Family, friends mourn death of South Side pastor found in Des Plaines River: 'We just lost an amazing man'

Illinois State Police and the Chicago Police Department are investigating the Rev. Warren Beard’s death. The Will County coroner’s office will perform an autopsy Wednesday.

SHARE Family, friends mourn death of South Side pastor found in Des Plaines River: 'We just lost an amazing man'
Yowanda Beals hugs a supporter after speaking during a news conference at New Israelite Missionary Baptist Church on the South Side to discuss the search for her husband, Rev. Warren Beard, Monday, July 8, 2024. Beard was found Tuesday in the Des Plaines River.

Yowanda Beals hugs a supporter Monday after speaking during a news conference at New Israelite Missionary Baptist Church on the South Side to discuss the search for her husband, the Rev. Warren Beard. He was found Tuesday in the Des Plaines River.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Family and friends on Wednesday were mourning the loss of the Rev. Warren Beard, a South Side pastor who was found in the Des Plaines River a week after he was reported missing.

“We just lost an amazing man, a dedicated husband, an amazing father and an awesome man of God committed to his church,” said Rev. Chenier A. Alston, Beard’s friend and colleague at the New Israelite Missionary Baptist Church.

Beard, 53, was found Tuesday inside his car in the river just west of Brandon Road in southwest suburban Rockdale near the Brand Road Lock and Dam.

The Illinois State Police and Chicago Police Department are investigating Beard’s death, but neither had an update on the ongoing investigation, spokespersons said Wednesday. The Will County Coroner’s Office was scheduled to perform an autopsy on Wednesday.

Rev. Warren Beard wears a grey T-shirt and smile while standing in front of red and white holiday decorations.

The Rev. Warren Beard of New Israelite Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago went missing July 2 in Joliet. He was found dead on Tuesday in the Des Plaines River.

Provided by family

What led up to Beard’s death remains a mystery, said Alston, who spoke with the pastor the day he disappeared in Joliet on July 2.

That night, “he was not in distress, he did not want to harm himself,” Alston said. “It’s unbelievable and unfair. There is more to this story, but we are going to allow the investigation to take its course.”

“There are still a lot answers me and my family need, that we demand to know,” said Shane Beard, the pastor’s eldest son. The authorities have not provided further updates to his family.

His dad was the glue of their family, Shane Beard said, always bringing them together and looking out for everyone.

Weekends were sacred for father and son. Every Thursday through Saturday, Shane Beard, 33, would go to his father’s house and they would spend hours together in his backyard. Family and friends would sometimes stop by because they always knew where to find the two, he said. Those are the memories replaying in the son’s head.

“If people were looking for me all they would have to do is drive past his backyard,” he said. “He was more than a father to me, he was my best friend.”

“Every time I called him, he would call me baby boy. ‘Baby boy, what you doing?’ he would say. I just keep hearing that in my head today,” Shane Beard added.

Flanked by family members and mourners, Shane Beard speaks during a news conference Monday at New Israelite Missionary Baptist Church on the South Side to discuss the search for his father, Rev. Warren Beard. Rev. Beard, 53, was last seen July 2 in Joliet.

Flanked by family members and mourners, Shane Beard speaks during a news conference Monday at New Israelite Missionary Baptist Church on the South Side to discuss the search for his father, Rev. Warren Beard. Beard was found dead in the Des Plaines River on Tuesday.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Warren Beard, a father of five, was an assistant pastor for six years at the church, at 1625 W. 75th Place. He attended the church for at least 25 years, his son said.

“He definitely instilled that in us, to be God-fearing men. Because that’s who he was, too,” Shane Beard said.

Warren Beard also worked at Preservation of Affordable Housing as the director of facilities maintenance for the Midwest division.

“Our community lost an amazing community leader. He was always giving a helping hand, especially helping people who needed housing,” Alston said. “He did everything in his power to help an individual to find a place of rest.”

He also taught Sunday school every week. He never took a day off and only missed if he was working, Alston said.

“This is a crushing blow for his entire family and his church family,” Alston said.

MISSINGREV-070924-13.JPG

Chenier A. Alston, senior pastor of New Israelite Missionary Baptist Church, speaks during a news conference at the South Side church to discuss the search for her nephew, Rev. Warren Beard, Monday, July 8, 2024. Rev. Beard, 53, was last seen July 2 in Joliet. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

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