South Loop man dies after neighbors, friends honor him outside condo

More than 50 people gathered outside 83-year-old Bill Hession’s South Loop condo to say their final farewell over the weekend.

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William Hession became a beloved figure in his South Loop neighborhood. He died Monday after a five-month battle with cancer.

William Hession became a beloved figure in his South Loop neighborhood. He died Monday after a five-month battle with cancer.

Provided

William Hession, the elderly man who was honored with a small gathering outside his South Loop condo this weekend, died Monday after a five-month battle with cancer. He was 83.

The former high school teacher and counselor, who went by the first name Bill, spent most summer mornings checking his email while sitting on a bench in Dearborn Park with his dog, Veronica. There, he would spark up conversations with strangers — most of whom became friends of his through the years.

“He was a loving human being,” his daughter, Katie Hession, said. “And he loved people.”

After returning home from a cruise last October, Bill Hession was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a therapy-related cancer that resulted from the chemotherapy he received for colon cancer the year before, his daughter said. The cancer metastasized quickly and aggressively. He entered hospice care last week after receiving treatment at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Hession’s family was grateful he would be able to spend his final days at home surrounded by his loved ones. But they were heartbroken to find out they wouldn’t be able to host a proper wake and funeral due to restrictions on large gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s when Katie Hession decided to organize a small gathering of their neighbors and friends outside her father’s home.

More than 50 people showed up to the event to honor Bill Hession Saturday. Most brought their dogs and held handmade signs.

“We will miss your stories at the dog park,” one sign read.

“Thanks for your friendship!” another person wrote.

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More than 50 people congregated outside a South Loop condominium to say their final farewell to 83-year-old William Hession.

Provided

One family waved an Irish flag as children drew a green shamrock in chalk on the pavement. At one point, someone began singing, “When Irish Eyes are Smiling.”

Though Hession was too weak to make it to the window to see the tribute, his wife and daughter recounted the scene when he awoke from his sleep later that day.

“Oh my God,” he whispered repeatedly.

“It was just a wonderful tribute,” his daughter said.

On Sunday, she read her father the Chicago Sun-Times’ story about the gathering.

“I hope he heard it,” Katie Hession wrote in an email to the Sun-Times after he died. “I’m sure he did.

“The parade and tributes would have warmed his heart.”

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