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Ex-Cook County forest chief found dead in basement.

Sunday, August 26, 2007
Chicago Tribune
by Kristen Kridel and Phyllis Benson

A former superintendent of the Cook County Forest Preserve District was found dead Friday in the flooded basement of his Inverness home, police said.

Arthur Janura, 87, who served as the district's general superintendent for 27 years, possibly died as a result of electrocution, police said.

The official cause of his death had not been determined as of Friday night. An autopsy was scheduled for Saturday, a spokesman for the Cook County medical examiner's office said.

Janura had just hooked up a generator to a sump pump in the basement, according to his son, retired Associate Cook County Circuit Judge Arthur Janura Jr. "We don't know exactly what happened," he said.

The younger Janura had stopped by to check on his father, who lived alone, at about 11 a.m. Friday. He said he found his father in 2 to 5 inches of water in his Clover Drive home. He said because of the water in the basement, he did not try to approach his father. Instead, he said, he immediately called 911.

Power to the northwest suburban area was cut off by Thursday night's storm, according to a Barrington-Inverness Police Department press release.

The elder Janura, the son of a Berwyn mayor, joined the Cook County Forest Preserve District as a senior forester in 1945 after serving in Army intelligence during World War II. He gradually worked his way up to the district's top post, working for the district for about 45 years, his son said.

"He enjoyed the job very much," Arthur Janura Jr. said. "I think the Forest Preserve District was pretty much his life."

Janura was only the second person to head the Forest Preserve District, having been handpicked for the job by the district's first superintendent, Charles "Cap" Sauers, in 1964. Janura served in the post under three Cook County Board chairmen, including Democrat Seymour Simon, Republican Richard Ogilvie and Democrat George Dunne.

He was known for his tight-fisted control of the district and was often criticized for keeping many operations hidden from public view. Janura was sometimes characterized as "tyrannical" and "single-handed," but critics and supporters said he was dedicated to the forest preserve. Janura took pride in preserving and increasing the acreage owned by the district.

He was fired in June 1991 by former Cook County Board President Richard Phelan.

Despite his controversial tenure, Jaunra was praised by County Board President Todd Stroger on Friday.

"Mr. Janura was known for his passion for preserving and protecting Cook County's open-space holdings," Stroger said.

Janura, the father of four, always put his family first, the younger Janura said.

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