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Community members remember retired NIU professor Avi Bass

DeKALB – DeKalb residents and Northern Illinois University retirees Jerrold and Carol Zar lived across the street from retired NIU journalism professor Avi Bass and his family for
35 years.

The Zars’ children were about the same ages as the Basses’ and they were in and out of each other’s houses all the time, Carol Zar said.

The Zars would also see Bass on a regular basis with a group of retirees that met for lunch, Jerrold Zar said. He said he knew Bass was sick and was in the hospital, and it took awhile for doctors to figure out what was wrong, but he and Carol didn’t expect to hear that Bass died Sunday.

“So it was a bit of a shock,” Jerrold Zar said.

Members of the DeKalb and NIU community remembered Bass after he died of pneumonia and an infection Sunday at Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital. He was 78 years old.

The funeral is scheduled for
1:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Finch Funeral Home in DeKalb, with the burial afterward at the Garden of Shalom at Fairview Park Cemetery. Friends may visit from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at the Bass home, 224 Rolfe Road; short services will be held at 7:30 p.m. both nights.

Carol Zar said Bass was very kind and always willing to help people in any way he could, particularly as an active member of Congregation Beth Shalom in DeKalb. She said “dependable” was the word that came to mind when you thought of Bass.

“The things that nobody else wanted to handle, Avi would take care of those things,” Carol Zar said. “He was somebody that you could count on.”

Jason Akst, a journalism instructor at NIU and Sycamore resident, said Bass was an NIU fixture when Akst started teaching in the communication department and remained beyond Bass’ retirement. He said he knew Bass primarily from their Northern Illinois Newspaper Association membership.

Akst said he would describe Bass as a “rock star” from the typewriter days of journalism and an accomplished grammarian, along with being a “friendly curmudgeon.”

“He was always cheerful and friendly,” Akst said. “He was just one of those guys that he was nice to run into whenever you’re out and about.”

Akst said he respected Bass for staying active in the world of journalism when he could have easily just taken up a hobby for fun. He said he thought Bass was an ethical individual and stood for everything that’s most important in journalism.

Jerrold Zar said Bass took his commitments seriously and always followed through on whatever he volunteered to do, but also had a sense of humor about him on the matters that weren’t so serious.

Jerrold Zar said he didn’t work with Bass professionally, but he knew journalism was one of the things that Bass took seriously.

“He was eager to mentor students and teach people in general about what journalism was about,” Jerrold Zar said.

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