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Originally from Missouri, Harvey Douglas Saver came to Evanston via Southern California and Michigan. After graduating from Kansas City’s Southwest High School, where he was a class officer, Harvey earned an undergraduate degree in 1972 from what was then called Claremont Men’s College. He moved to Ann Arbor for a position working with institutionalized adults at Northville Psychiatric Hospital. Harvey left Northville to direct Ann Arbor’s Ozone House, a runaway and crisis counseling center, in the parlance of the day. There he earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Michigan while helping launch Youth Living Centers, a groundbreaking group-housing initiative.
After a softball injury in 1982, he and his bride-to-be Gail Siegel moved to Chicago, where Harvey continued his work thwarting housing discrimination, advocating for marginalized communities and fighting against the stigma of mental illness.
Not long after serving as the first Executive Director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Harvey began his 24-year career at the City of Evanston as Assistant Director of Mental Health Services. While raising his children Wesley and Meredith, he was an eight-year Commissioner of the AYSO soccer program, where he expanded outreach to the Latinx community, began a special soccer track encouraging differently-abled young athletes, secured additional playing fields, coached and refereed. He served on boards including Impact Behavioral Health (formerly Housing Options for the Mentally-Ill in Evanston), and the Naomi Ruth Cohen Institute, which hosts a yearly mental health conference in Evanston.
Harvey rounded out his career at the Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation, funding integrated care through community, medical and educational collaboration.
Throughout, Harvey was an earnest, but never a stern advocate. He brought mischief to all endeavors, such as “liberating” Pelé’s jersey during a summer laundromat job, volunteering with David Orr’s and the late Woody Bowman’s political campaigns and the dunk tank at Evanston’s Justin Wynn Soccer Fest.
Harvey lost renal function in 2001 and was the recipient of a kidney-pancreas transplant in 2002, a profound gift which extended his life 17 years and allowed him to watch his children reach adulthood.
In 2015, shortly after training to be a docent at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, Harvey’s transplanted kidney failed and he spent four years on dialysis, valiantly trying to maintain a decent quality of life. When that became impossible, he ended treatment and enrolled in hospice, passing away at home on November 13.
His friends and former colleagues spoke of his passionate devotion to those on the margins of society, his meticulousness with finances and his sense of humor.
“Harvey was a kind and gentle man with a wonderfully clever sense of humor,” said Nicki Pearson, who served for eight years on the City’s Mental Health Board. He was passionate about his work with the Mental Health Board and a strong advocate for the people the Board represented. He was also passionate about his community and cared greatly about the City of Evanston.
“You could tell when he was entertained by something, because there would be a little sparkle in his eyes and the hint of a smile, so that even if nobody else got it, you knew Harvey was amused.”
Mary Gavin, who also served on the Mental Health Board when Harvey was its City staff member, recalled being on a subcommittee of the Board that compiled a resource book of services available to individuals and families coping with mental illness. “We had meeting after meeting in Harvey’s office, parsing nearly every word, something that had to be agonizing for him to sit through. We finally finished and came up with a title for our booklet, ‘This Might Help.’ His patience and meticulousness were both boundless.”
Nancy Flowers, Community Education Program Manager at Rainbow Hospice and Palliative Care said, “The world is a better place because Harvey lived in it. Harvey was an incredible resource to the citizens of Evanston, both in his role as staff to the City’s Mental Health Board and as a champion of AYSO. Harvey was an incredible resource to the social service agencies that served Evanston’s most vulnerable residents and guided the Mental Health Board’s annual funding process with great skill. He was a great colleague to me in my time as the City’s Ombudsman, and remained a dear friend until his death. I will miss but remember always his wit, his wisdom and, most of all, his friendship.”
Claire McCarthy Peterson, one of the founders of Housing Options, now Impact Behavioral Health, said, “Harvey was someone whose entire work life was committed to helping the neediest: the homeless and those coping with mental illness. He never shied away from speaking honestly about the stigma associated with mental illness. He also had an amazing sense of humor, which he could inject into any meeting, no matter how serious.” She gave as an example one of the many humorous emails he had sent her over the years. “This life is a test. If this had been an actual life, you would have been given further instructions on where to go and what to do.”
Kate Mahoney, Executive Director of the Naomi Ruth Cohen Institute for Mental Health Education at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, said, “The Evanston community has lost a true gem. Harvey was an incredible leader, advocate, mentor and friend. As the Assistant Director for Mental Health Services for the City of Evanston, Harvey helped to shape critical public policy and supported local nonprofit agencies to achieve meaningful positive impacts on the lives of individuals and families throughout Evanston. I feel fortunate to have been able to count Harvey as both a colleague and friend for more than 30 years. Harvey served as trusted advisor to the Naomi Ruth Cohen Institute for Mental Health Education for nearly two decades. As the Executive Director of the Institute, I truly benefited from Harvey’s wise counsel.
“Clearly, Harvey’s favorite role was as a father. He also took great joy in serving as a soccer coach and the local AYSO commissioner. Harvey faced the health complications he experienced as a result of diabetes with incredible courage. One of the best ways we can pay tribute to Harvey and all that he contributed to our community is to support organ donation and to advocate for our nation’s organ donation system to move from being an opt-in system to an opt-out system. … We need more people like Harvey Saver in our community – people who work hard on behalf of others, simply because it is the right thing to do.”
Jay Terry, the City’s former Health and Human Services Director, said, “I knew Harvey for 30 years. We were close when we worked at the City of Evanston and we became closer after we both retired. He was such a great guy – ethical, fun, compassionate. I respected him tremendously. With his illnesses you got to see up front how resilient he was and how tough he was.
“He had a great and interesting mix of traits. He was compassionate for and passion about support for those who had a mental illness, were substance abusers or were developmentally disabled. At the same time, he was a meticulous budget reader. In assessing how agencies that received funding from the City’s Mental Health Board – the numbers had better match up.
“In 1990 – many may not know this – the City of Evanston lent Harvey to Evanston Township. The figures were in a mess, and Harvey cleaned them all up. He did the community a real service then – an unsung service. Saying ‘Goodbye’ to Harvey was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.”
First and foremost an adoring father to Wesley Albert Saver and Meredith Rae Saver, Harvey leaves them and his loving wife of 37 years and partner of 43 years, Gail Louise Siegel. He is preceded in death by his father Albert Saver, mother Deborah Feingold, stepfather Harry Feingold, stepbrother Mitch Feingold (Laura), mother-in-law Phyllis Siegel (Ben), brother-in-law Steven Siegel and his grandson Asher Calyx Cooper. He is also survived by his sister Kerry Saver and step-sisters Pamela Brooks (Joe) and Janice Wolman (Herbert), brother in-law William Siegel (Tammy Siegel, Nina Manuele), sister-in-law Alyssa Siegel (Patrick O’Donnell) and many loving cousins, nieces and nephews.
A transplant organ recipient, Harvey earnestly promoted organ donation.