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Hecky Powell, Barbecue Master and Civic Leader, Dies at 71


Hecky’s soon had a motto, “It’s the Sauce,” and a following. William Perry, a Chicago Bears lineman aptly known as the Refrigerator, was an early customer.

In 1996, Mr. Powell and Evanston’s mayor at the time, Lorraine Morton, made a bet with the mayor of Pasadena that Northwestern’s Wildcats would beat the University of Southern California in the Rose Bowl. When their home team lost, Mr. Powell made ribs and chicken for Pasadena’s entire City Council.

Kevin Pang, a food writer in Chicago, said that by virtue of having a restaurant in the suburb of Evanston near the Northwestern campus, Mr. Powell had introduced a wider world to South Side-style barbecue, prepared in an aquarium smoker and slathered in sauce. (Hecky’s ultimately bottled its sauce and sold it nationwide.)

“Hecky took a finicky, hard-to-replicate style of barbecue, studied by few and mastered by even fewer, and absolutely nailed it,” Mr. Pang said. “He smoked rib tips and hot links as good as any one in the Midwest.”

Mr. Powell, a former director of Neighbors at Work, a community organization, created the Forrest E. Powell Foundation, named for his father, in 1994, a work-skills program for those without a college degree. He had been president of the local branch of the N.A.A.C.P. In 2014, the corner where his restaurant sits was named “Hecky Powell Way.”

In addition to his wife and mother, Mr. Powell is survived by his children, Sharmin, Terry, Dawn, Joy, Hecky Jr., Jason and Gigi, as well as seven siblings.

Last week, a parade of cars in his honor drove slowly through Evanston, saluting Ms. Judice with their horns as she sat in front of their brick home, an American flag whipping in the breeze behind her.

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