Former Kankakeean killed in Fla. plane crash
KANKAKEE — Edwin “Ted” Mortell III, a former Kankakee resident and a 1982 graduate of Bishop McNamara Catholic High School, died Friday when the charter plane he was in crashed into Lake Okeechobee in Florida.
Mortell, 54, was one of four passengers killed in the crash. The pilot of the twin-engine Piper aircraft also died in the crash, which occurred at about 3:30 p.m. Friday as it approached the Pahokee Airport in Palm Beach County.
Mortell, of Stuart, Fla., and the three other passengers were all attorneys at the Peterson Bernard law firm in Florida. There were returning from a business trip. Mortell was the firm’s managing shareholder.
The accident is under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.
He is survived by his wife, Missy, and three sons, Grant, of New York City; Reid, of Dallas; and Clark, of Greenville, S.C.
Bourbonnais dentist Dr. Joseph Wertz has been a friend to Mortell for 51 years. They attended school together, first at St. Patrick’s Grade School in Kankakee, then at McNamara and finally at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
“I was lucky enough to have known him in all walks of life,” Wertz said Monday afternoon. “He was something special.”
Wertz learned of tragic accident Friday night. He was overwhelmed.
“I had an immediate sense of loss and tears followed. It didn’t feel like it was real,” he said. “He was the truest of a family man. He had the light of God in his eyes.”
Wertz said Mortell had a rare combination: Fearless and funny.
“Whenever we were together, I always felt like we were back in the days of being kids. It was like no time had passed. You just wanted to be around him. It was an honor and a privilege to have Ted Mortell be a friend of mine.”
In addition to his law practice, he was the past president of the Martin County Bar Association and a member of the Board of Directors at The Pine School in Martin County.
He was the eldest of three sons to Edwin Jr. and the late Carolyn Mortell.
He was a lifelong friend of Kankakeean George “Homer” Ryan. Ryan was in Florida planning a visit with his longtime friend when he learned of the tragedy.
“We remained friends throughout the years. Whenever I needed to get away, I would go visit Ted. We always had a great time together,” Ryan said. “He was disciplined, but still knew how to have a great time.”
Ryan said he was only thinking a few days ago how unique is was that the group of several men from the Riverview neighborhood had remained closed to this date.
“Then, I learned this. It’s just a sad deal,” he said.
Sally Hendron, vice president of finance for the Small Newspaper Group, knew Mortell when he was only 9. She used to babysit Ted and his brothers.
“Even as a child, Ted’s kind and loyal nature was paramount. He was a determined young man who’s accomplishments were measured not only by his work, but clearly by his love of family and friends,” she said.
Hendron said she reached out to him professionally many years later.
“He did all he could and with a laugh he said ‘Hey, this is my way of thanking you for taking care of me.’ I think that’s what you call a class act,” she said.