***Please note, according to the State of Illinois mask mandate of August 30, 2021, face masks must be worn while in the funeral home and church.***
After a courageous fight against metastatic colon cancer, Greg Benyak passed away peacefully on August 25, 2021, at his home in Ingleside surrounded by family and friends. He was 52. Life is good, and Greg’s life was a gift to all of us who knew him. In his waning days, Greg showed us all how to battle cancer while continuing to live life to the fullest and spread the joy and goodness of life with family and friends.
In late July, Greg learned that there was nothing more treatment could do for his cancer and was immediately put under Hospice care. Not knowing how much time he had left, Greg was determined to accomplish three things: Eat a full King Cut prime rib and porterhouse steak, go to the zoo with his 2-year-old grandson, and spend some spiritual time in the mountains. Well, one group of friends took him to Dockers for the prime rib and another group of friends took him to the Colony House for the porterhouse. Bonus: Friends planned a surprise “Parade of Love for Greg.” The colorful, boisterous parade demonstrated just a smidge of the lives Greg has affected over the years as more than 100 decorated cars and probably 400 people paraded before Greg’s home in Ingleside. Then, Katie, his daughter, flew in from South Carolina, so Greg could spend quality time at the Lincoln Park Zoo with his grandson, Maverick. They also got to enjoy pizza at the Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company. Monkeys, lions, bears, and Chicago Pizza -- it was a perfect grandpa-grandson day, but it would be the last time Greg shared time with Mav. Days after the zoo, Greg’s heroic wife, Barb, and good friends, Ron and Carla Schroeder, found a way to get to Gatlinburg. He found his peace in the Smoky Mountains. Greg entered his eternal paradise 10 hours after returning home from Gatlinburg.
The final 30 days of Greg’s life were spent exactly how he spent his whole life -- enjoying every precious moment he could with friends and family. Greg showed us the way.
A New Year’s baby, Greg was born January 1, 1969, in Camden, New Jersey and was raised in Round Lake, Illinois. Chicago, Lake County, and Southern Wisconsin were his playgrounds.
Greg graduated from St. Gilbert’s Grade School in Grayslake, Round Lake High School, and Loyola University. Greg was a prominent member and volunteer at St. Bede Church and School in Ingleside, IL. Greg loved live music and frequented many concerts at Alpine Valley, including the Monsters of Rock that featured rock and roll giants AC/DC, Slayer, Guns N' Roses, Van Halen, Ozzy Osbourne, Def Leppard and Metallica. His love of ‘80s rock and heavy metal music led him to being a shock radio personality and later an entertaining DJ at special events. He kicked off his sales and marketing career at Lakeland Newspapers in Grayslake before holding many prominent positions at Deerfield-based Baxter for 20-plus years.
Sharp-witted, always quick with a joke and a celebrated prankster, Greg lived like it was April Fool’s Day every day. No one person, topic, subject, or personal viewpoint escaped his teasing. Holding to his Irish roots, some might say that Greg was the ultimate trickster Leprechaun. Caddyshack, Blazing Saddles, South Park, and Beavis and Butthead – these were some of his favorite pastimes, which should give you further insights into his subtle and not-so subtle humor.
While there are way too many stories to share in this space, Greg made a lasting impression with everyone he met. Some antics include swapping Slim Fast mix with Nestle’s Nesquik mix, slipping garden hoses through open bedroom windows, inviting stray dogs to roam the halls of Round Lake High School, sneaking lunch meat into people’s beds to attract the pets, rearranging or turning upside down family pictures in people’s homes, skinny sledding during Super Bowl bashes in the Dells, or mooning people from glass elevators.
Sometimes Greg’s family and friends turned the tables on him, like when sister, Tracy, marked one of the Old Maid cards and continued to beat him at Old Maid for years or when his Baxter colleagues tin-foiled and Saran-wrapped his office, so he couldn’t access anything. Touche. Greg was the punker and enjoyed being the punk’d. The world and the people around Greg colored his fun-loving palette.
