Richard W. Kamka

Richard W. Kamka, passed away at age 76 after a heroic battle with cancer; Veteran USAF, former member of Veteran’s Memorial Commission, Elmhurst, IL; retired English, Humanities and Film teacher at York Community High School; former President of Screen Educators Society; beloved husband of Carol A., nee Francissen; loving father of Roger (Saliha), Paul (Jennifer) and the late Joel; proud grandfather of Brandon, Devon, Bilal and Katie; fond uncle of many nieces and nephews. Visitation Friday, August 15, 2014, 3:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. and Saturday, August 16, 2014, 8:00 a.m. until 8:45 a.m. at Gibbons Funeral Home, 134 South York Road, (½ mile North of Saint Charles Road), Elmhurst. Mass of Christian Burial 9:30 a.m. at Visitation Catholic Church. Interment Queen of Heaven Catholic Cemetery, Hillside. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the charity of your choice. For funeral information please call 630-832-0018 or

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15 comments on “Richard W. Kamka
  1. Tony Meneses says:

    My favorite teacher at York (Class of ’87). His film class was awesome. Maltese Falcon, the Third Man and other classics he taught us to appreciate. Told me who the Beatniks were, so I read ‘On the Road’. Claimed he never drove the same route twice to Wrigley Field. Saw him two years ago and had a chance to thank him, and told him all I studied and enjoyed from spark he gave. Great Guy. Great Teacher. Great Influence. Great Loss.

  2. janice wirth says:

    Rest in peace

  3. Richard Szczes says:

    I enjoyed his class, wonderful man. Rest on Peace.

  4. Cathy Angelos says:

    One of the greatest teachers I ever had. Mr. Kamka opened my eyes to the arts. I loved his Humanities class. He was a wonderful man. God Bless. York Class of 1986.

  5. Bill Kamka says:

    My cousin Richard introduced me to jazz music many years ago. Although he helped me to develop an appreciation for the many types of jazz, I never even came close to recognizing and appreciating the talent that he saw and enjoyed. Richard loved books and music that enhanced his life and the life of those around him. He was a true educator, knowledgeable and worldly, he enriched all those he came in contact with. I was always proud to call him my cousin. He will indeed be missed. Love & Prayers your cousin Bill & Mary Kamka

  6. His was one of the most enjoyable and memorable classes I took at York (class of ’78). He was very authentic and really connected with students; was so passionate about the subject matter. So sorry for your loss and I will keep your family in prayer. – Jennifer Hodge Jerzyk

  7. John Spurny says:

    Rich was my teacher, mentor,friend and a fellow Airman! I was a York grad of 74. It was a time when military service wasn’t exactly a popular option. Rich encouraged my decision to go Air Force and I learned quickly he really never left the fondness for the fumes from a AIr Force flight line. We stayed in touch for almost 40 years post High School. He was an Elmhurst touchstone for me and my family. We usually met at a few of the local watering holes while I was on leave and my post military career visiting family. He loved aviation and we swapped many a story. While I was TDY to Rich’s beloved “Kef” Iceland I was able to find archives of the White Knght paper from the 50’s and shared them with him…you would have thought it was pure gold! He helped shape my perspective and appreciation for things I would have probably never noticed or appreciated along the way; Chicago, film, art, structure!, Andy’s Jazz, Billy Goat and a cold Old Style draft to name a few. My sincere sympathy to his family and all who knew him. He made a difference to so many and especially to this ol Elmhurst boy. An Air Force salute for your service and for the final fly by ! Always Respectfully, John Spurny, CMSgt (ret) USAF.

  8. Richard Mishler says:

    “In the gloom, the gold gathers the light against it.”

