Rockford, Ill. — Frank Holmes Ware, 64, longtime advocate for people with mental illness, died of natural causes on Sunday, Feb. 13, in his Rockford home. Ware died on the 22nd anniversary of his service to Janet Wattles Center, where he had been president and CEO since Feb. 13, 1989.
Through the years, he took Janet Wattles from the brink of financial ruin to being the largest community mental health center in Northern Illinois. He was recognized nationally for his expertise in the field of behavioral health. On a state level, he was a leading voice in advocating for adequate funding for mental health services.
On Jan. 1, Janet Wattles formally became an affiliate of Rosecrance Health Network, at which time Ware became Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Mental Health Services.
In that role, Ware had embraced the challenge of improving the network of care in behavioral health - addiction and mental health services—in Northern Illinois.
Ware was excited by the opportunities ahead, noted Philip W. Eaton, President/CEO of Rosecrance. Eaton extended condolences to the family on behalf of himself, Rosecrance boards and staff.
"I'm humbled by Frank's passion for service and his commitment to improving treatment and reducing the stigma for people with mental illness," said Eaton, who had worked alongside Ware to improve the region's behavioral health care for more than two decades.
"I am deeply saddened by the loss of this good friend. We will miss him greatly," he added.
Mary Ann Abate, vice president and administrator of Janet Wattles Center, worked with Ware since he assumed leadership of the agency in 1989.
Meeting with staff at the center Monday morning, Abate spoke about Ware's passion to eliminate the stigma of mental illness.
"He wanted to elevate mental illness so that if anyone in any family had a problem, it would be dealt with as nothing more than another health problem," she said.
She said Ware's greatest legacy was the network of services he had created for people with mental illness and, also, the dedicated staff he had assembled to deliver treatment.
"I am determined that we will continue to make progress and that we will never forget Frank," Abate said. "We can continue to make him proud."
Ware held a BA and an MSW from the University of Iowa. Before coming to Rockford to lead Janet Wattles, he was executive director for the Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Rock Island and Mercer Counties.
He served on numerous local and state councils that set the direction of mental health services. In 2010, he received the Gold Bell Award for "Mental Health Person of the Year" from the Mental Health Association of Illinois.
His wife, Lorraine Hoover, died in October 2010 at the age of 60. Frank is survived by his stepdaughter, Courtney Oertel.
Arrangements are pending.