George Luteri, president of the Friends of the Mount Prospect Public Library and former chairman of Mount Prospect's Solid Waste Commission, passed away Wednesday after a battle with cancer. He was 63.
"George was one of those quiet guys who does a lot for a community and without whom many things wouldn't have gotten done," said village Trustee Paul Hoefert. "He is certainly going to be missed."
Luteri was awarded the "Unsung Hero" Shining Star award in 1996 for his many contributions to the community, which included designing and maintaining the Mount Prospect Historical Society's sensory garden for the blind; organizing the citizen garden plots for the Mount Prospect Park District; his leadership of Friends of the Library; and his work, first on the Village's Recycling Commission and later on its Solid Waste Commission.
Luteri held both a master's and doctoral degrees in synthetic organic chemistry and over the years he worked for various companies on everything from agricultural chemicals and super-absorbent polymers and cosmetics, to veterinary medicine products, according to his wife of 41 years, Laura (Licht) Luteri. He also holds several patents in his name.
It was this scientific method and down-to-earth approach to solving problems that Luteri brought to the Recycling Commission and its successor, the Solid Waste Commission. He served on first one and then the other between 1989 to 2004 and was chairman of the commission in 2001.
"The commission was charged with coming up with a recycling program for the village that would serve as a model for other communities," Laura Luteri recalled. "They also advised the village board during their negotiations with the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County, helped hone contracts with haulers and devised first the blue bin and then the residential dumper programs."
Perhaps, though, Luteri made his greatest contribution as president of the Friends of the Mount Prospect Public Library for 23 years.
"George reinvented the Friends' book sales, raising between $35,000 and $40,000 per year through book sales alone," said library Executive Director Marilyn Genther. "Ours is one of the best used book sales in the area. It is very well organized with books classified and kept fresh."
"The Friends, under his leadership, were constantly approaching Library staff to ask what we needed and which programs we wanted sponsored," she added. "They did not hold back. They were all about supporting the library and its staff."
George and Laura jointly wrote the newsletter for the 450-member group and George formalized the organization's business practices. This spring he hosted a conclave for other libraries' Friends organizations from around the Chicago area where they shared ideas, problem solutions and concerns.
The Mount Prospect Historical Society garden at 101 S. Maple St. has several lasting memorials to Luteri. The sensory garden there, comprised of four herbs and four vegetables planted in raised containers and labeled with Braille markers so that those who are blind may enjoy them along with everyone else, was entirely the work of Luteri who planted and maintained it until he became ill.
He also created the Society's cement bird bath in his home ornamental concrete workshop.
Luteri is survived by his wife, Laura, and daughter, Donna.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m., July 28 at Friedrichs Funeral Home, 320 W. Central Road, Mount Prospect. Friends will be received from 1 p.m. until the service commences. In lieu of flowers, contributions in his memory may be made to the Mount Prospect Public Library.