Aves. The couple co-authored several books including Prairie Directory of North America 1st and 2nd editions, The Midwestern Native Garden and Midwestern Native Shrubs and Trees. However, Bernie always said that without a doubt, the most rewarding experiences of his life were as an Assistant Public Defender.

Published by Chicago Tribune on May 15, 2022.

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