Jake Dumelle was a Navy veteran, environmental advocate, and a successful administrator at the federal and state levels of government, working professionally under both Democratic and Republican leaders.
In his spare time, Dumelle also built a resume of appearances as an extra in such signature pop culture films as Home Alone (1990) and The Fugitive (1993). For The Lake House (2006), he spoke his first on-screen dialogue, cast as a concerned patient examined by the doctor played by Sandra Bullock.
During World War II, Jake Dumelle was an electronics technician’s mate, second class, in the U.S. Navy (1944-1946) and served aboard the destroyer escort U.S.S. Whitehurst in the Pacific theater. He continued reserve service (1946 to 1985) and retired as Lieutenant Commander in Civil Engineer Corps (Seabees).
A graduate of Lane Tech High School (1941), Dumelle earned his Bachelor and Master of Science in Public Engineering Administration degrees at Illinois Institute of Technology (1947, 1950). He applied his lifetime of professional engineering experience as one of the original appointees to the Illinois Pollution Control Board in 1970. He served there nearly 21 years, through December 1991, taking the role of chairman from August 1973 until November 1988.
Prior to his two decades on the Pollution Control Board, Jake Dumelle had a lifetime of local government service in the Midwest and East Coast. He held village/city manager positions in Brookfield, Illinois; Peoria, Illinois; and Lebanon, New Hampshire. On the Federal level, he served as chief of staff for U.S. Senator Norris Cotton (New Hampshire) in 1960, then as a deputy assistant administrator in the U.S. Department of Commerce (1962-1964) in Washington.
Dumelle’s dedication to environmental standards and quality of life was an ongoing force in his career, working as research director for the Chicago Department of Air Pollution Control (1961-1962), assistant chief engineer for operations of the Metropolitan Sanitary District of Greater Chicago (1962, 1966-1968), directing an air pollution-land use study at the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission (1964-1966), and serving as director of the Lake Michigan Basin Office of the U.S. Federal Water Quality Administration (1968-1970). The Illinois Pollution Control Board was the ideal culmination of that career.
Though always eager to talk about the environment, Jake Dumelle also recognized with bemusement that his movie career often served as a conversational ice breaker and quickly warmed to the topic.
Upon learning that he hoped to attend a “red carpet” premiere of The Lake House (and his scene with Sandra Bullock), Dumelle’s family arranged exactly such a trip to Los Angeles in 2006. It included the screening, walking down the red carpet entryway, and, at the after-party, talking with co-stars Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves. Both offered the highest compliment on his performance: “You got laughs!” Dumelle received actor residuals for several years from the film.
Jake Dumelle passed away following complications during his recovery from surgery following a fall. He is survived by his wife Dorothy (Konieczny), daughters Grace (Walter Podrazik), Margo, and Lili, son Christopher (Colleen), and grandchildren Cassandra and Audrey.
Visitation at Drechsler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home in Oak Park, Illinois.
Walter J. Podrazik