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Former Lake Assessor Adams dead at 77

Hanks Adams shown after his swearing as Lake County assessor died Sunday. | Post-Tribune File Photo

Hanks Adams, shown after his swearing in as Lake County assessor, died Sunday. | Post-Tribune File Photo

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Updated: November 8, 2013 6:28AM



Former Lake County Assessor Hank Adams died Sunday morning — less than a week after stepping down from his post due to complications with bone cancer.

Adams, 77, passed away quietly in his sleep in the early morning hours on Sunday while at his home, according to his wife Jean Shepherd. Adams retired from public service on Tuesday.

“I loved him. It’s hard to let him go, but it was time,” she said, fighting back tears.

Shepherd, who is the St. John Township Trustee, said he had been battling cancer for more than a year, but the side effects from a recent chemotherapy stint left him very weak and required hospitalization. She brought Adams home from the hospital on Sept. 29 to receive hospice care, but while his health was declining, his death coming so soon was unexpected.

Visitation will be from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Chapel Lawn Funeral Home, 8178 Cline Ave., Schererville.

Services will be at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Chapel Lawn, with burial at St. Michael’s in Schererville.

Adams and Shepherd were together for 10 years, and they wed in May. She recalled the time fondly.

“I remember looking at the ring on my finger and telling him it was so beautiful,” Shepherd said. “He told me ‘It’s not as beautiful as the woman whose finger it’s on.’ I’m going to miss him.”

In 2010, Adams became the first Republican to be elected to countywide office in 50 years. Adams was a late entrant to the Lake County Assessor’s race in 2010. Republicans didn’t even slate a candidate in the primary, but Adams sensed opportunity when Ross Township Assessor Randall Guernsey lost in the Democratic primary to little-known Carol Ann Seaton.

Seaton quickly ran into questions about why she held licenses in both Michigan and Indiana, using addresses — one of which was a vacant lot — in both states.

He defeated Seaton by 610 votes.

He also served as the St. John Township assessor and a Schererville town councilman. Adams was elected to the Schererville Town Council in 1991 after he was critical about the council spending money on a town hall site that was never used and using tax anticipation warrants to pay bills. He was the first Republican elected to a town office in 20 years.

When Adams wasn’t thrilled with a proposal, he didn’t mince words, which could lead to colorful quotes like this from 1992: “I don’t like cats, but I do like the cat owners,” Adams said when Schererville considered mandating leashes for cats.

The Tennessee native was a Democrat at first, but he switched his party allegiance in the mid-1980s because “the Republican Party fit my beliefs more than the Democratic Party,” according to articles in the Post-Tribune archive.

As a businessman, he owned Adams TV in Gary for 30 years and Burelli’s Furniture Store in Hammond. He received an electronics degree from the Mid-continent Institute of Television Service in 1958.

State Rep. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell, got to know Adams really well in the time they spent as township assessors — Niemeyer was both trustee and assessor in West Creek Township and Adams was the St. John Township assessor.

“Hank was always very knowledgeable and he knew the law when he talked before committees,” Niemeyer said. “You couldn’t pull the wool over Hank’s eyes.”

They worked together once again when Niemeyer was elected to the Lake County Council in 2010.

“I had a very good working relationship with him on the council,” Niemeyer said. “He came into the office with a great attitude and he did it.”

Lake County Councilman and Republican Party Chairman Dan Dernulc paid tribute to Adams’ commitment to getting property tax bills out on time as well as making sure assessments were fair.

“He was an awesome assessor,” Dernulc said. “I don’t think we’ll see another like him anytime soon. As chairman of the Lake County Republican Party, my heartfelt condolences go out to his family.”



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