Listen to this article

URBANA — After a rich life of service to his many communities, Thomas J. Costello, 70, of Urbana passed away Wednesday (April 15, 2020) at home.

He was born Aug. 25, 1949, in Chicago, the son of Tom and Dorothy Zobel Costello. He married the love of his life, Rosemary Lakatos, on May 24, 1974, finally being able, after seven years, to convince her to make a partnership.

She survives, as well as two sons, Joseph (Kaitlin) of Springfield, Va., and Jack (Laura) of Arlington, Va.; and grandchildren, Libby and Rory. A third son, Patrick, is deceased.

Tom attended St. Ignatius High School in Chicago and met Rose at John Carroll University in Cleveland, where they began to practice the key Jesuit value of service to others. After earning his B.A. at John Carroll, he attended Miami University in Ohio, where he earned a master's degree, then came to the University of Illinois, where he worked toward a doctorate.

Circumstances intervened, and in May 1974, he became a part-time bus driver for the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District. He eventually became the assistant managing director of the MTD and worked there for 40 years, becoming a friend, guide and mentor to hundreds of employees.

He also was a fervent volunteer in his adopted hometown, serving as a volunteer youth coach in soccer, basketball and baseball; frequently acting as an emcee or an auctioneer at community events; and serving on the boards of many organizations, including United Way, the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois, the Champaign Rotary, the Developmental Services Center, Illini Media Co., C-U Schools Foundation, Freedom Celebration Committee, Champaign County Clock and Bell Tower Committee and the Champaign County Design and Conservation Foundation. He was a member of the University of Illinois Faculty Senate.

He also was an Urbana City Council member and was the first chair of the Urbana Civilian Police Review Board.

He also was a senior instructor at the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois, where he taught an introductory speaking course and courses in leadership and business and professional speaking. He was regularly recognized for "Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching."

He followed sports, especially his former UI students who had participated in tennis, baseball, football and volleyball, some becoming professional athletes.

He enjoyed Westerns, theater (especially Broadway musicals), fishing, dining out, cooking massive amounts of food for large crowds and organizing events for two to 2,000. He liked to travel and took his children to Europe several times, once to see sites in Italy, where his beloved father helped send the Axis to defeat in World War II.

He loved his family, community, students, co-workers and neighbors. He was a friend to many, including the receptionist at the doctor's office, the attendant at the drive-thru restaurant and the checkout clerk at the grocery store. His goal was to make his community a better place, and the proof of success is in his legion of friends and admirers.

He was a prince of a man who wasn't discouraged by health issues or personal setbacks but instead used his energies, talents and experiences to help others and to live life to its peak level of joy.

His family and friends intend to honor Tom this summer with a service befitting his zest for life. Tom would have wanted that.

Online condolences and memories may be shared with his family at

Trending Videos