EVANSTON, Ill. — Family, friends and Evanston are mourning a devastating loss.
Hecky Powell is remembered not just for the ribs but for his generosity and commitment to the community.
Hecky’s Barbeque opened in Evanston in 1983 serving up rib tips, chicken wings, a secret sauce and so much more.
“Hecky personified Evanston,” his wife Cheryl Judice said. “He loved this community and he loved people. And as he became more and more successful, his motto was to ‘give back. ‘”
Judice, a professor at Northwestern University, said he started to feel sick right after Mother’s Day.
“He started getting short of breath,” she said.
Both tested positive for COVID-19. Judice has been asymptomatic but Powell was hospitalized this week. He had pneumonia and died Friday morning at 71-years-old .
Lauren Lowery is the former vice president of Northwestern’s Black Alumni Association.
“It’s a tough day, tough for all of Evanston,” she said.
Lowery said Powell touched the lives of so many students.
“He and his wife Cheryl are a part of the fabric of NU and certainly to the black students,” she said. “He housed black students. He gave money to black students. There was nothing he would not do to support the students and student-athletes.”
Ann Rainey is the 8th Ward Alderman in Evanston and worked for Powell at a community development organization before she became an alderman more than 30 years ago.
“He wanted to make everybody a success,” she said. “He was a great loss to the city.”
Outside the restaurant a memorial is growing. And many are taking to social media posting tributes.
“We don’t know what day we’re going to come in the world and what day we’re going to leave it,” Judice said. “Hecky was a model of living consciously.”
Powell survived a liver transplant nine years ago. The restaurant is closed for now but his wife said they will reopen. The family is also hoping to hold a celebration of his life one year from today.
He leaves behind seven adult children.