Cover photo for Gregory Lambke's Obituary
Gregory Lambke Profile Photo
1951 Gregory 2023

Gregory Lambke

October 8, 1951 — November 19, 2023

Gregory “Greg” Alan Lambke, 72, of Lakeview, AR, passed away peacefully at his home Nov. 19, 2023, doing one of the things he did best: “resting his eyes” while watching TV in his favorite chair. Greg was born Oct. 8, 1951, in Oak Park, IL, son of the late Robert and Eleanor (Childs) Lambke. The youngest of four, and affectionately teased by his siblings for being “Mother’s Little Precious” and “Little Greggins,” he grew up in a lively household in Forest Park, IL.
After high school, Greg spent a year attending Northern Illinois University where he majored in engineering (and jokingly minored in pinochle), and then jumped right into the workforce as a structural engineer for Sears Roebuck in Chicago, where he worked for more than 20 years. After marrying his high school sweetheart, Mary Fabian, in 1972, the couple moved to Oswego, IL, where they started and raised their family until they parted ways in 1997.
Greg was an active member of the community. Ever the patriot, he volunteered as an election judge for many years. He also held positions within the Travelers Protective Association on the local and national levels; was a member and held numerous positions at the Tiger Athletic Club; and spent many years and countless hours volunteering for the Boy Scouts of America as Cubmaster for pack 363 and Scoutmaster for troop 31. Putting his engineering skills to work, he regaled anyone who would listen with stories of how he and his friends crafted the most technically accurate rafts that smoked the competition and earned numerous wins in the Oswego Days raft races during the 1980s. Greg fell in love with and married Susan (Poleski) Sonkin-Lambke Sept. 28, 2002. The couple moved to a small parcel of land in Yorkville, IL, where he ran Greg’s Home Improvement and Repair, a successful remodeling, home repair, and home inspection business he started in the early 1990s. Whether he realized it or not, as he lived on the land in Yorkville, he mirrored many aspects of the lifestyle of one of his idols, the late Joe Fabian: he was always tinkering with something, and spent time working the land, building bonfires, raising hens, and shooting vermin out the kitchen window. The couple semi-retired to Lakeview, AR, in 2017, and he worked as a natural disaster contract inspector for FEMA. He loved this job which gave him the opportunity to travel across the country, use his vast knowledge of homes and buildings, and talk to thousands of people. He was immensely proud to be employed by the government, and loved relaying the stories of his adventures in helping people on his sometimes months-long deployments in the wake of disasters such as the California wildfires, and hurricanes in the Caribbean, east coast, and southern U.S. A one-of-a-kind character, loud (SO loud), generous (sometimes to a fault), stubborn, a detailed storyteller, and 100%, unapologetically, authentically himself at all times, Greg added color to the lives of everyone he encountered. His gruff delivery could be off-putting, but he was immensely loyal with a sensitive soul under his tough exterior; if you knew Greg, you knew where you stood with him. And if you were on his good side, he had your back no matter what, and would give you the shirt off his own in a heartbeat. He was hysterically funny, and his sense of humor stayed strong until the very end, including his immense enjoyment of off-color jokes and stories involving bodily functions. Even after his body started failing, he still found ways to laugh so hard he couldn’t breathe by finding humor in the unfortunate hands he was repeatedly dealt toward the end of his life. A prime example: instead of being mortified by things like riding a scooter and ripping the merchandise off a clothing rack at Walmart after trying to release himself from its death grip, he was excited to share the story with anyone who would listen and laughed his infectious laugh so hard he cried every time. In his younger years, Greg was an avid outdoorsman. He enjoyed spending time hunting in the Northwoods; fishing Lake Erie and countless lakes in Wisconsin and Minnesota; and took many trips to Colorado to camp and hike through Rocky Mountain National Park. He enjoyed sharing his love for the outdoors during his time as a scoutmaster, planning and leading kids on numerous high adventure excursions throughout the Rockies. Greg was known for playing hard, but he also worked very hard, was a perfectionist, and took immense pride in his work whether it was managing the service station where he was employed as a teen, side hustling as a swimming pool repairman to help support his young family, tirelessly persevering as a natural disaster inspector for FEMA in his later years, or lending his friends and family a hand with any help he could provide.

Gregory is survived by his wife, Susan Lambke of Lakeview, AR, of whom he was forever appreciative as someone he didn’t know where he’d be without; daughter, Wendy Wicks of West Des Moines, IA; son, Mark Lambke of Hinckley, IL; granddaughter, Vivian Wicks of West Des Moines, IA; sisters, Joanne (Clifford) Leber of Forest Park, IL, and Barbara Barnes of Anthem, AZ; a brother with whom he had an incredibly special bond, Robert (June) Lambke of Elmurst, IL; nephews, Thomas Barnes and Brian Leber, and nieces, Nora Campos, Laurel Devere, Jill Borkovec, Janet Berka and Julie Tobias for whom he had more love than they will ever know; stepchildren, Marc Sonkin and his fiancée Johanna Roady and Lesly (Jeff) Fountain; step grandchildren, Samantha and Grace Sonkin and Christopher, Megan and Matthew Fountain; and his ever-faithful traveling companion, Mr. Monkey. He was preceded in death by his parents, and numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins with whom he had a close bond.

Per his wishes, Greg was cremated without a formal service. A party is more his style, so family will host a gathering in his honor later in 2024.
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