The 30th annual Arlington Million drew a near record crowd on Saturday, as well as five horses who shipped in from various parts of Europe to race.
Business leaders say former Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce President Frank Soprano would have been pleased.
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Soprano died Aug. 9 after a long battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He was 69.
Chamber colleagues recalled Soprano was among the group of local business leaders that worked with former Arlington Park President John J. Mooney, when he organized the first Arlington Million, to welcome international owners and trainers to Arlington Heights.
"They would meet them at O'Hare and drive them to the host hotel," said Rob Lincoln, another former Arlington Heights Chamber president. "It was an outgrowth of the chamber and the racetrack all working together. It was a great ambassador program."
Lincoln says that was the hallmark of Soprano's leadership on the chamber itself: "He wanted to make the sure the village -- and the racetrack -- put its best foot forward."
Soprano was born in Chicago but moved to Arlington Heights when he was 13. He attended Arlington High School, where he met his wife, Nancy, and returned to the village in 1969 to start his own business after earning his CPA.
Nearly from the start, Soprano became involved with the chamber of commerce. He served on its finance committee and actively worked with members to plan networking events.
Within 10 years, Soprano joined its board of directors, serving as treasurer, but colleagues wanted him to do more than just balance the numbers. They wanted him to act on his love of the town and of the chamber, and become their president.
"Frank had a good working relationship with people," Lincoln said. "He was approachable and was just a good, consensus builder."
Soprano was inducted as the group's 25th president in 1985 and he remained involved after his one-year term ended, helping to plan many chamber events.
For the past eight years, Soprano also worked as the chamber's CPA, says Jon Ridler, chamber executive director.
"He was a mentor and a friend," Ridler said. "He's going to be missed."
In 2008, Soprano merged his CPA business, Soprano and Associates, with the Palatine accounting firm BIK & Company, LLP. Soprano continued working, however, even from his hospital room, family members say.
One role that didn't change, they add, was his love of the Arlington Million and serving as the racetrack's and village's goodwill ambassador.
Services have been held.