John Erlenborn, the former Illinois congressman who became known as "Mr. ERISA," died Sunday at his home in Warrenton, Va., of complications related to a neurological disorder known as Lewy body disease, according to his son, David. Mr. Erlenborn was 78. He was a U.S. representative from 1965 to 1985, during which time he helped pass the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Mr. Erlenborn was an Illinois state representative in Illinois from 1957 through 1964.
After leaving Congress, Mr. Erlenborn joined the law firm Seyfarth Shaw Fairweather & Geraldson, where he became a partner. Among several appointments, Mr. Erlenborn was special advisor to the PBGC in 1985 and 1986 as well as a member of the Labor Department's ERISA Advisory Committee from 1985 to 1988.
Mr. Erlenborn was interim president of the Legal Services Corporation Board from 2001 to 2003 and had been appointed to that organization's board of directors by President George H.W. Bush and President Clinton. His son noted that he even had a boat that he named "Miss ERISA." Judge William J. Bauer of the U.S. Court of Appeals Seventh Circuit in Chicago, one of Mr. Erlenborn's closest friends, said Mr. Erlenborn was "the straightest man I ever met." Mr. Bauer, who met Mr. Erlenborn when they were both 14, said Mr. Erlenborn was "a great family man" and that he helped make the world a better place.
Terrence Deneen, director of insurance programs at the PBGC, said Mr. Erlenborn was "one of the architects" of the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendment Act of 1980. Mr. Erlenborn "had the background and knew the lingo" when it came to the intricacies of multiemployer plans, said Mr. Deneen.
Mr. Erlenborn is also survived by his wife, Dorothy C. Erlenborn; his son, Paul N. Erlenborn; his daughter, Debra L. Forrest; his sister, Jeanne McDonald; his brother, James Erlenborn; and four grandchildren.
David Erlenborn said there is no immediate memorial service planned and services will be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the John N. and Dorothy C. Erlenborn Scholarship Fund at Illinois Benedictine University, 5700 College Road, Lisle, IL 60532.