Edward “Ed” Dietkus, 71, passed away peacefully on April 8, 2023, after a recent and unexpected diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. He was surrounded by his family who told heartfelt stories honoring his good nature, sense of humor, and playfulness.
Born in Danville, Illinois, on January 5, 1952, the only child of Martha Treva (Ewing) Dietkus and Edward Andrew Dietkus, Ed was raised in Potomac and Danville, attended Danville High School, and graduated in 1970. He married JoAnn Ruth (Schuman) Dietkus on May 8, 1971, and they raised four children together: Edward Joseph Dietkus of Urbana, Jasmyne Elizabeth Morgan of St. Louis, Rachael Erin (Steve Miller) Dietkus of Urbana, and Morgan Mallory (Jason Minard) Dietkus of Aurora.
After graduating high school, he attended Danville Area Community College and worked at Hires Trucking. He then worked at General Motors for fifteen years, moved to Champaign-Urbana in the early 1990s, and worked for Stipes Publishing in downtown Champaign. He then had a more than 20-year career as a steam distribution operator at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He loved working with “the steam gang” and knew every inch of the U of I campus — above and below.
Ed was a remarkably kind, intelligent, and stoic man. When he was young, he grew up spending summers with his mother and grandmother on Apollo Beach and in Plant City, Florida, and shared fond memories of those times in more recent years. As a teenager, he was close with his cousins Alan and Gary Dietkus and, in later years, would share stories with his children about their travels along the East Coast and to get to the easternmost point of the continent.
Ed watched Jeopardy! daily, was a voracious reader, and consumed and retained so much knowledge and scientific information that contributed to his encyclopedic memory. He was an aficionado of pens, loved jotting down notes and things he wanted to remember, and always looked forward to getting an annual World Almanac and Book of Facts. He wrote palindromes, riddles, poems, and haikus, and he enjoyed all kinds of brain teasers, puzzles, games, and passing the time with simple tic-tac-toe or dot-and-line games with his children and grandchildren. He was practically unmatched at every game of checkers, chess, Connect Four, and Scrabble.
When Ed and JoAnn became empty nesters, they enjoyed seeing some of their favorite musicians, including Tom Petty, Paul McCartney, Eddie Vedder, and Buddy Guy. He loved to play and listen to music, especially Blind Faith, The Band, Neil Young, and Foo Fighters. He was an avid photographer, taking pictures of everything, often with multiple devices around his neck. He had a lifelong fascination with astronomy and looked up at the sky every chance he could. He loved seeing the International Space Station fly over his backyard.
Ed was a lifelong Democrat and was thrilled when he got to meet Bernie Sanders back in 2015. He was a loyal Cubs fan and loved watching them play and listening to them on the radio. He also loved skipping rocks, exploring, all forms of technology, and his collection of Kindles. He would put duct tape on everything, loved making fun set-ups with his kids and grandkids, and could entertain and have them laughing for hours. He was very proud of his children and loved spending time with them and his grandchildren. He was a humble man who was never pretentious and only spoke well of others.
In addition to his wife of 52 years and his children, Ed is survived by seven grandchildren: Susan, Mathew, Magnolia, Vivian, Domenic, Theodore, and Olive. He was preceded in death by his older half-brother Milton Lee “Buddy” Brown in 2022, his mother in 2007, his father in 1996, his grandmother Mary (Stafford Taylor) Ewing in 1989, and several Dietkus aunts and uncles.
The Dietkus family would like to thank the medical and oncology teams at Carle Hospital for their steady and compassionate care. Owens Funeral Home is handling cremation, and the family will scatter some of his ashes along the Space Coast and Apollo Beach. In place of flowers, consider donating to any organization that supports children or animals. A celebration of Ed, with his favorite music and food, will be held in August (contact his daughter Rachael at email@example.com for details).
To those of us who were closest and loved him dearly, Ed was also known as Little Eddie, Eddie, Dad, Papioca, Pops, Grandpa, and Gumpaw. He was a big-hearted man, beloved by everyone he ever met, and often said, “You’re the best!” He was the best and will be sorely missed.
The next time you look up at the stars or hear Ronnie Lane’s “Ooh La La,” Blind Faith’s “Had to Cry Today,'' or Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold,'' please think of our Dad.
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