Richard Peter Komyatte
MUNSTER, IN – Richard Peter Komyatte felt that a life well-lived is best measured by how well we share our time, talents and treasure with people in need, those in poverty and those most vulnerable. Our beloved husband, father and grandfather’s life was indeed well-lived by these standards.
For his many friends and colleagues, this is his story. For his family, this is his legacy to appreciate, to emulate and to carry forward from here, unending, into the future. Richard Peter Komyatte is survived by his wife Sylvia (Cengel) Komyatte and his sister Patti (Komyatte) and John Schiltz; his children: Paul Komyatte and Kelly Naylor; Deanna (Komyatte) and Bob Deering; Kristin (Komyatte) and Dan Sheehan; his grandchildren: Bridget, Molly and Liam Naylor-Komyatte; Robert (Abigael) and Caleb Deering; and Shannon (Chalem Bolton), Jack, and Danny Sheehan; and numerous Komyatte cousins and nieces.
Richard Peter Komyatte was born to Peter and Christine (Misiko) Komyatte on March 8, 1937 in East Hammond. As a fifth grader at Maywood School, he proclaimed that he was going to be a lawyer – a rather bold statement by a 10-year-old as no Komyatte had ever graduated from high school to that date. True to his youthful commitment, Rich graduated Hammond High School and then the University of Notre Dame, a place he fell in love with as a Catholic boy listening to ND football games on the radio in the late 1940s and into the 1950s.
After graduating Magna Cum Laude in 1959 with a degree in Philosophy, Richard matriculated to the University of Chicago Law School and graduated in 1962 with his Jurist Doctorate. Before practicing law, Richard served one year as the law clerk to the Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court. On August 25, 1962, Rich married his beloved wife, Sylvia Cengel, in what he believed was the most important event of his life. Rich then joined a prestigious general practice civil law firm. His career passion throughout his work life was to represent injured people against large corporations, helping to ease plaintiffs’ difficulties and increase safety for all. In 1979, he started his own law firm, Komyatte and Associates, in which he remained the senior partner until his retirement.
As passionate as Richard was about his law practice, he was even more so about his Catholic faith. Rich and Sylvia have been longtime parishioners of St. Thomas More Church in Munster, where he served on the School Board and Stewardship Commission. His greatest pride was in his service, along with Sylvia, as a lector at Sunday mass reading the scripture readings, something they did together for some forty years. It was his strong faith that drove his belief that we all have stewardship obligations to serve the poor and vulnerable and strive to make the world a better place through sharing the three Ts – time, talent and treasure. Rich lived his life in accordance with these values each day. He taught his children and grandchildren, and encouraged his neighbors and friends, to do the same.
Rich served on numerous charitable boards, both local and statewide. He served as a Trustee for Catholic Charities for nineteen years, where he showcased his exceptional fundraising abilities. Among his many accomplishments, he highly valued spearheading the efforts to establish in Northwest Indiana not only one, but two separate pregnancy resource centers, called the Women’s Care Center. He was so thrilled to have Sylvia working side by side with him to raise the monies necessary to open the centers, designed to support and provide resources for pregnant women and their families. Rich also served on the board of Lake Area United Way and served twice as the General Chairman of two United Way consecutive annual fundraising campaigns. He was a Trustee of Calumet College of St. Joseph as well as the Legacy Foundation, Lake County’s Community Foundation. What he considered one of his important contributions to his community was the time he devoted to addressing injustices in the system of which he dreamed as a child, and in which he worked as an adult: legal services, particularly providing access to quality, professional legal guidance and services for people in poverty. The Indiana Supreme Court appointed him to a committee of law professors, judges and attorneys to address the dearth of lawyers providing pro bono services to the poor. This committee developed and implemented a rule for all lawyers to provide free legal services to those unable to access representation and established a new entity to oversee its operation, the Indiana Pro Bono Commission. The Supreme Court appointed Rich as the first founding commission director. Rich, along with another attorney, then established a Pro Bono Committee to provide free legal services in Northwest Indiana. He sat on its board for some 20 years, spending countless hours working to provide services without cost to those in need. Rich was also a member of a select committee which created a statewide legal services organization, Indiana Legal Services, and he became one of its founding directors. Finally, he served on the board of the Indiana State Bar Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Indiana State Bar Association.
Service on so many charitable boards brought numerous special honors and awards from these charities as well as other community organizations. Rich highly prized the United Way Lifetime Achievement Award, given to both him and Sylvia in 2008, reflecting their combined power to leave this world a better place.
Rich received the St. Joseph Worker Award from the Calumet College of St. Joseph in 2009, and he was recognized for his contributions by the Boy Scouts of America. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Lake Area Quality of Life organization, as well as the Northern Indiana Philanthropist of the Year Award from the Fundraising Professionals of the Northwest Indiana Chapter in 2012. Notre Dame twice formally recognized Rich and Sylvia for their endowment on behalf of the Center for Social Concerns, a center at which their three children and three of their grandchildren learned and practiced social justice while undergraduates at Notre Dame. His years of providing free legal services to the poor touched countless lives for the better and, not surprisingly, also resulted in many awards. The Indiana State Bar Foundation recognized both Rich personally and his law firm in 1993 with its individual and law firm Pro Bono Publico Awards. He then received the Randall T. Sheppard award for exemplary pro bono services, named after the Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court. He was the first ever recipient of the Access to Justice Award for exemplary pro bono services given by the Pro Bono District in Northwest Indiana. The award was thereafter, and is permanently, named the Richard P. Komyatte Access to Justice Award and is given annually to a lawyer or a firm for exemplary pro bono services.
Those of you who knew Rich will recall his lifelong passion for sports and athletic pursuits. He was a loyal and relentless fan, and late into his life, he held season tickets and attended games for the Bulls, Blackhawks, and White Sox. Many cherished memories were enjoyed with his children and grandchildren at these competitions. Highly prized memories were formed using his season tickets to Notre Dame football, which enabled him to attend more than 300 home games with friends and family. There were many special moments in the stadium shared with his children and grandchildren, such as those years his daughter Kristin was a cheerleader, including the last national championship year of 1988. Then, there was the wonderful undefeated regular season of 2018 when his grandson Jack was the ND Leprechaun. In addition to his appreciation of sports, Rich had a special love for time spent near and in the water. He enjoyed countless hours in the family’s backyard pool and at the Komyatte condo on Lake Michigan and many family trips to a favorite destination, Marco Island, Florida. The sunsets on Lake Michigan and the Gulf of Mexico were always special moments for Rich and Sylvia and helped to forge strong bonds between his children and grandchildren, which will last for their lifetimes. All his family will always think of Rich with great affection and admiration every time each one enjoys a sunset going forward. A sunset which he taught his loved ones to revere as God’s glorious reminder to live each and everyday to its full potential, as he did; doing good for others in great and small ways, taking care of one another and ending each day with counted blessings, humility, and gratitude for all His gifts.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Thursday, February 17, 2022 at 10:30 a.m. at St. Thomas More Church, 8501 Calumet Ave., Munster, IN. Entombment will be at Cedar Grove Cemetery, South Bend, IN. Visitation will be on Wednesday, February 16, 2022 from 3:00-7:00 p.m. with a prayer service at 3:30 p.m. at KISH FUNERAL HOME, 10000 Calumet Ave., Munster, IN and on Thursday from 10:00-10:30 a.m. at the church. www.kishfuneralhome.net
Published by The Times on Feb. 15, 2022.