An avid Chicago Sports fan, Greg cheered on the Chicago Cubs, Bears, Blackhawks and Bulls. His passions were the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field; he bled and will be buried in Cubby Blue. Greg spent countless games in the bleachers, bowing to Andre Dawson, cursing opposing outfielders, and even snagging a Sammy Sosa homer. One of his Cubby heroes, Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, sent Greg get-well wishes in the final days of his battle with cancer. For Greg, every game was an entire Wrigley Experience, taking in the buzz outside the park hours before first pitch, taking a few swings at Sluggers, haggling with vendors outside the park, toasting Jamo at Murphy’s Bleachers, being first in line for bleacher seats when the gates opened, watching batting practice, removing his Cubs hat while placing his right hand over his heart during the National Anthem, waiting for the ump to belt out “Play Ball,” zeroing in on every single pitch, grabbing a hotdog and beverages, basking in the sun above the Wrigley Ivy, singing Take Me Out to the Ball Game with Harry Caray, and watching the raising of the W flag and singing Go Cubs Go. After the game, it was stomping on the empty beer cups (there were many) to capture that familiar popping sound and stopping at the Cubby Bear for live music to celebrate with other Cubs fans. Every game Greg attended, he wanted whoever he was with to fully absorb the magical atmosphere of Wrigley. As special as each game was, none were more special than his Annual Mother’s Day Game at Wrigley with his beloved mom, Pat.
Greg was not only a fan, but he also played a lot of sports including Little League and high school baseball. He later slugged many softballs at the former Softball City in Hainesville. Later, he joined many bowling leagues, and hosted Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments. He even strapped on the ice skates to get down and dirty with the brawling Hanson Brothers of “Slap Shot” fame in a charity hockey game.
Utmost, Greg treasured his family as a loving and devoted husband, son, brother, dad, and grandpa – and he was a man of faith. He loved his family with all of his heart and knew the importance of being there for the people you love and care about.
Greg is survived by his beloved wife, Barb (Schaefer) of Ingleside; his dear mother, Patricia Benyak (Lewis) and loved sister, Tracy, both of Round Lake Beach; his father, David Benyak of Sicklerville, NJ; he was most proud of his son, Tyler, of Ingleside; championed his daughter, Katie Wydra (Matthews), son-in-law, Tyler Wydra, and grandson, Maverick Wydra, all of Moncks Corner, SC; his great aunt, Clare Malone, of Brook Park, OH; numerous cousins in Ohio that he would like to get into trouble with; and many other fond in-laws and relatives.
He was preceded in death by grandma and grandpa Dorthy and Albert Benyak; and grandma and grandpa Edith and EJ Lewis. He had a close, special relationship with grandma Edith Lewis, who had lived with Greg during his school years. He was also preceded in death by his mother-in-law Barbara Schaefer, who loved him deeply. He will be greatly missed by his many – hundreds! – friends.
Visitation will be held on Friday, Sept. 3, from 4-8 p.m. at Hamsher Lakeside Funerals & Cremations, 12 N. Pistakee Lake Rd., Fox Lake, IL. You may view the livestream of the 7 p.m. prayer and eulogy service by clicking here.
Funeral will be held on Saturday, Sept. 4, at 10 a.m. at St. Bede Catholic Church, 36455 N Wilson Rd, Ingleside (please meet at the church on Saturday). Burial will immediately follow at Ascension Cemetery, 1920 Buckley Rd, Libertyville.
A Celebration of Life party and lunch will follow the burial. Details of the Celebration of Life will be provided at the wake and after the funeral and burial.
Greg’s wish is that no suits or dresses are worn at his wake, funeral and Celebration of Life. He has asked that all come casually dressed in Chicago Sports attire. Warning: He will haunt you if you show up in Green Bay Packers or Chicago White Sox garb.
Finally, Greg would insist that we not cry for him; rather we should eat, drink and be merry, for he has touched our lives with so much laughter, slap-happy humor, and comical memories. Greg will continue to live in the hearts of all of us who knew him.
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