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updated: 8/17/2011 12:08 PM

Designer of Meadowdale racetrack dies in car accident

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  • Leonard W. Besinger Jr., seen here with his son Leonard W. Besinger III, was killed in a car accident near his home in New Mexico.

      Leonard W. Besinger Jr., seen here with his son Leonard W. Besinger III, was killed in a car accident near his home in New Mexico.
    Daily Herald

  • Leonard Besinger, seen here outside a model home in Deerpass Estates in Marengo, died in a car accident Sunday.

      Leonard Besinger, seen here outside a model home in Deerpass Estates in Marengo, died in a car accident Sunday.
    Daily Herald

 
 

In 1958, 23-year-old Leonard Besinger Jr., freshly out of architecture school, was handed the task of designing Meadowdale International Raceway in Carpentersville where later that year 200,000 watched world-class racers compete.

"He was a 23-year-old kid designing a racecourse," said his son Leonard Besinger III Tuesday night. "The best drivers in the world all raced on it. Everybody who was anybody at the time came there to test the track."

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Besinger, who helped his father Leonard put Carpentersville on the map by designing the racetrack for Meadowdale, died Sunday at age 76 in a car crash near his ranch in New Mexico.

"He died loving what he was doing," his son said. "He was a car nut since he was a kid."

Leonard Besinger Jr., was the oldest of eight children growing up under the wing of Leonard Besinger Sr. who was a guiding example for his future of designing and building communities throughout the suburbs.

"He emulated his father," Leonard Besinger III said. "He thought his father was it, and he was it. He came from zero and really made a name for himself."

His father is credited with creating a boom in Carpentersville's population from 1,523 in 1957 to 17,424 residents just 10 years later, after the construction of the Meadowdale community.

When the younger Besinger graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1957 he was put to the task of designing the racetrack, the first of many architectural feats he would accomplish in his lifetime.

"I said, 'Dad, why did you design it?" Leonard Besinger III recalled. "And he said, 'because your grandfather told me to.'"

The 23-year-old then headed straight for Europe where he toured the world's most famous tracks and brought elements of each of those designs to Meadowdale.

Later in his life Besinger designed subdivisions, office buildings, built custom homes in the Florida Keys, started a vineyard in New Mexico and raised Texan Longhorn cattle while finding time to travel the globe. He divided his time between his Marengo home and vineyard in New Mexico in recent years.

"Most people took pictures of their kids, but he would take pictures of the buildings," his son joked. "We were just looking through the photo albums today. For every one picture of the kids, there were ten of the buildings."

A wake will be held Thursday evening at Miller funeral home in Dundee and a funeral service is scheduled for 11 a.m. at St. Catherine of Siena in Dundee.

"He was very passionate about everything he did, but his greatest accomplishment was his five children and six grandchildren," his son said.

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