Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka has passed away at the age of 70, officials confirmed Wednesday.
Topinka passed away early Wednesday morning from complications related to a stroke she suffered less than 24 hours before, a spokesman said in a statement.
Topinka was taken to MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn Tuesday morning after feeling discomfort. She was undergoing testing and observation when she lost consciousness early Wednesday morning. Efforts to revive her were unsuccessful, and she was pronounced dead shortly after 2 a.m., according to the statement.
Topinka, who has served as the state’s comptroller since 2011, was the first woman to be elected Illinois State Treasurer, a post she held from 1994 to 2007.
Topinka was an unapologetic straight-shooter, force of nature and leader of the republican party. She was known for crossing party lines to get the job done.
Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza told WGN, “Judy cared about people. Anyone who knew her felt she was their aunt. I like to describe her as quirky and fun-loving and totally completely awesome.”
Former Governor Jim Thompson shared his favorite story of campaigning with Judy. She made him climb down into a sewer to convince him the city of Berwyn needed more money for repairs.
Illinois Governor-Elect Bruce Rauner issued the following statement following Topinka’s death:
“Early this morning, Illinois lost one of its all-time greats. Comptroller Topinka’s magnetic, one-of-a-kind personality brought a smile to everyone she met, and she had a servant’s heart, always only caring about what was best for the people of our state. Judy was a tremendous friend, and Diana and I will miss her deeply. We offer our heartfelt condolences and prayers to her family, including son Joseph, as well as her talented and loyal team in the Comptroller’s office.”
Governor Pat Quinn also issued the following statement:
“Today is a sad day in the state of Illinois. I am heartbroken to hear of the passing of my friend, Judy Baar Topinka. As the first female Treasurer of Illinois and a longtime public servant, Judy was a trailblazer in every sense of the word. Never without her signature sense of humor, Judy was a force of nature. She left her mark on the state she has called home her entire life. Her leadership improved Illinois and paved the way for countless women in politics. My deepest sympathies go out to Judy’s son, Joe, daughter-in-law Christina, granddaughter Alexandra, her family, friends and devoted staff. Today the entire state mourns the loss of one of the greats. Judy Baar Topinka will be incredibly missed.”
Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk released the following statement:
“My friend and mentor’s sudden passing is a shock and very saddening. Her death is a loss to all who knew her and to our great state. My prayers are with her family today, especially her beloved son Joseph.”
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued the following statement:
“I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. Judy had a passion for serving the people of Illinois that equaled her passion for life. For more than three decades, she brought a relentless work ethic, a determination to attack our state’s fiscal challenges, and a sense of humor and smile that brightened the day of anyone in her path. As the first woman to serve as Illinois Treasurer, she will always have a special place in the history of our state. The thoughts and prayers of the City of Chicago are with Judy’s son Joseph and her staff members, and her many friends during this difficult time.”