    Pound’s eleventh Canto, 1922

  9. Jeff Couchman says:

    He was Mr. Kamka in class. Later he became a friend, and then he was Richard. But to those of us who continued over the years to talk about his influence and his inspiration, he was simply Kamka. A one-name master like Aristotle or Socrates or Fellini. I signed up for Kamka’s Humanities class at York in 1971, having no idea that it would change my life. The list of artists, writers, musicians, composers and filmmakers to whom he introduced me is an epic catalog that would take up this entire site. He opened up the world of modern art to me. (I should probably put everything in the plural, because what he did for me, he did for countless others.) Most important, he taught me how to look at film. Before Kamka, I had watched movies but had never truly seen what was happening in the frame. Four years of film school merely expanded on ideas that I had already learned in a high-school semester with Kamka. When I think of him, I see the intent expression on his face as he listened, deeply listened, to whatever you had to say. And I see, and hear, the man erupting with laughter at a detail in a film or in a painting. It was a laugh of pure joy and pure wonder. You passed that sense of joy and wonder on to hundreds of people, Mr. Kamka. Thank you, Richard.

  10. Richard was a good friend for over fifty years. We shared something of a passion for the life and work of Ezra Pound, so here is the ending of one of Kamka’s favorite poems by Pound:

    And if you ask how I regret that parting:
    It is like the flowers falling at Spring’s end
    Confused, whirled in a tangle.
    What is the use of talking, and there is no end of talking,
    There is no end of things in the heart.
    I call in the boy,
    Have him sit on his knees here
    To seal this,
    And send it a thousand miles, thinking.

    Exile’s Letter
    Cathay 1915

    I will miss you Richard.

  11. Oussama Jermoumi and Priscilla says:

    Dear Carol, Roger and Paul,

    we are deeply saddened to hear about the demise of Richard. We had the honor to know him and had the greatest respect for him.

    we know it is a great loss for you in particular. I had spent some memorable time listening and talking about jazz music with him and will truly miss him. He was a kind and gentle person. We will miss his generous nature.

    As we will not be able to share your grief at the burial, we’d like to tell you again here how much we love you and feel for you in this sad instance.

    Sincerely Yours,

    Oussama & Priscilla

  12. Hank Ebeling says:

    what a teacher! I learned to enjoy jazz and art because of this man. He was cool after it was cool to be cool and was always cool after that!! one of my better memories of York class of 73. you will be missed.

  13. Bill and Rose Leslie says:

    Cousin Dick will be much missed. We will miss his smile and his easy way, his joy in life and his unabashed love of all that surrounded him. God bless you and keep you Dick. Our most sincere condolences to his family. May your memories, like ours keep him always with us.

  14. Rich Crandall says:

    In 1969, Richard invited me on board to team-teach his humanities course at York H.S. Quite a learning experience for me was this daily contact with Richard and his approach to the arts…as well, the start of our lifelong friendship. SEE, HEAR, TASTE, SMELL, and TOUCH. Immerse oneself in experience, and then do what you can to articulate it–not in broad, abstract, and subjective terms. Rather, be specific! Such was the aesthetic experience–the Kamka concept of finding “human” in humanities…and Richard’s humanity was fully expressed. Our personal relationship spilled outside the classroom as we often “hit the streets.” Listening to tunes on Figaro’s jukebox and visiting clubs like The Back Room, London House, Midas Touch, Wise Fools, Andy’s, and Chambers to name a few…consistent supporters of the various Judy Roberts Trios, including having them come play at York. Both of us amazed to have Clifford Brown’s trumpet solo on “Cherokee” from the phonograph bring our combined classroom of 60+ raucous high school seniors to COMPLETE silence…magic! Cage, Stravinsky, baseball, Debs, Sullivan (Louis and Ira), films (“Mickey One”), Frank Lloyd Wright, Chet Baker, Paul Taylor dancers, Chris Conner’s “From This Moment On”…and the beat goes on. A man with “many irons in the fire”…”Truly one of a kind…” I left York in 1971 and began my own career as pianist, but jotted missives on postcards kept us in touch across decades and oceans, and now my friends call me a postcard man too. As both son Paul and friend Scott spoke today, Richard was a people “guy”…family and friends. I praise his being and admire his courageous battle to the end. I feel so blessed to have enjoyed Richard’s friendship and now the comfort of Carol, Roger, and Paul and families’ support as we bear witness to his passing. Rest in peace, dear friend…from here to eternity.

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